Give macks a crack
  |  First Published: June 2005

A mack tuna really gives a light tackle angler something to think about when it takes a lure or bait for the first run. These small tuna can send shivers of nervous anticipation up your spine by peeling line off at a great rate of knots.

There are currently numerous schools of small flying fish and whitebait in Keppel Bay, and all the pelagics are feasting – especially the mack tuna and bonito schools. To ‘match the hatch’ we have resorted to a couple of old methods with variations. One of our favourite rigs for tuna is the old common red and white feather jig. When the wife isn’t looking, I recommend raiding the Christmas decorations and grabbing a few snippets of silver tinsel streamers, then tie and glue them on either side of the jig to look like wings. It may not look pretty, but it does work and more than a few mack tuna have become the latest victim of the roughest looking bit of gear in the box.

Mack tuna will take a variety of lures and the odd pilchard or livebait. Chrome slugs and Flashas account for a fair percentage, but the best we’ve used was a pink and white 125mm Rapala imitation. It had to be put back in the tacklebox to stop any more tuna coming into the boat.

As you head from Rosslyn Bay across to the islands, keep an eye open for the passing schools of tuna, bonito and mackerel. Many times we haven’t reached our target spot because of fishy encounters along the way. Places to try include Man and Wife, Forty Acre Paddock, The Pinnacles and Sykes Rock. You’ll often find feeding flocks of seabirds following the mack tuna and picking up the scraps, and these birds are usually a good indication of which way the school is headed.

Over the previous month northern blue tuna and mack tuna have turned up at some of the doggie mackerel spots, creating havoc for the blokes fishing ultra light. When you think a dog has nailed your lure, but instead of turning after a short run it lifts another cog, you know that a tuna has come visiting – and this quality is what makes tuna one of the target species of many light gear sportfishers.

The average mack tuna in our waters is only about 4.5kg. They do get bigger, but not a great deal. Although mack tuna don’t rate as a quality tablefish here, overseas in some places the mack tuna or ‘kawa kawa’ is appreciated. I read somewhere that if you’re going to eat a mack tuna, you just follow a basic procedure. Fillet and skin the fish, slice it to about 8-10mm thick, blanche the fillets by dipping them into really hot water and then steam them before serving with a typical casserole mix or in a simple white sauce.

For something completely different we decided to put a little mack tuna to the sword, and it wasn’t bad at all. It wouldn’t steal the market from coral trout or mangrove jack, but for a change it’s well worth checking out. Mack tuna flesh also makes great reefie bait when it’s cut into strips.

Bonito were fairly elusive for much of last month, but now they’re showing more regularly. Watson’s leaping bonito and ribbonfish are the baits of choice for huge Spanish mackerel, and both baits will keep for a long time when they are treated properly at capture. Loads of ice in the esky is the key, and when you get home you should dry them and pack them individually in freezer bags before wrapping them in newspaper and placing them in a single layer in the freezer. Keeping the bait in as good a condition as possible gives you the best chance of scoring class fish.


Big numbers of whiting are starting to come on in some of the local estuaries. Reports have come in from Long Beach, Coorooman Creek, Kinka Beach, The Narrows, The Causeway (on the seaward side), Lammermoor Beach, Ross Creek, Barwells Creek, Farnborough Beach and Corio Bay. At Corio Bay, two of the better whiting reached 450 and 460mm. I didn’t believe it till I saw them!.

Yabbies have been doing well, with beachworms and prawns rounding off the more popular baits. Work the tides at the edges of channels and sandbanks in the creeks and the gutters on the beach where there is a little bit of white water coming over the banks. I used to think that the run-in was the best, though some places (such as the mouths of Barwells, Ross and Coorooman) can switch on with the run out tide.

Five Rocks, Three Rivers and Nine Mile also produce quality fish very regularly and, like Farnborough Beach, you can get your bait right at you feet. If you can't catch beachworms, take someone that can so they can teach you. Failing that, all the bait and tackle shops have frozen worms that do the trick just fine.

When we were kids we would go down the beach right at the bottom of the tide and bury a few fish scraps and bits of cut up pipis so that the passing schools of whiting would stop right where we wanted them. Be prepared because rays, shovelnose, flathead, bream and salmon all feed in the spots that whiting do and can knock off small baits readily.


Salmon have again had a strong showing around the area. The Fitzroy River has been leading the way, with king threadfin salmon and blue salmon available at one end or the other. Lately some top king salmon were nailed at Port Alma and The Narrows as well as up into the town reaches. Blues in the river are mainly from The Devil’s Elbow cut though heading all the way downstream.

The timbers at the bottom end of Coorooman and the other Emu Park creek mouths heading upstream have all been holding blue salmon. There’s also a good quantity of blue salmon about in nearly every other estuary system in Central Queensland Corio Bay, Ross Creek and The Causeway Lake, with some top fish available.

Blues will grab quite a variety of baits including pilchards, whiting and poddy mullet. Try using whiting fillets on a couple of small gangs or about a 3/0 long shank. This can be a worthwhile option when they aren't really on the chew.

Up the bay on the weekend there were several large fish scored along the edge of the dirty water current line heading into Water Park Creek. Look for spots with eddies, colour changes or creek junctions, particularly around the yabby beds and the steeper channel edges.

On the beach we look for gutters in the choppy surf end of Farnborough Beach. Here you flick a pilly out tailor-style on three 3/0 or 4/0 gangs with a reasonable sized bean sinker above a 500-600mm 15kg trace. Cast into the frothy wash section of the waves as they cross the sandbanks into the gutter. It is not uncommon to land huge blue salmon up there. A pair of regular beach lads landed four fish that completely filled an army kit bag with their tails hanging out.

Check all the usual whiting spots, beaches and yabby beds using small livies and yabbies (two to three to a hook through the tail).

One fish that hasn’t come through after the promise of last year is grunter. In May and June 2004 we had a reasonable season for estuary and offshore grunter. For the blokes that target grunter, things should recover by the full moon with any luck.


1) Mack tuna take a variety of lures and the odd pilchard or livebait.

2) Ken Richardson with a Capricorn Coast blue salmon.

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