Knee deep into winter and there is one species that has been keeping plenty of Bowen anglers happy: mackerel.
With the macks in full swing there have been some exciting sessions for those chasing these powerful speedsters and with the fish now schooling well they offer fishers plenty of options.
Bowen has two main mackerel patches, which are renowned for their ability to hold big numbers of spotted, grey doggie and Spanish mackerel. These patches 5km and 8km north of Greys Bay Boat Ramp are virtually football field sized areas of rubble bottom that attract big numbers of baitfish which in turn bring the bigger predators.
This combination of current, bait holding structure, bait schools and hungry pelagic fish leads to some of the most unbelievable mackerel fishing that you have to see to be believe. When the patch is firing anglers can bag their three Spanish or five spotted macks in less than half an hour or alternatively catch and release fish until your arms simply won’t work anymore.
The patches are the place to be over the winter months and the fish have certainly been around in good numbers keeping plenty of locals and tourists happy.
The patches can be very hot and cold so having a little patience is sometimes the best thing to have in your tackle box as the fish are always there but sometimes they just refuse to bite. Fishing these spots over a couple of days is usually the best way to work out their feeding pattern and once you have this sorted the fishing can become very predictable. Look for signs above the water such as bait being worked, birds and even actual fish and if things seem a little quiet then hunt around for some bait on the sounder and fish around that.
The patches aren’t the only place to score a mack in July. The Abbot Point Coal Loading Jetty is one hot spot definitely worth a jig or troll especially if you are after an extra oversized member of the razor gang. This spot really fires up on the change in tide so make sure you time your fishing for the best results.
Land-based anglers also have a shot at these great fish and spots like the Bowen Jetty, the rocks near North Head, and Dalrymple Point are like highways for these fish. Floating big livies like fusiliers and squid is your best bet for catching one of these from the rocks.
Bowen’s many inshore islands will prove to be a popular spot for those after a tasty feed of reef fish and bar cheek coral trout will be the main target for many inshore reef fishers. All of Bowen’s islands harbour big bar cheek trout though it is best to concentrate fishing areas where the current is working well as this is often where the bait will be present. Fishing isolated bombies is also a good option as they are virtually a big FAD for bait and larger predatory fish species.
Cool water also mean crayfish and Bowen’s islands and inshore reefs crawl with these tasty beauties during July. The cooler water makes them easier to spot as they tend to move out of their hiding holes making their big feelers highly visible to divers. Glouster Island is a popular spot for crays with its big shallow coral filled bays, which are family friendly as well.
While the water may be a little cool for a hot mangrove jack and barra session, these fish are definitely not off the menu for those who are patient and persistent enough. Fishing for these fish over the cooler months is often a case of picking the right days and times when water temps are at their peak and most importantly down sizing lures.
Small soft plastics around the 3-5” size seem to be the most effective in the winter months and a well placed slow falling softy can often bring these lethargic fish out of lockjaw mode.
While fishing for barra and jacks is an option in the creeks, a more reliable species is the sand species brigade of whiting and flathead. Over the cooler months, these fish begin to school in big numbers and fishing right up in the shallows on a falling tide is definitely the best time to target these fish. Soft plastics are the best plan of attack but don’t forget to pack the small poppers, which are a lot of fun especially in shallow water on hungry whiting.
Squid will also be thick in July and are an excellent land-based target for those flicking jigs. These ink squirting great tasting beasts love to move in close to the shore around the top of the tide especially into calm water.
If you can find one then you should be able to bag a number, as they love to hang in big packs. If they are a little hesitant to strike, try adding a bit of soft plastic scent to your jig and you may find they change their minds pretty quickly.
Next month should see the mack numbers begin to drop off a little but what they lose in quantity they sure make up for in quality. These fish will have had a number of months to fatten up by August making the average sized fish almost double in size. This is particularly the case for the Spanish with August being the time for a trophy sized Spanish.
August in the creeks will mean an explosion of big pikey bream, which can get up to and around that magical 1kg mark. These fish are great fighters and also taste great and with so many around, anglers will be best to start peppering the many creeks around Bowen with small hardbodied lures and soft plastics for these big black beasts.Reads: 5281