The mad rush for spotties
  |  First Published: June 2004

I WOULDN’T want to be reincarnated as a spotted mackerel – whenever I’ve gotten amongst them this season I’ve been accompanied by a flotilla the likes of which I haven’t seen since the America’s Cup off Fremantle in 1987!

Fortunately, most anglers pursuing these tasty fish have met with success. Now that ring netting is prohibited the vast travelling schools of spotties are much more likely to contain fish that experience a long and productive life. There’s a better chance now for those anglers armed with a slug or two – along with the sad-acts who catch their fish merely with a gaff. This is a pretty pathetic practice, but it doesn’t do the local tackle store owners any harm as plenty of fish lost while ‘fishing’ in this way.

Almost anything small, shiny and swimming quickly will get eaten when the spotties are this thick, accompanied by their mates the schoolies and the odd Spaniard, along with tailor, dart and various trevallies. On the first Sunday of May there were 70-odd boats outside of Noosa and hundreds more along the rest of the Sunshine Coast. On the next day nothing much had changed, other than a slight downturn in catch rates.

On days offshore during this kind of frantic activity there are boats galore chasing fish galore. Rapidly moving schools of boiling fish quickly sound after the arrival of six or eight boats, all loaded with anglers with their casting arms tensed and ready. Of course, 20 or so slugs are fired into the melee, and a few shouts of “I’m on” bounce across the waves after the retrieve. Lookouts scan the sky for working birds, others cast blindly anywhere they can and the rest cast at boils observed within range. Skippers cruise slowly, hopeful of another chance before the winds accelerate to uncomfortable levels. Every now and then a tirade of abuse is heard, no doubt berating an otherwise occupied skipper for venturing too close to another vessel.

Speaking of which, the aforementioned flotilla ranged from very small canoes and kayaks right through the entire range of boats including punts, vee-hull tinnies, runabouts, cruisers, game boats and charter boats. None were beyond the reproach of the others – such is the way of the blue water skipper! Ah, the joys of chasing spotties!

Tactics have been mainly casting slugs, although the odd troller still gets into the act, along with a bait angler or two. Rather than join in the circus, a more relaxing approach is to anchor over a reef and drop a line or two to the bottom in the hope of a snapper, sweetlip or trout, and toss a pilchard or livie out the back (unweighted of course).

Trollers have fared well this season. My friends the Bellantoni boys have persevered and once more they have reaped the rewards. The latest effort was from a solo Mario, trolling outside of Mooloolaba, who ended up with three very respectable spotties and two Spaniards. All told, 40-odd kilos of fish! Not a scrap went to waste, and had he pressed on there would have been more!

Anglers targeting bottom dwelling fish have been having a good time of it, too. Small snapper have been a very regular catch in April and into May, and this will get even better through June and July. Sweetlip will be a regular catch in June along the Sunshine Coast, and the remainder of catches will include parrots, a few trout, pearlies, cobia, Maori cod and the occasional amberjack just to keep the tackle well and truly tested.


The Noosa River fired exceptionally well in early May. Most catches included flathead, trolled or drifted with livies or fresh bait. Some surprisingly large specimens were boated, but this trend will wane during winter. The warmer months seem to suit the lizards better than the cooler ones.

Trevally are once again a major drawcard to the Noosa area and we’re hoping this will continue into June. Dawn and dusk are the go, as this is when the trevors viciously hunt the enormous schools of bait. Casting slugs is the best way to secure a fish or two, and even the 1 and 2kg models pull very hard. Light spin gear and small slugs are all you need for a fun session. Quickly trolled chrome minnows and soft plastics also attract plenty of attention from the trevs.

Bream are on the make, with size and quantity improving rapidly. Most bait anglers are securing a feed already, and by the time June rolls around things should be even better. Jetty anglers have been into the bream for a while now, as most jetties allow good access to deep water. During the day the deeper channels are good places to lob a bait, with live prawns being among the best. As darkness sets in it can be worth trying the shallow yabby banks, as these often contain stud bream looking for a feed.

Good areas for breamers in June include the run from Noosa spit to the river mouth, opposite the creek that runs in to the Frying Pan, Chambers Island in the Maroochy, the rock walls in the lower reaches of the Mooloolah and the Military jetty down at Caloundra.

Whiting anglers could do a lot worse that hunting their quarry in the same areas as the breamers, and there have been some hooters caught of late. Live prawns are the gun bait and top areas to try for a feed of whiting in June will be the lower reaches of the Noosa River, including the downstream end of Goat Island, all round Chambers Island in the Maroochy, the lower Mooloolah and Golden Beach at Caloundra. At least two big whiting were caught on lures in early May in the lower Noosa. Both fish weighed in at well over 500g. One did its best to eat a trolled Micro Mullet while the other liked the look of a cast Jack Snack.

The coolers months present great opportunities to take kids fishing. Bream, whiting and a few flathead can make for an enjoyable outing with the carpet commandos. Little ones don’t care if they are catching only little fish, and it gives you the chance to teach them good fishing practices that will last a lifetime. Catch and release, for example, isn’t always appealing to an unschooled 15-year-old. A six-year-old, however, will grasp the concept immediately and will wonder why all fish are not released. If kids are taught good fishing ethics now, the future of our fisheries will be safe.

1) Alex Bewsey with an fine example of a Sunshine Coast spotted mackerel.

2) A very happy Fishing Offshore Noosa customer proudly displays his top-shelf Spaniard.

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