If you’re keen to snare yourself a trophy Spanish mackerel in Bowen waters, then August is the month to do so.
August is prime big Spanish time as the inshore waters clear to a deep blue and the bait from out wide moves in over the inshore shoals, headlands and artificial structures. Traditionally the offshore weather is very calm and consistent over August and this also helps to create ideal conditions for the larger fish to move into the bay.
So far we have experienced a very uncharacteristic wet and windy winter for the north. However this will only prove to keep the fish out wider for now. Once the true winter pattern moves in, these fish will be prime for the picking. Spots worth targeting for these toothy trophies will be the Bowen Mackerel Patches. The first Patch, a football sized section of rubble and shoal only 5km from the Greys Bay ramp typically holds good numbers of both Spanish and Spotty mackerel in August and trolling large baits like wolf herring and even small mackerel (over the legal limit) will be the best technique to hook up to a big one.
The best times to target these fish are around the change in low tide or during sun up and sun set. If the wind is blowing from the south west, which is typical in the mornings in August, wait til it swings around to the east and this usually brings on a decent bite.
If you’re not a keen troller then fishing live baits is the next best thing. Smaller fish like fusiliers and silver trevally which reside on the Patches. They are a dynamite bait when fished under a balloon or on the bottom. It pays to use a stinger style rig with a floating hook as this helps with hook ups. I prefer to fish live baits on the bottom as it reduces your chances of tangling with sharks (which tend to hang around mid-water). If there are plenty of boats around especially trolling the larger fish will sulk on the bottom so getting baits down deep is a good idea.
Whatever method you are using, make sure you use your sounder and work the areas where the bait is present. Once you can locate the big shoals of bait you are likely to find the fish as well. This can sometimes mean driving away from the main Patch areas as sometimes the bait will hold in places where there is little structure.
Jigging is also a top way to tangle with a big Spanish mackerel. Spots that are conducive to jigging include the Jetty at Abbott Point and the deeper shoals and patches out around the second mackerel patch about 8km out from the Greys Bay boat ramp. Once again finding the bait is a must. Large metal lures like Bumpa Bars are best worked as fast as possible through these schools of bait as this will attract the attention of cruising fish and hopefully create an instinct bite.
There will be plenty of other mackerel species on offer including good runs of spotted and grey mackerel as well. This time of year we see all the inshore wrecks and reefs full with these fish and floated pilchards are the best way to get amongst them. They tend to turn up everywhere so be aware if you are fishing without wire. Even baits meant for trout and other reef fish are snapped up by these fish. This is a great for land based anglers who can easily target these pelagic fish off many of Bowen’s rocky headlands and foreshores. Long spin rods are ideal and baits particularly live ones cast into sweeping pressure points on floats will attract the most attention. Other species such as golden trevally, cobia and queenfish will also be available fishing this way as well. It is recommended that you use wire at all times.
Spanish mackerel will not be the only species on offer and with the cold water comes the crayfish. Painted and ornate crayfish are at their thickest this time of year. The cold water sees them move out into the open more which makes them much easier to spot. All the islands around Bowen hold excellent numbers of crays and in very shallow water as well. The best tip is to look for rocky ledges and to keep your eyes peeled for their black antennas which protrude outwards. Small spear guns around the 50-70cm length are ideal to capture crays. Remember though any crays with eggs must be returned so try and check before taking them. Usually the very large painted crays are egg bearing females so be vigilant when you spot one of these. Crays can also be taken by hand and the best method is to grab them at the base of their antennas and to squeeze them together. This tends to flare out their legs which makes them much easier to pull free from the rocks and caves. Make sure you have a good set of gloves and protected arms as coral scratches can turn very infectious.
In the creeks, the cold weather will make chasing jacks and barra difficult. They can still be found but they will require a lot of convincing. Putting in the effort and persisting is the most important part and flogging a snag with different lures and multiple casts is a must. Concentrate on shallow water areas as this will be where the water is the warmest. I love this time of year for chasing barra on the flats as they love to sunbake. The trick is to get them to bite. Often going small is the key and light line is an absolute necessity. One species which will be thick in August up the creeks will be the flathead. They typically feed hard around this time and prawn soft plastics fished on the outgoing tides is a good strategy.
Next month we will see a transition back to the warmer months, however many of the pelagic fish like mackerel will still be kicking around as the water usually takes a while to warm up. September is one of the best months of the year for offshore weather so trips out wide will be frequent so make sure you are ready.Reads: 797