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Cod off, mackerel on!
  |  First Published: September 2004



WITH the closed season on cod and some pretty icy weather putting the clamps on local fishing, it’s a good time to get away and sample the fishing on offer in parts of Australia that are warm.

Just yesterday I jumped off the plane from Karratha, just north of Dampier in Western Australia, after doing some demo’s at a local festival.

People from all the small towns converged on the Karratha for a party and some entertainment in the form of live bands and the Aqua Tank Fishing Show. A mate had organised a stint on Oceanas Fishing Charters with owner-operator Brad, for a day out from Dampier to experience some of the pelagic action and a bit of bottom-bashing.

Every direction you looked, whales were breaching and generally lazing about. Huge turtles, the biggest I’ve seen, occasionally surfaced near the big catamaran.

Watching the sounder, it was obvious why the fish were around. With a vertical 25-metre ledge rising from the ocean floor, currents were diverted towards the surface. A couple of mobs of birds were working frantically to pick up scraps left behind in the mayhem.

As we got closer, Spanish mackerel could be seen shooting up like a surface-to-air missiles. Brad eased the big tub off the plane and settled at a trolling speed and out went two 190mm Halco Lazer Pros around 35 metres behind Oceanas.

Twenty metres later, a screaming ratchet had Brad looking for neutral. I grabbed the rod and pushed the drag on my favourite Penn 225 up to full.

Brad had been telling me about the shark problems of late and I used the ‘go hard or go home’ tactic to avoid the toothy freeloaders. As the run slowed on a medium Spaniard I went to work trying to rush the fish back to the boat – to no avail.

The fight only lasted about 30 seconds and about half a metre of Spaniard with a blunt bum swung over the side, considerably shorter than he was a few seconds before. Shark-shortened mackerel are regular on the Pilbara coast and were fairly common throughout the day. If you ever wanted to test tackle to its capability this is the place to do it. The fishing is really is that good and in the end we’d just drop one lure out, put the boat in gear while holding the rod and hook up instantly.

Most of the macks were around 8kg to 9kg with the odd one to 12kg spicing things up. After landing and releasing one such specimen, I said to Brad, “Save the fuel, mate, I’ll have a cast.” Five or six winds of the handle later, the 190mm Crazy Deep Laser Pro was slammed by a better fish.

‘SWIM, NEMO, SWIM!’

Having been lucky with the last few fish shark-wise, I’d opted for a 560 Slammer threadline with 10kg Platypus Super Braid and 24kg leader with a wire trace. As the fish tired after a few minutes, I began pumping it back to the boat when the mackerel started zig-zagging and darting.

I was yelling out, “Swim, Nemo, swim!” when the fast fight turned dogged and powerful. Brad told me of an episode last year when a mackerel was eaten by a black marlin which found the hooks but never jumped for two hours, so we opted to fight the ‘thing’ to see if we could at least get a look.

After two hours a tiger shark around three metres slowly came to the boat. If anyone wants the ultimate medium spin reel, the 560 Slammer is about as good as they get without having to get another mortgage on the house. The remains of about a 20kg mack was hanging on the lure.

Bottom-bouncing was white-knuckle fishing and in the end we went to 37kg Super Braid with 37kg Knotted Dog leaders to try to land fish before they became Noah tucker. Most of the time we won but even 9kg gold spot trevally and kicking rod butts are brutal on the gonads when you don’t give ’em an inch of line.

The Pilbara coastline is exciting. Heaps of easterners travel to WA and it’s not hard to see where I’ll be sending anyone who asks now. You need to book accommodation early in this town because the many mining contractors regularly book in bulk.

Another thing to be aware of is the theft factor: I lost a tackle box of my favourite barra lures and I reckon I took my eyes off it for only 10 seconds. I’m hoping the scumbag rolls over into the tackle box naked and finds razor sharp hooks embedded in every sensitive part of his body – not that I hate thieves or anything.

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