Time for pelagics
  |  First Published: March 2012

The sunnier, warmer weather, brings on the pelagics.

Pelagic fish, including tuna, trevally, and my favourite, mackerel, are feeling the warmth and now is a good time to fish for them. They can be a real challenge, especially for a junior or inexperienced angler, but that’s what makes it fun!

It is essential to know the basic on how to fish for pelagics, because fishing for them can be unpredictable.

Essential Knowledge

Mackerel are a very relentless fish when hooked. They fight hard and cause a lot of fishers to become spooled! The two main mackerel caught around South East Queensland are spotted and school mackerel, averaging 2-4kg in size.

Spanish mackerel have also been caught in good numbers. Fighting these fish is an awesome experience as sometimes they do aerial displays.

Using light gear is fun with mackerel, but it’s recommended to stay on the heavier side of tackle.

You can catch mackerel around rocky headlands and piers, especially Urangan Pier. If on a boat, you can catch mackerel nearly anywhere where there is baitfish, usually indicated by birds diving in the water. A good thing to remember, if there’s birds, there’s most likely mackerel.


Tuna are powerful and very fast fighters. They are shaped like a bullet and can spool a reel quickly.

Mac tuna are the most commonly caught tuna around South East Queensland, averaging a size of about 2-3kg, but are sometimes caught over 6kg. Longtail and yellowfin tuna are the mac tuna’s larger cousins, which can be caught in excess of 15kg!

You will usually find tuna under large flocks of birds feeding on the baitfish, just like mackerel. Tuna can come and go very quickly, which is a bit of a pain when not in a boat, so quick thinking is critical. Tuna have a lot in common with mackerel, they can be caught off the rocky headlands, smashing baitfish indicated by diving birds, and around piers in deep water.


Trevally are another pelagic firing up in this warmer weather. They are a fish that can strike a bait or lure with such power they can pull a rod out of an unwary fisher’s hands!

There are many species of trevally on offer, but the two main specimens are golden and giant trevally. Golden trevally are a very eye catching fish, shining a bright gold in the sun. They are commonly caught around the 4-8kg mark, but can grow up to 30kg and around a metre, which would be a catch of a lifetime!

Giant trevally are the brutes of all fish, they can grow to mammoth sizes, growing up to 40kg up north. They are usually caught around 5-10kg, and bigger specimens to 10-15kg around South East Queensland. They are dirty fighters, snapping the line on coral reefs or around pylons under bridges and piers, so strong tackle and pulling power is a must!

Trevally can be found around coral reefs, or hitting baitfish on the surface along channels or around bridges and piers.

Ideal Tackle

Lines and leaders: Smaller mackerel fishing would only require a line size of about 15-20lb. If live baiting, a wire trace of about 40cm long and 30lb. Larger fish will require heavy lines of around 30-40lb and a wire trace of about 50-60lb in size.

Hooks: When floating pilchards, a 4/0-6/0 big gun hook will be required. When live baiting, the wire trace should run down from a heavy swivel to a 4/0 big gun hook to go through the mouth of the baitfish, then another 10cm length of wire trace to a second larger hook to go through the back of the baitfish.

Baits: Whole pilchards, squid, or live baits including yakkas, herring and garfish.

Lures: Casting metal slugs into a school of baitfish will get mackerel when they’re around; preferably a Raider 20 or 98 if you have one. Trolling large shallow to deep diving lures can also be effective.


Lines and leaders: Fishing for smaller tuna will only require line sizes from 12-20lb line. Larger fish will require 40-50lb line and 80lb mono trace should work well, especially when live baiting. When using lures, a 20-40lb mono trace is ideal.

Hooks: When using live or dead baits, use a 4/0-8/0 big gun hook.

Baits: Whole pilchards, squid, or live baits including herring and pike.

Lures: Metal slugs of all sizes work great when casted into the school, or deep divers trolled behind a boat.


Lines and leaders: Using 20-30lb main line with a 40lb wire trace, or 80lb mono leader for baits and lures will work great. If fishing for the smaller specimens, it is sometimes best to keep your tackle quite light.

Hooks: A 4/0-6/0 big gun hook is good for floating out pilchards or casting out live baits for smaller and larger specimens.

Baits: The best baits to use are fish flesh, live garfish, herring and pike.

Lures: Poppers are dynamite lures on trevally, especially giant trevally when they hit the surface with extreme force. Deep diving minnows, jigs, and metal slugs work great as well.

Whenever you have the chance to go out and fish for these pelagics, make sure you remember to take all the right tackle to back you up and, for most cases, a good heavy rod. You may have the trip of a lifetime!

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