Mackerel Mayhem
  |  First Published: May 2010

Fishing in and around Bowen in June is heavily influenced by cold water current lines and the influx of massive bait congregations on the inshore and offshore shoaly mackerel patches. This combination, plus the typically favourable weather patterns, spells the beginning of the spotted, grey and Spanish mackerel run.

This is a favourite time of year for many anglers in Bowen as the inshore mackerel patches really fire up with some of the best mackerel fishing on offer along the east coast of Queensland.

Bowen has two main mackerel patches. The closest is around a 3km run from the Greys Boat Ramp and is easily accessed by a small tinny. Lying in 12-15m of water, this shoaly patch is about 2km long and is fairly flat with no major structure or pinnacles and has a rough shaley/rocky bottom. While structure is minimal, it seems to be enough to attract huge schools of small bait fish, gar and wolf herring; which inturn attracts the schools of spotted, grey mackerel which then inturn attracts the bigger Spanish mackerel.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this patch is too shallow for big pelagic macks as this is a true hot spot in June for big Spanish up to 40kg, with the average size being around 15kg.

The second mackerel patch is a little further out (about another 5km from the first patch) and is also accessible with a small boat on a good day. This patch holds more structure then the first patch and has much deeper water, around the 20-25m mark. Similar to the inner patch, this area is positioned around main current lines and is a major attractant to huge schools of bait.

There are many ways to fish these patches successfully, the most common is to soak a few pilchards on a standard dropper rig with wire trace. Floated baits are also effective and a live fusilier rarely goes untouched in this part of the sea.

If you are not into soaking baits these patches offer some great jigging whether on soft plastic, octo jigs, or metal style lures, like bumper bars. Working metal jigs at high speed either across the top of the water or through the water column is often a very successful technique as well.

Trolling is also an effective technique and the traditional spoon is by far the most successful lure of choice for the smaller mackerel species. For the bigger Spanish mackerel, rigged gar or wolf herring are the gun baits, especially if you can get the baits down deep close to the bottom where the bigger fish tend to lie.

While the inshore patches work well this time of year the wider grounds are probably a lot more consistent, especially the area around Nares Rock near Holbourne Island. This large isolated rock lies about 35km offshore in 30m of open water and is an amazing natural Spanish mackerel FAD and a real hot spot for those keen on trolling. Big rigged wolf herring baits are optimum here though rigged gar is also very effective.

Surprisingly the average size of the Spaniards compared to the inshore patch fish is usually down, although what is lost on quality is made up for in quantity with plenty of fish to be caught. This is a true schooling fish spot and therefore most fish are around 10-12kg in size. But there are always a few bigger lone fish to be caught as well.

Holbourne Island itself is also worth a troll, especially on the very eastern end where the current is strongest. The island has plenty of deep water coral ledges that drop from 15m right down to 40m and the crystal clear water makes spotting the baits very easy for hungry mackerel.

While all these spots are very successful mackerel haunts in June, the prime spot will probably be around the Coal Loading Jetty around Abbot Point. There is no secret this spot is a spectacular ‘big Spanish’ spot as the combination of artificial structure and strong currents create an ideal spot for Spanish to congregate. This is a top trolling and jigging spot so please remember that boats should maintain at least 60m from the jetty pylons or wharf faces and be well clear when the big boats come in to dock.

Looking ahead

July usually spells periods of calm weather on the water for Bowen with July being smack bang in the middle of the Bowen mackerel season. This means it will be a great month to get out and nail a few big Spanish along with their smaller spotted and grey cousins.

It is not a bad idea to stock up on your limit of wolf herring as they tend to get very expensive and hard to get once the Spanish start running so stocking up on your five baits now makes a lot of sense.

July is also a great time to take advantage of the clam weather to chase those tasty reef fish and the outer reefs like Olde and the Wallabys are always a great spot to fish for coral trout and big red throat emperor. Close inshore, the many Islands especially Glouster and Middle Island will be prime spots for big bar cheek coral trout and big black spot tuskfish as well.

The jack and barra fishing will drop off as the cold water temps sends them into hibernation. June is a great time to get out the light gear and small hardbodies and plastics and chase the big pikey and yellowfin bream. The cooler weather and water temps really bring these fish on the bite and fish up to 40cm are not uncommon and are great fun on light tackle. Hardbody lures like Jackal Chubbbies and Eco Gear SX40s and small plastics, around the 2-3” size, are an excellent choice, and don’t forget to throw a blade or two in for good measure.

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