How to Catch Mackerel
  |  First Published: December 2006

For the next couple of issues we will be writing about how we catch mackerel. There are quite a few different kinds of mackerel but the main ones we catch in our area are school mackerel, spotty mackerel and Spanish mackerel. This issue we will tell you how we usually catch school mackerel and spotty mackerel.

When fishing for school mackerel we often fish around beacons in the shipping channels. We have a few ways of catching them. The first way is to use metal slugs. We just drop the slug down to the bottom and wind it back in as fast as we can right next to the beacons while Dad drives the boat to keep us in the right place.

If one slug doesn’t work it’s a good idea to try a couple of different sizes and colours. If one model you try looks the same as the baitfish the mackerel are eating that day, the macks will like that lure better than any others.

We have found that the faster you wind the better chance you have of getting a fish. It is really good fun when the mackerel hit the slug when you are winding really hard.

Another way to catch mackerel is to use a downrigger with a pillie. A downrigger is a big heavy ball that gets your bait down deep. With this method we drive around the beacons really slow until a fish hits the bait. This is a bit tricky sometimes and someone has to help get the downrigger back in the boat when we hook up. The advantage of a downrigger is that it gets the bait down lower in the water because sometimes the fish aren’t always on the surface.

Slow trolling a pillie or a lure on the surface also works quite well at times. When we catch a mackerel on a trolled lure or bait we often stick around and fish the place we caught it with slugs.

When fishing for spotty mackerel we look for flocks of birds working over the top of bait schools on the surface. Once we have spotted some birds we motor up very carefully and throw slugs into the bait school. At times we will berley up pillies and the fish will swim up around the boat and then we flick slugs in around them and catch them that way. Spotty mackerel move around quite a lot so it’s a bit hard to say where to find them. Just look for the birds and hope that they are mackerel and not tuna.

We have found that the macks are much better eating if they are bled when they are caught. They also taste better fresh rather then frozen so there is no point in taking a lot of fish in one trip.

Until next time, happy fishing.


1) These are the slugs that we use. If you’re fishing with a slug and the mackerel aren’t interested, try a different size or colour.

2) If you see a flock of birds dive-bombing a bait school, check it out and you could score some spotties like these.

3) A downrigger. These help your bait or lure get down deep quickly.

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