The pelagic fish will be well and truly running in Bowen waters by July and the prize fish in angler’s sights will be Spanish mackerel.
By now most of the larger female Spanish macks will have worked their way inshore following the garfish and wolf herring. These bait sources tend to move into the Bay as the inshore waters clear and become a deep blue. This is the first sign anglers should look out for and if you see the water looking very clear and blue then you know it is a great sign to get out and get amongst the Spanish mackerel.
Clear blue water is not only important for bringing in the bait but it also helps to snare a mackerel on the jig. Jigging for Spanish mackerel would have to be one of my favourite ways to catch a big Spaniards due to its fast pace and brutal action.
The technique is a simple yet effective one however it does require a lot of work, but the reward is certainly worth the effort. Firstly you need to have a reel either overhead or spin which will retrieve your lure at high speed. Typically anything with a 6:1 ratio is up to the task. There is no substitute for speed when you are jigging as this is what excites the fish and gets them biting.
Unlike trolling or bait fishing you are actually working on an instinct bite not a hunger bite from the fish when you are jigging. To trigger that instinct and turn on a bite from a fish you need that speed to grab their attention and chase.
While a high speed reel is important, so is your rod as this can help immensely with the jigging process. I prefer short jigging rods as they allow the angler to work their jigs on the high speed retrieve. Long rods over 6’ can be bulky and hard to work, especially when jigging vertically.
You also need a rod with a strong tip as you need to be able to drive those hook point in when jigging to ensure the fish doesn’t find its freedom. I typically like to set my drag pretty tight for initial hook up and really give the fish some big pumps after the first strike to set those hooks. Just relying on the fish to chew down your lure can lead to lost fish.
I really do prefer trebles as they tend to hook up better than big singles however on the other hand trebles do fall out a lot easier than singles as well. The best thing to remember is to keep that line tight at all times. The moment you have slack line you are giving that fish an opportunity to shake those hooks loose.
While Spanish macks may have some great teeth their mouths are very tough and bony and unless you penetrate right through, the odds of landing fish are slim. Make sure your trebles are sharp or alternatively put new ones on at the start of every trip.
Lures are my preference, and I prefer metal lures over soft plastics and hardbodies. Big Bumpa Bars or knife jigs are perfect as they mimic a fleeing wolf herring perfectly. Also the 15cm Mariah Jigs are easy to work and catch plenty of fish.
If you are using knife jigs don’t go with the long heavy ones, as the macks prefer something smaller. Bumpa Bars are always a top choice as their design allows the angler to concentrate on winding as quickly as possible and the bent design of the lure creates a crazy fish-attracting action on its retrieve. You will get more bites without wire but you will also need deep pockets as well.
Rods, reels and lures are all essential but using your brain and sounder is the most important factor when jigging for Spanish mackerel. The ocean is a very big place so doesn’t just pull up to your favourite mackerel spot and start jigging. Look for concentrations of bait on your sounder because where you will find the bait is where you will find the fish.
If mackerel are present with the bait then the signs are even better. This is where having a good sounder is essential and will really improve your chances of jigging up a big Spaniard. Likewise, if you begin jigging on bait and you catch other species such as queenfish don’t be put off, as big Spanish mack love to eat queenies as well.
There are plenty of spots around Bowen that are ideal for jigging up a big Spaniard and hot spots include Abbot Point, Holbourne Island and the Outer Mackerel Patches. There will also be the smaller mackerel in these spots as well and they can also be taken using the same techniques.
Mackerel won’t be the only pelagic on the rampage around Bowen waters, as the long tail tuna will also be in good numbers. Once again as the clear water pushes in from outside, the bay will become full of these thrashing balls of fun. Casting metal slugs and plastics into feeding fish is the best way to snare these fish. If you are fishing plastics make sure you give the lure time to sink before retrieving it at speed. If you are fishing metals then get those lures moving as soon as it hits the water.
While the pelagic action will be red hot, the creeks will also offer anglers lots of fun through July. The jacks and barra might not be too keen to have a go however the whiting will be in big numbers and they are great fun to target on surface. When targeting these fish it’s best to wait until the first of the run-in tide, as this is when the fish are eagerly waiting to get up onto the flats to feed. They are easy to see in shallow water and look for big long silver flashes in the water. This is the result of whiting sliding on their sides across the sand and really gives away their position. Once you have located them, all it takes is a small popper or surface walking lure retrieved at speed to get them to bite.
Next month the action will remain pretty much the same though the Spanish mackerel tend to get bigger and the smaller mackerel, such as the spotties and greys tend to run a lot harder. This will be the last month to get your pelagic fix before we see a transition back to the warmer water fishing, so make the most of it.Reads: 732