Mackerel make up for missing marlin
  |  First Published: April 2015

Well the amount of rain ex-tropical cyclone Marcia dropped on the Coffs coast hasn’t done what has been a pretty tragic game fishing season thus far any favours.

Surprisingly though, the brown muck didn’t spread as wide as everyone expected it to, and the FAD and the wave recorder buoy had quite acceptable water flowing past them less than 2 weeks later. The shelf water was purple blue and 27 degrees, but barrelling south at 3-4kts. Of course there were few, if any, marlin in any of this — they’re still north of the border or spread out from Port Stephens all the way down into Victoria…

So if you’ve got an excess of lemons, well you make lemonade. The good news is that the Spanish mackerel have turned up in droves, at this stage matching last year’s stellar season. The downside is that the preferred bait option, which is slimy mackerel, have vanished off sounder screens right on cue, leaving only yellowtail as a live bait alternative. Some days they can be every bit as good as slimies, but most times you just know they’re not going to get bit.

The only bait options then have been garfish or chin-rigged bonito, but of course small bonnies are now hard to come by too. With this in mind, the bonito and frigates that come aboard my boat next winter while trolling to and from the snapper grounds will be cryovaced and given the 5 star treatment and pride of place in the bait freezer – just in case.

With a lack of marlin activity, my poor old boat hadn’t been out of the pen in ages, so I just took it for a run out the front 1 afternoon to blow the slime off the hull. With a few mackerel reports filtering in, a bit of time spent trolling was deemed worthwhile, and so it proved to be. An hour at Bullocky produced an 8.5-kilo bar-ee on a Laser Pro. This was a pretty good result for about a cup of fuel; the downside was that as I lifted the fish aboard on the gaff, the rear treble ended up in my elbow. Not being in any way prepared for fishing, I had to carry the flapping mack into the cabin, find mono cutters, find the hookout pliers, and then find the bolt cutters to cut the treble off.

Fortunately the point had gone right through, so I was able to slide it back out the way it had gone in.

All of a sudden though, I was inspired. The next morning, 5 sad, decrepit, freezer burnt and mushy bonito were called upon to perform. These were converted into 3 Spanish from 5 bites, coming from the mankiest brown water you could ever hope to see. The macks were in it though, and a stack of them too. And the bite has since continued on, and on, and on…

When mackerel fever strikes Coffs, flexi-days, RDOs, 24 hour doses of man flu, imaginary religious holidays, and the more honest “Won’t be in tomorrow — I’m going fishing…” grips the town. I counted 60 cars and boat trailers at the boat ramp on a nice day mid-week, and you could probably add another 30 plus on weekends.

If any politician, mayor or tourism executive ever needed to see the value of recreational fishing to a place like Coffs — and the reason for decent facilities to service locals’ needs and attract tourists — it’s parked right there.


Yep, dead-set giving them away out there, no doubt about it. Here’s the evidence.


Hooked up to another Spaniard in what has been an incredible autumn bite.


It’s been another good year on the Spanish, with the fish holding on all the known haunts.

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