March is a great time to fish the waters of Bowen especially for those who love a bit of estuary action.
With the barramundi well and truly off the no take list, this is definitely one of the best months to target a big barra in the creeks and headlands around Bowen. Where and how to target these big silver beasts will be heavily determined by the quantity of rainfall we receive and the degree of fresh which affects the creeks.
Currently many of the bigger barras are hanging out in good numbers around the deeper undercut mangrove banks near the mouths of creeks, with many of the smaller barra being found further upstream.
The creeks to the north like Boat Creek and its surrounding smaller delta-like offshoots have been giving up pretty consistent captures of barra on both lure and bait around the first couple of hours of the run-in. Similarly, the Gallapin area in the Elliot River has also been giving up plenty of barra as well.
If the flooding rains don’t arrive, these fish will continue to take up residence in these areas and will be worth targeting.
Knowing where these fish are is only half the battle, once located, you still have to entice them to bite. Perseverance, persistence, and experimentation will be the key to getting these fish to feed especially when lure fishing.
Using a variety of soft plastics, hardbodies and varying retrieves in single locations is also important. Don’t be too hasty to move away from areas which look fishy and some intensive casting in one spot is often all that is needed to entice a bite.
Creeks to the south like Adelaide, Duck, and the area around Kangaroo right down to the Gregory have also been fishing a similar pattern for barra. Probably more significant is the number of catches of big barra around the rocky headlands and sea facing mangrove banks between these creeks.
A drier than usual beginning to the wet season has seen many of these bigger fish feeding in these areas in some pretty shallow water. These fish are probably waiting for the bigger rain before heading up the creeks.
Slowly worked shallow running minnows have been dynamite around these areas and casting into back water or lee sides of rocks has been producing some cracker fish. It seems the big rain from the last two years has really got barra numbers up, which is a big plus.
The jacks have continued to dominate catches up the creeks and with most of the creeks still fairly free of fresh water.
Those fishing with bait have been finding the night time sessions the most productive and even creeks like Gordon and Sandhill’s in town have been giving up some big captures.
Access to almost every creek in and around Bowen is tide restricted, however those who have been willing to strand themselves for a couple of hours in the deeper snag ridden holes have been rewarded with some red hot jack sessions.
Snagging a few around the top of the tide is possible though most of the best fishing has been around the low tide times when these fish can’t retreat deep into the mangroves and get an easy feed of prawns and crabs.
The crabbing has continued to get better over the past months and March is a great time to get the pots baited up and into the water.
As summer moves along, the crabbing in Bowen just gets better and so does the quality of the bucks.
Creeks to the north close to town like Bob, Moses and Meatworks creeks are excellent places to sink a few pots and can be accessed easily around the top of the tide from the Don River Ramp. To the south Gordon, Adelaide and Duck creeks will also give up plenty of good bucks in March and working the bigger tides for these areas is a must.
Further south down towards Kangaroo and Sinclair Bay, the crabbing is very reliable in March as well. Don’t forget to take the cast net with you if you are down this way as March last year saw a massive run of big banana prawns in this area.
While we haven’t had the same amount of rain as last year, there are plenty of small prawns around at the moment. These 5-8cm prawns should mature and put on a bit of size throughout the latter half of February and March.
March can be a very tricky time of year to get out wide with squally conditions and strong southeasters often making the seas rough and treacherous.
However, we did see some pretty good conditions early in the summer and there should be some windows of opportunity to head out into the blue.
The inshore reefs have continued to bite well in the warm weather with plenty of big bar cheek trout taken from around Southern Cross Reef and Murray Bay Bombies as well as around the islands. Big live baits have been the key and fishing the bigger high tide runs have been essential for success.
Out wider around the reefs, red throat emperor are still dominating catches with the trout bite still very slow. Compared to previous years, the trout bite out wide has been way off the pace with most still blaming the destruction caused by last year’s Cyclone Hamish.
Nares Rock off Holbourne Island has also been fishing well for trout and several boats returning from the shoals have taken some good numbers of common trout from this area on their return trip.
The real offshore action has been around the East Holbourne Shoals with the nannygai, red emperor, and spangled emperor continuing to bite well. The fishing last month in January and February at the Shoals was very consistent with most reds being around the 5kg mark.
Drift fishing is the best option and having a quality sounder to identify bait and fish will certainly increase your catch rates on these grounds.
There have also been some cracking grunter caught out there as well and at 4-5 kg these fish are welcome by-catch anytime. This excellent red fishing should continue through March, with the biggest challenge being finding some good weather to get out.
With so many oyster encrusted rocky headlands, Bowen certainly has plenty of land-based fishing options.
One of the more successful land-based spots, the Flagstaff Hill Quarry down towards Dalrymple Point has been working exceptionally well for big black spot tuskfish.
Some absolutely thumping fish up to 10kg have being taken from the oyster and crab infested rocks from land-based fishos over the last month with plenty of smaller 2-3kg models amongst them. If you don’t have a boat then this is one spot worth fishing on the top of the tide.
On the pelagic scene, the large pods of northern blue fin tuna will still be working out in the open water between North Head and Holbourne Island. These fish are feeding really well at the moment around mid morning and this should continue into March. The average fish is around the 10kg and plenty of high-speed spinners and fly fishers have been out there having lots of fun.
Finally, the waters around Bowen seem to have a high concentration of marine stingers at the moment with cases of people being stung pulling up anchor ropes and handlines becoming commonplace. It is always a good idea to wear a pair of gloves this time of year and remember stingers can also be found in the creeks as well. Take care and happy fishing!Reads: 2017