The one thing Bowen fishers can traditionally count on in May is that strong southeasterly trade winds will dominate the weather pattern, which means finding time offshore can be difficult. Nevertheless, there will be some opportunities to head wide and, when they arise, anglers will be spoilt for choice as there will be plenty of fish on the chew.
May generally sees a more consistent cooling of the water and this can often snap the reef fish, like coral trout, into biting in a big way. Light house, Stone, Middle, Glouster and Holbourne islands provide plenty of opportunity to get among these tasty fish and it is often a case of just moving from bommie to bommie until you can find fish. This system works particularly well on the run-in and run-out tides when the current is moving.
Soaking big baits, like filleted hussar or stripeys with the wings left on, into the pressure points of bommies or reef ledges or drop-offs is a sure fire way to get among the trout. You don’t need a big boat either with some of these islands only a couple of kilometres from the shore. I love working large plastics in these areas as well as there is always a plethora of predatory fish willing to slap your lure.
One of my favourite spots is the reef ledge at Middle Island. It starts in shallow coral-filled water only a few feet deep and then drops off to around 40ft of isolated structure and sand. Long casts using hard and soft plastic lures and a slow roll back over the shallows into deep water will almost always find a fish every five casts. Rapala Max Raps work well as they provide plenty of casting distance, size and a great action. You can also change it up by spinning with high speed metals, which is guaranteed to stir up the local queenfish and trevally populations that hunt these spots when the tide begins to run-in over the reef.
As the cooler water increases, another species that becomes more prevalent around Bowen’s islands is the painted and ornate painted crayfish. These tasty crustaceans become a lot easier to find in the cooler months as they move further out of their holes making it easier for divers to see their feelers. It pays to throw a small gun in the boat to chase a few crays as they tend to move right up into the shallows (less than 6ft) in the cooler months.
The beauty about chasing a cray this time of year is that when you find one there is usually more around. If you aren’t in to diving for them then try tossing a weighted-down stocking full of bait out the back of the boat as this will bring them out of their holes and are quite possible to catch on the line. In fact I saw one chap last month pull a great cray up from the Stone Island Jetty on a handline using pilchard for bait.
If tradition holds and the trade winds persist then the best option is to put the bigger boats away and head up Bowen’s many creeks. The good news is that May and June are Bowen’s best crabbing months and they usually run pretty hard this time of year. They are not only around in big numbers but also in big sizes; most crabs average 17-18cm. It confounds me every year in May when I go crabbing that I never have to use the measure as the crabs are always of such good quality.
The creeks north of the Don, like Meatworks and Boat Creek, are easy to get to and provide plenty of crabs this time of year. Similarly the creeks south of Bowen, like Adelaide and Duck Creek, also produce plenty of big bucks.
Mangrove jack will also be on the move and these red evils always go off around the first cold snap in May. Last year I had one of my best jack sessions in early May when the water began to cool and the creeks began to clear up from the monsoon rain.
The rain has been very late this year so many of the creeks will now be returning to normal this month which is a good sign for those chasing jacks on lures. Being the very end of the warmer months the fish tend to be large and very hungry and will smack plastics and lures quite meticulously this time of year.
The jacks will quieten down come the colder months of June and July so fishers will be best to target these fish while they are still on the chew.
With the cooler months come the mackerel to Bowen Waters. The grey and doggie population are the usually the first to show up at the infamous mack patches and are great fun on light spin and jigging gear. The Spaniards are usually not too far behind and the usual haunts like Abbot Point and Holbourne Island will see some good fish on the bite.
Unfortunately I will be on the other side of the country in Western Australia in June, however with plans to jig up some big ambos down south and then a week in Exmouth I am sure there will be a few fish to be caught!Reads: 1402