February fishing frenzy
  |  First Published: February 2015

It’s with a heavy heart that I pen out my last QFM area report for Bowen, as it’s time for me to search out some new water a little further north.

During my 13 years fishing the waters off Bowen I can honestly say that it has been one of the most amazing places with some truly amazing fishing. Not only has the fishing been outstanding, but so have the local anglers with many taking the time over the years to show me new rigs and techniques and to impart crucial knowledge to find fishing success.

I know a lot of you guys read my rabble so a big thanks to you all for teaching the teacher! I will miss the drag burning jacks, insane Spanish mackerel jigging sessions, not to mention the golden snapper (fingrmark) and big reds as well, but you never know what lies in waters beyond and I’m looking forward to testing out my skills in this new ground.

With that, February is upon us and that means one thing in Bowen and that is rain. Whilst a typically dry town you can always guarantee that February will see close to a 1000mm falling and quite often this comes down over a period of a week or so. This will be the biggest factor that will affect the fishing, especially if the Don River and other surrounding catchments get a solid flow in it.

If the rivers do flow then fishing the creeks will become quite difficult as the usually clear salty waters will now be replaced by a murky fresh ridden brown full of weed and debris. To top this off, many of the snags will also get a good wash out which makes finding the fishing holding structure very difficult. Whilst this may seem on face value quite an obstacle, it can actually play to the anglers’ advantage, especially if you are chasing barramundi, which will now be back on the take list.

The key to having fishing success during this time is to find where the bait is living and the fish, especially the barramundi, will not be too far away. This can sometimes mean spending hours on both low and high tide scouring the creeks looking for signs of herring, mullet and prawns. This may seem like a tedious exercise but when you figure this out you will come a lot closer to finding where the fish are.

To help you out with finding bait, look for areas where the freshwater influence is at its least and the water is a little clearer. This can sometimes be backwater eddies or small creeks right through to outside creek mouths where the cleaner seas water is pushed in with the tide.

One of my favourite fishing spots this time of year is around Bowen’s rocky headlands, especially over the larger tides. These areas often become havens for bait such as prawns during these major flush events and therefore become real hot spots for big barra and jacks. In fact, if you are after a big metre plus salty then these are the areas to target.

Some of the better spots are between Adelaide Duck creeks to the south of the bay, whilst to the north the areas around Dalrymple Point are also worth a fish. The northern systems are far more dominated by sand and open beaches, especially those strewn with timber, these are also a very good spot to target barra during the flood events. These beaches fish really well over the bigger summer tides as the water is able to push right up into the structure, which gives both bait and fish plenty of room to hide.

Shallow running hardbodies are the best to use in these areas and should be twitched or fished very slowly so to give plenty of time for the fish to see them. If you are think you are fishing too shallow, then guess again! You will be surprised at the quality of fish that can be found in less than 3ft of water.

Make sure your gear is up to the task and a strong 8-strand braid like Sunline 8 and FC leader is on your rod as you will need it when you hook these big girls in shallow water. When you hook a metre barra in less than 3ft of water it is very different to hooking one off a snag in a deep creek or impoundment. They tend to play up and become a lot more unfriendly on both gear and angler and can often be jack like in trying to destroy you on the closest rock or snag. They never seem to run out to sea and will require both heavy rod work and plenty of persistence to get to the boat.

Whilst the inshore creeks will be affected by the fresh, the offshore fishing will also be red-hot. The warmer the water the hotter the trout bite in my opinion, and there is never a better time to chase a trout around Bowen’s many islands.

The extra run from the summer time tides pushes them right up in the shallows and islands like Thomas and Poole are renowned for big trout captures during this time of year.

Make sure you berley up as this will bring them close to your baits. It is also well worth your while throwing both hardbodied lures and soft plastics around these islands this time of year as the trout will be very aggressive and keen to smash them. Just make sure your drag is set for the initial take, as it is very fierce and unforgiving.

I prefer to use a 50-60lb tough fluorocarbon leader such as FC100 for this work as you are working in some very prickly country and the fish you are targeting will head straight for the coral once hooked.

Be prepared to encounter other species such as black spot tusk fish, stripeys, sweetlip and even monster trevally so don’t take the light stuff as you will be tying knots all day.

A little wider and the golden snapper (fingermark) will be on the bite across the wrecks and shoals. Soft plastics will work on these fish but mostly during the dusk and dawn periods, whilst live bait will be a better option at night. These fish will be hungry, especially if there are a few storms around and will often come on the bite really hard.

The other offshore fish that will be on the chew over February will be the reds. Both the nannygai and red emperor move in pretty close to Holbourne Island this time of year and the bite is mind blowing.

Next month should see a reprieve in the real wet stuff, which will bring some consistency back to the fishing. New snags will begin to form in the creeks and the barra and jack fishing will be red hot. The offshore fishing will also maintain its intensity but be wary of storms if you are travelling wide, especially at night.

Once again thanks to everyone at QFM and if you are fishing the waters of Bowen, all the best!

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