Monsoon madness in Bowen
  |  First Published: December 2014

Knee deep into monsoon season, anglers in January will have to work around the rain and run off to find success. With January being probably the second wettest month of the year, all Bowen creek systems will be heavily affected by the fresh.

This run off will have a major effect on water clarity, as the usual clear waters will become a murky brown, which will make the lure fishing more challenging. Depending on the behaviour of the catchments, most systems will also have a decent flow in them as well which, can also create added turbidity and further destabilisation. Whilst these conditions can be quite challenging, they also open up plenty of opportunities for anglers. The key to overcoming this instability is to find where the fish are holding and the best way to do this is to locate where the cleaner water is as this will tend to attract the baitfish.

Baitfish like mullet will typically move to more stable areas within systems and in turn attract the larger predatory fish. When targeting jacks, small eddies and backwaters at the rear of snags out of the current will be the prime spot to target with lures. Jacks love these areas as they serve as excellent ambush spots to snare baitfish, which are caught in the run off or tidal flow.

One bait source that is prevalent this time of year is the jelly prawn. The increase in fresh water in the estuaries and big summer tides tend to flush the jelly prawns out of the mangroves in big numbers. The added fresh also sees them shed their exoskeleton and grow quite quickly and all this equals a massive added food source for the fish to feed on.

Bowen anglers need to capitalise on this and the best way to do that is to fish prawn style pattern lures, in particular soft plastics. It’s important to match the hatch when the prawns are this way and if they are larger than a couple of inches it’s hard to go past presentations such as the Live Target Shrimp to entice those big jacks. If the prawns are still small then using smaller soft plastic prawn imitations are the way to go. One of my favourite all round prawn soft plastics is the Zerek Shrimp. This softy has a wicked action and also allows the angler to fish it quite slowly, which means more time for the fish to see the lure when the water is quite dirty.

To enhance this it is best to fish as lightweight as possible to allow the plastic to sink as slowly as possible. Mangrove jacks in particular love to hammer these lures on the drop and often hit them on the first fall of the cast so be ready with a tight drag and heavy rod work to get them out of the timber.

The creeks will not be the only waterway affected by the run off. The inshore reefs and shoals often no more than a hundred metres offshore will also see some excellent fishing opportunities caused by the monsoon. The reason for this is simple, as a lot of bait will typically be pushed out river mouths during large run off events and big summer tides and much of it will reside up on these inshore reefs and shoals for protection.

Also the water will be much cleaner and less fresh affected out this way so much of this bait will remain where conditions are more stable. It doesn’t take long for predatory fish like bar cheek coral trout and golden snapper to capitalise on this situation and move in onto these reefs where the food is plentiful. The secret to fishing these spots is to get fresh bait, either mullet or herring, butterfly them and them fish them as close to the bigger coral bombies as possible.

If you couldn’t be bothered with bait (like myself) than a big grub or jerk shad soft plastic is just as good. The best structures to fish will be those holding the best bait so take your time to find the more condensed schools and you will get the best results.

Some of the better spots include, Bradys Reef off the mouth of the Gregory River, Southern Cross Reef off the beach at Rose Bay and the Euri Shoals off the mouth of Meatworks Creek. Spews Reef off the mouth of the Elliot River around Camp Island will also be prime for targeting big inshore trout.

It is not a bad idea to use some heavy leader for this type of work as 50cm trout have plenty of ability to put you in the reef. I like to use at least 40lb FC100 Sunline Fluorocarbon as even if they get you in the sharp stuff, the Sunline will still take a bit of a beating before parting.

It’s a good idea to red line your drag for the initial hit as once you have them turned they come up pretty easily. Another fish you will encounter in these areas is the mighty black spot tusk fish. Otherwise known as blueys, these fish love to haunt shallow reefs and island mangroves during the rising king tides. With a bit of patience you can even sight cast to these fish using crab style soft plastics or crab baits if you are keen enough to collect them. These fish are absolute brutes and need a different style approach to most fish. Blueys are a bit like dogtooth tuna – the more hurt you put on them, the more hurt they give back so once hooked its best to go ‘softly softly’ until you have coerced them out to deeper water and away from structure. If you lock up and go hard early they will just bury you in the reef. Fish over 4kg have insane power and will pull 12kg of drag with ease.

Further offshore the scenario is also quite similar on the red fish. Whilst I’m not entirely sure why, but the large and small mouth nannygai and red emperor seem to move a lot closer to shore in the summer months and deep water shoal anglers don’t have to run a long way from Holbourne Island to find the quality fish. Fishing around the neap tides is best in these deep water spots, however if the weather is good and the tides are crap then concentrate efforts around the top and bottom of the tide when it is the slackest.

Next month will see monsoonal conditions to build with February being the wettest month of the year in Bowen waters. This above information will only be more useful in these conditions, especially if the catchments are in full flow. The other news is that barra will be on the target list again, which is terrific. Targeting these fish will all depend on the weather and if the monsoon is in full swing, headlands and creeks mouths will be the best spot to find them.

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