A Month for Mackerel
  |  First Published: June 2007

Last month the signs for a good mackerel season had already showed. So this month with the water cooling, we should see captures on the increase even though the traditional start to the mackerel season is some weeks away yet.

Mackerel of all shapes and sizes have found their way north and are readily available to the small tinnie brigade. The weed beds off the mouth of Alligator Creek are producing regular catches of both school and spotted mackerel with the odd cobia thrown in for good measure.

The most popular method of capturing these pelagic speedster’s is to float a pilchard on gang hooks. I like to use 4/os with two or three interconnected hooks in conjunction with a consistent berley trail, heavily loaded with tuna oil and old unused pillies. Moving your pilchard slowly through the berley trail or even opting for a metal slice can create the extra excitement needed to switch fussy fish onto a feeding frenzy. Just be aware of GBRMPA yellow zone areas! Try also to keep an eye out for bait schools such as green back herring as the predators such as mackerel will not be far away.

Just across Cleveland Bay, Cape Cleveland is on the top of the list when it comes to easy access and quality catches of Spanish mackerel. Trolled lures or baits such as gar or wolf herring swam at around 6 knots, just on dawn, will put you in with a good chance. Your local tackle store can set you up with some ‘Evil Eyes’ chin guards or I know many anglers have very effective home made trolling heads. Armed with 8/o or 9/o hooks these are proven mackerel magnets.

West Point as well as Burdekin and Bay Rocks are also easy access to boaties by either the town ramp or the Bohle river ramp.

Whilst Cape Cleveland tends to have more large mackerel, the western side of Magnetic Island holds larger numbers of the species therefore increasing hook up rates for anglers. Fortunately, most of the better spots are well outside the Marine Park’s ‘yellow zone’ allowing the use of more than one rod. This allows anglers to have floaters for mackerel left unattended with a ratchet on, while bottom bouncing for nannygai, flathead or grunter.

Speaking of grunter, it’s worth mentioning the brilliant run of large grunter on the northern beaches such as Saunders, Balgal, Toomulla and Bushland.

Anglers will find that pumping live yabbies produce a few grunter but by choosing this bait option you may be more likely to be taken by big winter whiting – which isn’t really a bad thing! The majority of good grunter seems to be taking to peeled prawns, mullet fillets and even pilchards floated whole. Try fishing a running rig using the smallest sinker you can get away with during an early evening run in tide.

Further offshore the usual suspects have been very forthcoming, with regular reports of red emperor, large mouth nannygai and sweet lip.

Creeks and estuaries around Townsville will be holding good numbers of grunter and salmon on the flats and rubble banks but if you’re chasing a barra look hard in the snags. At this time of year the barra will sit right in the structure and will have a distinct preference for live prawns fished almost on their noses. They are a lazy fish that will not swim out from the snag in cold water to chase bait.

So it becomes necessary to learn how to cast net and locate snags that hold fish. Look for the big three: current flow, structure and bait. If you have all three, then there will be fish at some stage – all you need is a little patience.

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