The late run to the wet season will be a big disappointment to creek anglers this month, as the lack of run-off before the 1 February will see spawning opportunities for the big barra lost before the commercial nets do their toll. However there will still be plenty of barramundi on offer for those seeking out a big chromie and Bowen’s many creeks and estuaries are prime this time of year.
The recipe for finding a big barra in Bowen is actually not that difficult. If you’re after a big trophy fish then your best to concentrate both lures and baits around the mouths of the larger systems like the Gregory River, Billys Creek in the bottom of the Bay and Boat Creek to the north. This is where the cleanest water and bigger baitfish will be, so it’s more likely that your magic-metre will also be there.
Chasing a big saltwater barra in these areas provides a couple of options. Firstly you can always go find a prominent snag and sink in a few live baits or pepper it with vibes, soft plastics or hardbodies. However don’t discount the open flats that are also very predominant in Bowen’s larger systems.
If you can find main gutters and channels in these areas then they are certainly worth a fish for these larger fish. I spend a lot of time on the flats over the closed season chasing fish like grunter and whiting and the amount of large barra that cruise these areas is quite surprising. I attribute this to the fact that these larger fish are feeding on my target species and if you find a good shoal of whiting you can almost guarantee a big barra is not far behind.
If you are chasing big barra its fine to use a lighter braid but don’t discount on the leader strength. If you are targeting big fish over 1m you really want to get that leader up around the 60lb mark as fish this size will shred light gear pretty quickly. It’s not so much that they will break the line but more likely suck your bait right down and wear through your leader with their teeth or gill rakers. The offset to this is less bites so do yourself a favour and use good quality fluorocarbon the Sunline FC Rock, which is lighter but super resistant and abrasive. There’s nothing worse than finding yourself connected to a leaping metre-plus barra and having it wear through a leader that cost you less than a $1.
I prefer to target smaller to medium-sized barra this time of year as they are quite prolific and provide plenty of aggression and entertainment, plus they taste a lot better on the plate. You will find these fish around the mouths but they are better targeted up the creeks, especially around the bottom of the tides off the mud and drains. Shallow running minnows and paddle-tail plastics from 4” up to 6” are the best lures for these fish.
Staying in the creeks, March is an awesome time to run a few pots as the Bowen mud crab will be out in full force. The combination of the wet and bigger tides stirs them up this time of year and gets them out of their holes. This mobility sees more crabs in pots, which is good news for crabbers. More good news for crabbers is that all systems run when the crabs run, so if you’re fishing up the creek don’t forget the pots.
March usually heralds some pretty awesome offshore fishing and weather to boot. The warmer water temps tend to bring the larger fish in from offshore grounds, which is great for those fishing the shoals and inshore wrecks. The main target species will be large and small mouth nannygai and fish around the 50-60cm mark will be prolific this time of year.
If you find a patch of smaller fish, many of which are just under legal, try getting to the spot earlier or even during the night as this is when the larger fish will be out and about. You can also try using larger baits; putting on a whole strip bait or cuttlefish will allow the smaller fish to pick at it until the larger fish can muscle their way in.
I prefer to fish soft plastics on 1.5-2oz jigheads as you always seem to get the better quality fish. Certain soft plastics, like Berkley’s Squid Vicious, are prime for fish like coral trout and nannygai as they mimic a live squid. They are also gun baits for other fish like grunter and golden snapper in inshore areas.
Through the warmer months you will find the early morning bite time the best, as when the sun gets high in the sky the fish do tend to spread out a bit and become harder to locate and target. It’s also quite unpleasant to be baking in the midday sun 30km offshore.
Next month will see much the same as this month, although water temps will begin to become milder as we transition into autumn. The good news is that the wet weather also tends to dissipate a little and water clarity becomes a little more consistent, which is good news for those chasing fish up the creek on lures.
April should see the beginnings of the pelagic runs, especially the large grey macks in Bowen so make sure you get the high speed reels and jigs ready to go.
Average sized barra like this one are prolific in March, especially from drains like the one in the background of this photo.
Large mouth nannygai are on the chew in close.
Tasty coral trout are also biting well on soft plastics.
Mud crabs will be crawling into pots in March so make the most of them.Reads: 1002