Cracker jack time
  |  First Published: November 2012

You can tell the difference between anglers and non-anglers in Bowen around this time of the year. While the non-fishers are cursing the heat and humidity and hiding away in the air conditioning, the diehards begin licking their lips as they know that these atmospheric conditions are the perfect recipe for some sensational mangrove jack fishing.

If I could fish only one month of the year in Bowen it would have to be November as the combination of humid summer weather and the build up of afternoon storms sees extreme fluctuations in barometric pressure that trigger some absolutely sensational jack bites.

Finding the right combination of temperature, humidity and tide can see the creeks come to life with all manner of chopping and reds feeding ferociously, which is music to the ears of fishers.

The recipe for success is pretty simple for chasing jacks in November. Firstly, choosing the right tide is crucial. Concentrate efforts around the bottom of the tide when the water is at its lowest. Snags that are always submerged or partly submerged are ideal and the low water makes them easier to target especially with shallow running, floating or suspending lures. Jacks will converge in groups around dominant snags.

For intermediate lure fishers it is hard to go past the humble Long A Bomber for this scenario, as they swim just below the surface often just above snaggy roots and structure where the jacks tend to be hiding. Watching a big red devil strike from below is a sight I never get sick of and one that will put a smile on any angler’s face; except when they get you back into the structure.

For more seasoned lure fishers, suspending lures are a real treat to fish with as they can be swum into structure with a couple of quick winds then be left to suspend and float slowly to the surface over submerged timber. Not only is this visually challenging, it also gets the lure right into the jack’s face and they very rarely leave it untouched. This style of fishing can take a bit of practice but it really does pay dividends.

One suspending lure that has been head and shoulders above the rest has been the 115 Interceptor from Smoking Drags. Its combination of a dead slow rise and wobble flashing action with little to no rod work has been proving fatal on the red brigade even through the cooler months of August and September.

No matter what lure you chose getting it as close to the timber is a must – if you’re not getting a few snags then you are not getting it in close enough. This means having some guts in your gear is vital; you are fishing right against the front line and you must be able to muscle jacks away from snags and timber. A short bait cast rod about 5’6” long is ideal. Match this with a decent baitcaster running some decent drag and 20-30lb gel coated braid and abrasive quality fluoro carbon and you are evenly matched to do battle with some Bowen jacks. You can try with lighter gear but you are really playing with fire and are probably more gambling with luck than fishing talent.

Finally getting out around times of low light, especially late afternoons when the tide is right and a few storms are brewing, is dynamite. This usually sees winds drop right off, sweat begin to pour from everywhere and the mossies come out in droves and the rest will take care of itself.

If you are after a bit of blue water action in November then the target will be fingermark or golden snapper. These fish are the best eating fish in the sea and are also a great adversary, especially when they get up around the 5kg mark as they pull like freight trains.

Bowen has a string of wrecks that are all marked on marine charts and they all hold good populations of fingermark. While they are not all monsters there are plenty of school sized fish around the 50cm mark to target on soft plastics especially at night. Plastics like Berkley Crazy Legs and Jerk Shads which glow at night are perfect for these fish. Just remember to jerk them like mad as the more action imparted usually sees the most catches.

For bigger fish you will need either fresh or live bait or mullet; herring are a good start however it’s hard to beat live squid. There are also plenty of man-made structures around that hold good quality fingers and the jetty’s around Bowen are a great start.

Next month will see some cracker inshore fishing for bar cheek trout. December around the new moon will see these fish, along with other fish like golden snapper, begin to spawn and congregate in big numbers on the shallow reefs around Bowen. If you find a patch of these fish on a bait-filled bommie or shoal, then putting together multiple catches is on the cards.

The creek fishing will continue to heat up and there should be some cracker jack action on the cards. The level of wet will be the biggest variable in the creeks in December however a good run of fresh is not a bad thing as this tends to stir things up a little and get the fish biting.

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