Month of the Mud Crab
  |  First Published: December 2009

The past month has provided welcome relief to Bowen crabbers after a long spell of empty pots and undersized bucks.

Equally frustrating has been the long run of empty or floater crabs which have also plagued pots. There has been a great run of quality sized rusty bucks in the creeks especially around the bigger tidal runs, which really got the muddies moving around and looking for a feed.

Creek systems to the north like Meatworks and Boat creeks have returned to their crabbing best with plenty of rusty bucks finding their way into both pots and dillies.

Tidal flow has been the dominant variable effecting catches. The tops of the creeks have been producing full pots during the smaller tidal runs and the bigger 3m tides have been producing crabs on the big dugong grass covered flats. Those crabbers taking the time to locate the deeper channels on these flats have been rewarded with big numbers of quality crabs.

Creek systems to the south have traditionally been a little quicker off the mark in terms of the crab run. This year fits the traditional pattern with plenty of full pots being reported from the bigger systems such as the Gregory and surrounding smaller systems like Kangaroo and Emu Creek.

Staying in the creeks, there have also been good pockets of prawns showing up especially in the estuary systems to the north. Whilst they have been average size, numbers have been good especially around the new moon phase when the prawns seem to be more condensed and out in the open.

Low tide has been the best time to target these prawns. Casting nets along mud-covered banks and the mouths of small soaks has proven to be the most effective method.

It is always a good idea to keep a look out for flicking prawns when dropping in the crab pots at this time of year as you never know when you might stumble across a couple of kilos of these tasty crustaceans.

On the fishing front, the mangrove jack population has continued to dominate catches in the creeks especially with the onset of afternoon storms and showers which have triggered some awesome drag stripping action.

Those bait soaker creek fishers who have been resilient enough to sit through rain, clouds of mosquitoes and stifling humidity have reported some crazy action with schools of jacks coming on the bite with unbelievable ferocity. Fresh green back herring and mullet strips seem to be the most effective baits and have even been out fishing live baits.

Lure tossers have also been getting into the red brutes with plenty of quality fish being taken on shallow running lures thrown deep into snags. The afternoon sunset bite has been particularly exciting with the last 10mins of light often producing the hottest bite of the session.

With water temps also beginning to peak, don’t discount a lure session around the middle of the day especially if it coincides with the low tide. Throwing lures into shaded water created by overhanging trees and snags can be very effective this time of year as the fish move into these cooler areas out of the sun.

Whilst there has been plenty of activity in the creeks there has also been plenty of good fish caught out wide on the blue.

The bait that has taken up residence in the bay is still hanging around in turn leading to a late run of summer grey and doggie mackerel. These fish have been responding well to medium sized hardbody lures trolled without wire at around 8 knots.

Diving birds have been giving away the locations of these fish with packs spread from just outside the Dalrymple Point area right down to the Glouster Passage. Amongst these schools are also a variety of trevally species including some very large models that have stretched a few arms.

These bait balls have also proven popular with the fly fishers as the schooling fish have responded well to white bait patterns.

The outer reefs have been a bit slow this month with average catches of trout and red throat emperor being reported. The area around Wallaby Reef has been fairly consistent though not extraordinary, with plenty of boats having to work hard for a good bag.

The islands and surrounding fringing reefs have been consistent giving up plenty of average sized island trout with the odd 10lb fish being pulled from the shallow water, especially around the Glouster Island area. The passage is always a worthwhile spot to target trout over summer and live bait will always be the best bet for best results.

What’s in store for next month?

Next month should see the onset of the wet season and more consistent rainfall, which will further stir up the crabs in the creeks.

This is one of the best months to target big muddies and all creeks will produce good numbers of full feeding crabs. If you are after a feed of muddies wet your pots now before the creeks become flushed with too much fresh which will push the crabs out of the creek and away from baited pots.

Next month should also see the prawns thicken up especially down in the Sinclair Bay area. This will especially be the case if we get some decent rainfall and a good flush of the creeks which will also see areas around Brisk Bay worth a prawn.

Prawning around the new moon will provide the best results and if we have a similar season to last year’s then there should be plenty to go round.

The excellent jack fishing should continue though rainfall will be a very important factor as too much freshwater will definitely put them off the bite. Dirty water will also hamper lure fisherman and soft plastics will definitely be a better option than hardbody lures. Also try slowly twitched rattling lures in dirty water scenarios.

Out wide the quality of fishing will again be determined by the amount of rainfall especially for those fishing close around the islands and fringing reefs, which can be heavily affected by freshwater run-off and dirty water.

Whilst the onset of the wet season may impact on fishing options in the short term, a good run of fresh will be a key ingredient to a successful barramundi season which is just around the corner!

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