Cowan Creek is an interesting area to fish. The deep still bays hold their share of fish & the methods used to catch them are very different from the Hawkesbury River itself. There is little current in Cowan Creek & the lack of it means there are no eddies or holes to act as fish holding grounds. Where in the Hawkesbury you can be confident of catching a few by sitting in a particular spot & waiting I have found in Cowan you need to be active & go looking for the fish. Lack of current means your berley is not covering much ground so if after 45 minutes you have no fish I reckon it is time to move. For this reason I am not going to go into specific spots in any detail just name a few as starting points. Due to the lack of current to hold the boat in one spot I recommend anchoring with 2 anchors bow in to the bank. A light reef anchor placed in the rocks along the bank & a light sand anchor for the stern will do the job
Access to Cowan Creek is easy & the 2 main ramps used are the ones at Akuna Bay which can be reached by taking the McCarrs Creek Road turn off on Mona vale Road & following the signs to Akuna bay. The second & probably most popular ramp is Apple Tree Bay ramp near Bobbin Head which can be reached by turning off the Pacific Highway at either Mt Colah or North Turramurra. Be warned both these ramps are in the National Park & there is a fee for using them. I travel up to Cowan from Pittwater myself & use the Rowland Bay Reserve ramp on Pittwater Road & it is an excellent ramp but a fee is applied through ticket parking also (the tickets are checked also trust me on that or you will get fined). The other ramp is at Brooklyn & I have not used it for years so I will leave it at that.
Cowan Creek has 2 main arms running off it & they are Coal & Candle Creek & Smiths Creek. The whole of Cowan Creek & its tributaries are very similar types of fishing areas. All the small bays have shallow sand flats at the end of them which are semi exposed at low tide. Nippers or Yabbies are available on most of them. The sand flats drop of into deep water fairly quickly. All along the shoreline close in it is rocky & fairly weedy & drops off steeply into deeper water. The depth varies from 12 to 20 meters & the deepest section in Cowan is along the Cottage Point section of the creek where the depth is approx 27 meters. The bottom from one side to the other is flat & featureless grey mud which holds a few stingrays , sharks & various types of eels. Old timers would have me believe there are deep holes here & there through out Cowan but since I got a depth sounder 25 years ago I have yet to find one. The best fishing is close to the bank within 15 meters or so. Fishing too wide will mean no fish just rubbish like rays etc. Hairtail are an exception to this rule. All the bays in Cowan are very similar indeed & that is why the fish can be anywhere in the system & you need to move about to find them.
There are many species of fish that can be captured in Cowan but the main targets are bream, jewfish, tailor, mullet, garfish, crabs, leatherjackets, squid & Hairtail. Other species are taken from time to time & at times some real odd ball captures turn up. These include Mackerel Tuna & Frigate Mackerel , small Kingfish, Slimey mackerel, blue & brown groper, Teraglin, estuary perch, black cod, john dory & Amberjacks. Over the last couple years there have been the odd Cobia ,Giant Herring & I myself scored a few Spotted Mackerel. Small sharks are numerous especially during summer & are mainly taken at night & the most common ones are Bronze Whalers & Hammerheads. Cowan has a variety off fish & usually something can be found to have a bit of fun with.
I have found the best times to fish in Cowan to be from February through to May for most species with the exception being Hairtail which are predominantly a winter fish. When I am after bream or jewfish I prefer night fishing as I have found it far more productive than the daylight hours due mainly to the still clear water. I prefer to fish the moon period between a quarter moon rising up to just before the full moon & then from a couple nights after the full moon until the last quarter of the moon. The period of the dark of the moon & the full moon have never produced much for me at all. Early mornings can fish well but by early morning I mean the last hour of darkness until first light & by sunrise it is generally all over. Cowan can be a good area to fish after heavy rain when the water is very dirty as a lot of fish head into Cowan from the Hawkesbury as it is deep & they are trying to get under the fresh water. For those who don't know the fresh dirty water sits on top of the salt water & in a place like Cowan even though the water appears very dirty on top often several meters down it is clear.
It is important when fishing this area to fish as light as possible if you want regular success. Berley is important as always although it doesn't get spread very far due to the weak tidal currents. I prefer to berley as quietly as possible also as heavy splashing from big lumps of berley will scatter fish also. I use 2 berleys in Cowan & they are ground tuna frames if I am bait fishing with tuna strips or boiled wheat if I am bating with prawns ,nippers or pudding. The tuna frames are simply minced tuna frozen into blocks which I then drop in to my berley pot & as they thaw they disperse quietly. Boiled wheat is very effective & is simply made by putting some wheat in a container & covering it with boiling water & leaving for a few hours until the wheat absorbs most of the water. It sinks readily then when used for berley & is simply scattered around the boat. Best baits in Cowan for bream for mine are tuna strips, live nippers (yabbies) or local prawns & pudding. For jewfish as usual the squid is king & live or fresh squid is great. Live tailor ,mullet or yellowtail work well but for strip baits I prefer a Slimey mackerel fillet if available or a fresh tailor or garfish fillet. I do not rate fresh yellowtail fillets at all & would prefer a pilchard over yellowtail any day. I am aware some good Jews have been taken on yellowtail fillets but I have never had any notable success with them. These baits will take most fish about in Cowan & here is my pudding recipe which is a handy way of using left over bait as well as off cuts when thinning down thick striped tuna fillets. There are many types of pudding & hundreds of recipes involving aniseed, garlic sausage, cheese etc but mine is a simple & effective one. You need some pilchards or tuna. It needs to be in good condition not old & smelly. Just run it through a mincer then mix some flour through the mince. DO NOT ADD WATER! Just keep mixing & adding flour until you get a good stiff dough. It can be wrapped in plastic & frozen as well. There is enough moisture & oil in the fish to make dough & if water is added it will be too soft & fall off the hook. You can used canned tuna or pilchards if you like it is the same thing just mince & add flour. Just roll a ball of it around your hook & cast gently.
When I am bream fishing in Cowan I fish as light as possible preferring to use 2 or 3 kilo line on a light threadline outfit. I fish unweighted baits about 90 percent of the time but if I am up near the Hawkesbury end & copping a little current I will use a 00 ball sinker. Try to always fish unweighted baits whenever possible. If I am using live nippers I use a No.1 long shank hook as they are a delicate bait & I like to keep them alive on the hook. These hooks however have cost me some large bream when the bream have worked those powerful jaws on them so be prepared to lose a few fish this way. All other baits I use 2/0 Mustad Bait holders. I prefer to fish a tide that is rising during the evening with the top of the tide about an hour or so after full dark. With bream as for Jews any of the prominent points in Cowan with navigation markers are a good area to start fishing. Along the edges of the sand flats as the tide rises also works well. Some areas I recommend are Cowan bay & the edge of the flats in Jerusalem Bay. Further up in the system the bays opposite Cottage Point work well particularly the small one to the east which is called Baby Bay. Even further up Waratah Bay is OK as is Cotton Tree Bay & the point opposite Apple Tree Bay marked with a red navigation light all work well. My favorite spot up this end of the creek is just east of Waratah Bay on the northern shore there is a yellow sign marking a submerged cable. I fish about 30 meters east of this & have done very well. As I said earlier be prepared to move & if no action after 40 minutes or so move elsewhere. It is a MUST to keep a constant supply of berley going at all times. I would not bother fishing Cowan without berley it IS that important.
Any of the areas above will produce jewfish as well as bream & the same tides work also but the jewfish will often be active as the tide runs out particularly in the areas with shallow flats where the Jew wait for baitfish & squid returning from feeding over the flats at high tide. Again I fish as light as possible & never fish heavier than 10 kilo line in Cowan. Reasons for this being you don't have to fight current as well as the Jew fish & the main pest in Cowan when fishing for Jew fish are small sharks & with 10 kilo line they bite you off very quickly instead of tearing around spooking every Jew for miles. If I am using strip baits I fish them unweighted & with live baits just a small lead to get them down a bit. I don't use any heavy trace at all. Jewfish tend to take the bait pretty gently in Cowan & never seem to be in a hurry to swallow it. I like to give them a decent run with the bait before striking. A point to note when you are breaming or jewfishing in Cowan is that if you are catching small Jews (soapies) take a good look & see if they are Teraglin. Inside the mouth is a yellow colour with Teraglin & the tail is concave where a Jew tail is convex. Teraglin are excellent eating where small Jews are pretty ordinary hence the name soapies have seen more than one nice Teraglin released as the angler thought it was just a soapy Jew.
Trolling or lure casting for tailor is a lot of fun on light tackle & is a daylight sport which all can enjoy. The fish are active early morning & late afternoons particularly on a rising tide. Around the full moon they seem to be at their peak. Tailor being what they are can start feeding at any time of the day so don't give up if you have slept in. The areas I prefer to troll minnow lures for them are along the shoreline on either side between Waratah Bay & Coal & Candle Creek. This whole section seems to be the best for both trolling & lure casting at surface feeding schools particularly the no wash zone around Cottage Point. Instead of wasting the slow trip through here troll a lure & its odds on you will pick up a tailor or two.
I would just like to say in conclusion that Cowan Creek is a very nice area to fish & when most other places are un fishable due to the wind you can normally find a sheltered spot somewhere in Cowan Creek to wet a line. A bit of berley over the flats at the end of the bays will provide some sport at high tide with mullet & garfish & if you have a few worms maybe a nice whiting or two. Cowan has seen better better days like most areas so don't expect to bag out every time you fish there but it does have a good population of fish & provides good sport at times particularly for people in smaller boats that cannot fish Broken Bay or offshore for safety reasons. On the issue of safety please read my not below. Tight lines to all.
Most of my fishing is done at night in Cowan & I tend to move around a lot finding fish. I would like to make the point that I know Cowan Creek very well & would like to stress that this area can be hazardous for the inexperienced to navigate at night. There are few navigation beacons & owing to the lack of lights on shore & the stillness of the water it causes the hills to reflect on the water surface & during periods of little moon it can be difficult to tell where the water ends & the land begins. Add to this the fact that this area is very fog prone & a newcomer could have problems here. A map & a working compass are not only needed by law but can get you out of a pickle as well. Do not rely on electronics like GPS to get you out of bother in a fog if you get caught as owing to the surrounding hills GPS has trouble getting satellite fixes.