Make a day of mackerel
  |  First Published: April 2005

This season has been a repeat of last year’s season, with plenty of mackerel to go around.

Schoolies, spotties and Spaniards have all been in very healthy numbers, along with most of the other pelagic fish that frequent our bit of the coastline, including wahoo and small black marlin.

Unfortunately, I have been restricted to only a couple of trips of late while my new boat is going through its survey fit-out, but one of those trips was with a couple of boys, Keith Leckie and Jason Gibbons, in Keith’s new 6.8m Seafarer Voyager. With twin 175hp Evinrudes on the back it was certainly a quick trip across the bay.

With near perfect conditions forecast the plan was to slow troll livebait for Spanish mackerel and wahoo along Moreton Island’s coffee rock reefs. After crossing a near dead flat South Passage Bar, we headed to the bait ground around 2km from the entrance to the Northern Gutter. Bait wasn’t hard to find, with schools of slimy mackerel and yakkas flicking on the surface all over the place. The bait was a little small, but with the bait tank full we headed in to the beach.

The water was a beautiful cobalt blue, there was plenty of surface activity and it all looked very promising. We started trolling on a bit of reef opposite the sand hills in around 12m of water, using three rods – two with livebait on the outside and one with a pillie in the centre.

It didn’t take long before we got our first strike with something taking a liking to one of the livebaits. After a decent first run, Jason turned what we thought was a good Spaniard. The fish had other ideas though and ran straight for the boat at a high rate of knots – a dead giveaway for a wahoo.

After a minute or two we swung the gaff into a solid wahoo of around 12kg, which was a great start to the day.

We worked the same piece of reef for the next half hour for only one more strike, which ended up being a small yellowfin tuna, so we decided to head a couple of kilometres north to another patch of coffee rock that normally holds a few mackerel.

The fish were on the chew as soon as we put the baits in the water, with school mackerel in the 3kg to 4kg range hitting the baits as we were letting them run out. We were targeting Spaniards, so after boating a few we trolled away from where the schoolies were holding to another patch of reef 500m further north.

The first pass over the rock resulted in a triple hook-up that saw Keith and Jason land a pair of Spaniards in the 8kg class while my fish was bitten off at the swivel by one of the hooked fish’s mates. When chasing wahoo and mackerel you should always use black swivels and make them as small as possible. Other fish from the school will run with the hooked fish and chomp at anything that shines, or even at small air bubbles coming off the swivel.

After boating another couple of Spaniards and a few more schoolies we called it quits mid-morning, taking home all the fish we needed.

Mackerel of this size aren’t competition-winning fish but they’re great fun to catch on lighter tackle and are great on the plate.

On the competition front, myself and all other existing competitors in the Straddie Classic were notified that the Classic was off this year due to the renovations of the hotel. It’s a shame the competition isn’t on because it’s a great week, but hopefully the Classic will come back bigger and better next year.

Southeast Queensland’s other major competition, the Toyota Fraser Island Fishing Expo, is not too far off, so now’s the time to start planning and do your trailer and vehicle maintenance. Fraser is very tough on all the gear. It’s a real adventure getting to Fraser, especially with the larger boats, but the quality of fishing is worth the effort.

On the grounds east of the South Passage, reef fishing is still hit-and-miss, with some strong southerly currents being around in late February and early March. The best bet for a feed at the moment is chasing a mackerel or three and the size should start to pick up through April.

Until next month, enjoy your fishing, take care on the water and coastal bars and if you’d like to experience mackerel fishing at its peak, join me on a charter (max. 4 persons), give me a call on 0418 738 750 or (07) 3822 9527.


1) Jason Gibbons with a nice wahoo that ate a livie on Moreton Island’s coffee rock.

2) Jason Gibbons and Keith Leckie with typical coffee rock Spaniards.

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