Cool weather brings mack attack
  |  First Published: June 2013

Combine cold temperatures and fishing around Bowen, and the species on everyone’s list is mackerel. June traditionally sees the onset of the pelagic mackerel season around Bowen as the bait begins to congregate over the Mackerel Patches, in turn bringing in large schools of smaller grey, doggies and spotted mackerel.

Typically the grey mackerel are the first to appear and traditionally the first run of these fish usually sees exceptional quality with fish pushing the 10kg mark. Greys are fantastic to target on jigs and small metal raiders or bumper bars fixed to a small amount of wire trace and worked at high speed through the water column is the best way to entice a strike.

It’s of utmost importance to locate bait and fish on your sounder before attempting this technique as you really want to be dropping your jigs right on their heads.

While it’s not too hard to locate the bait and fish over the mackerel patches getting the fish to bite is often a much difficult task. With so much food on offer the mackerel tend to feed hot and cold. This can be a frustrating affair as you can often physically see the fish in the water but refusing to bite. However, a simple change in tide or time can bring on a frenzy of feeding. Likewise, jigging can often create an impulse strike as the lure darts through the water right in front of their razor teeth. Keep this in mind if you are planning a trip to the patches and things are looking a bit quiet as with most fishing, action often creates action.

In a continuation of the pelagic food chain the presence of the small mackerel species also heralds the presence of the larger Spanish mackerel. These barred silver streaked carnivores love to chomp on small doggie and grey mackerel and are one of a couple apex predators on the Bowen mackerel patches.

Spanish mackerel are often the pinnacle target for anglers on these grounds and when the fish average between 15 and 20kg they are worthy adversaries. They can also be caught high speed jigging, which involves the same process as the smaller macks just an upsize in lure.

If you want a more armchair approach, live baiting is an excellent way to snare a big Spanish. The Patches hold large populations of small trevally and fusiliers and are dynamite when floated under a balloon. It’s a good idea to keep a close eye on your baits and keep them near the surface to avoid the smaller macks and the ever-present apex predator, sharks. Sharks will often circle live bait before hitting it so this will give you a chance to get your baits away before they get taken by the tax man.

Bait runners are ideal for this type of work especially if you are using large circle hooks. This allows the mack to run with the bait until the pressure is exerted and the circle hook can do its work.

The other benefit of using circles is for another top predator, which showed up in big numbers last year around the inner and outer Patches in June, the black marlin. Accidental captures of these fish were prolific last year and for the most part taken on live baits meant for a big Spanish. Circle hooks will definitely help with securing a solid hook up with these fish especially when given line to run.

While not suitable for the table (unfortunately some people just have to take them home anyway), black marlin are great sport and a worthy challenge, especially on mackerel gear. I know I will be putting aside some time this year to target these fish in particular on light line.

The blue water will be firing up, so the creeks are also worth a visit in June. One of the by-products of excellent mackerel fishing is an over abundance of crab bait and June is definitely a month worth dropping a few pots around Bowen’s creeks. The crabs tend to fire up in a big way particularly around the first couple of cold snaps; cricket score catches are not uncommon this time of the year. Mackerel is a top bait for crabs as it’s so oily that it creates a great berley trail for them to follow.

The crabs are not the only attraction in the creeks. While most anglers will see the cool weather as a sign to retire the baitcaster, this is far from the truth. In fact some of my better sessions have come from the cooler months especially for barramundi. The secret is to target the shallower water and open flats as this is where the fish tend to sun themselves during periods of cool weather.

Barra can often be sight cast to, but this will not guarantee a bite as they can be quite stubborn this time of the year. Try everything in your kit to get them to bite with my favourite being small surface lures that create a small but non threatening pop.

July will see an increase in the pelagic action offshore, especially as the water begins to glow that deep ocean blue. This will signal the peak time for big Spanish mackerel with hot spots like Camp Island, Abbot Point, Holbourne Island Glouster Island swarming with these fish. It’s enough to get me excited just thinking about it!

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