Grey mackerel return
  |  First Published: May 2005

For the last few years, grey mackerel have only made short appearances, but now they have hit the coast again in quantity. Grey or broad-barred mackerel look like a deeper-bodied doggy or school mackerel with a similar black front dorsal, but faint bars instead of the telltale doggy splotches. We have already had some top mornings and with reports coming in from further afield, the future should hold more of the same action.

The local spots that seem to attract greys more than elsewhere are Rosslyn Bay Harbour (outside wall and the southern point), Farnborough Reef, Bangalee, Ironpot, Rita Mada, Corio Heads, Quartz Rock, The Barge and Findlay’s Reef. Other places such as inside the mouths of Corio Bay and Coorooman Creek get greys less regularly and in smaller numbers. Local anglers have scored some nice fish at a couple of slightly wider areas, though this is not a regular event because grey mackerel are mainly caught close to the shore in this area.

Jigging lures will account for the largest share of grey mackerel in our region. Flasha are the local lure of choice, though any of the smaller varieties of chromies do the job. Cast out your lure, let it sink until it is close to the bottom and then retrieve it fairly quickly, occasionally changing the pace or make an erratic path.

Over reef patches, it is a gamble on how long you let it sink. When you are casting from the sandy edges of the reef or the harbour wall, wait until the lure actually hits the bottom before retrieving. This gives the mackerel more opportunities to hit the lure on the way in. Occasionally, we have caught a decent feed on lures, before even getting the pilchards out of the esky.

Another method is using pilchards on either a floater that is left to run down with the current or a pea sinker placed just above the gangs (4-5/0 depending on the size of the pillies). When the sun gets up a little, let more line out or use a slightly bigger sinker to get the bait down deeper. To vary the presentation if the fish are slow, try adding 4-5cm of red plastic tubing above the hooks. Not only does this make a difference in the catch rate, it also helps save the leader when using mono instead of steel trace. I’ve found that on average, steel receives half the number of hits that mono does, so every bit helps.

Chasing greys can yield more than one type of mackerel; it can also produce spotties, doggies or even Spaniards. Grey mackerel come in a variety of sizes up to about 7kg. Measure them carefully as most of the time they are around or just under the legal length.

Land-based anglers have one of the best chances to compete with the boaties in May to nail mackerel. On early, calm mornings, the wall on the north end and the point at the south end of the harbour are often full of fishers. The optimum time is around the top of the tide on a glass off and as early in the morning as possible (as long as you can see where you are walking!). The rocks can be very slippery and sharp, so take care.

Wahoo are a species that were not caught on a regular basis up here until recently. I think the reason things have changed is the arrival of more anglers from other areas. One particular fellow scores a wahoo nearly every trip outside The Keppels and believes that the key is using a fast troll. Maybe he is onto something. Wahoo are a finer grained and sweeter tasting fish than Spanish mackerel. They are super fast and up there with the big tunas as a sportfish.

Schools of 5-10kg Spaniards have moved into the bay again, bringing the tinny brigade out in force to sample the great fishing this time of the year.

Black jew remain a cooler weather favourite for plenty of Yeppoon and Rocky residents. The jewies have kicked in as regularly as ever. The nights either side of the full moon are the best time to land one of these beasts. Squid, pilchards and fresh flesh baits are hard to beat on a snapper rig with 6/0 plus sized hooks. Try targeting them at Corio Heads, Double Heads, Ironpot and Rita Mada. More adventurous anglers can give The Pinnacles, Cape Manifold and Cape Capricorn a shot.

Other less-common species that come out at this time of year are red jew, red emperor, grassy sweetlip, redthroat emperor, coral trout, hussar and cod. Many of these guys come into the shallower waters of Keppel Bay in reasonable numbers and sizes, particularly on the moon. The bay has improved tremendously of late, partly because the trawlers have been forced to stay out wider.

The estuaries are in good shape, with prawns and muddies still holding a share of the catches. Whiting, bream and threadfin salmon (blue and king) are increasing throughout the area, providing creek anglers with lots of options now that barramundi, fingermark and mangrove jack have virtually disappeared.

The Fitzroy River is not a bad choice for a day of fishing. Salmon can be found in all parts of the river, while down towards Port Alma and the Connors Rocks end, the grunter and snodger bream of last season are back. Although 1kg fish are the norm, you do see the occasional 2kg bream. Nearly all the river’s winter fish are taking prawns, poddy mullet, mullet strips, yabbies and pillies, which makes choosing bait very easy.

The Causeway Lake has been producing a few species this month, including cod, bream, grunter, pike and trevally. They bite especially well on the run-through, high tides over about 3.8m. When fishing the Causeway on a run-though, set up early on the bridge or the wall. Make sure you leave room next to people who have already set up. Try not to tangle up others and be very careful casting and retrieving.

There were a few salmon caught up the beach before the latest windy spell, so you would expect the beaches to fire up when conditions are right. Corio Bay and Coorooman Creek both hold large whiting along their many sandbanks and yabby beds in May.

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