Real Screaming Mackerel
  |  First Published: December 2008

Firstly, a happy New Year to all our readers, and I hope your Christmas was a happy and safe one and that you all received some super new gear from Santa.

This month the fishing will depend very much on what the weather does. January is usually very hot and humid with occasional storms. Our main rains fall in February and March, but with an early wet or cyclone, January may be flooded out. While these heavy rains restrict our fishing, they are great for all our waterways giving them a good flush out and the aftermath is always improved fishing.

At last our small mackerel started to show up in early December with good numbers being caught in around the Seaforth area. I expect we will now be enjoying the delights of catching doggy and spotty mackerel off Mackay harbour. My spies tell me the enigmatic greys or broad barred mackerel have also put in a limited appearance with some nice fish showing up between Cape Conway and Seaforth.

When the small mackerel are really firing it is almost impossible not to catch them, however the early part of the run seems to have a lot of undersize fish so be careful and check your catch. The small macks are great sport and food fish, and can be caught from the shore around rocky headlands like Mackay harbour, Cape Hillsborough and Lamberts Beach.

Mackerel are primarily a boating anglers target though and thankfully they show up on those clear calm days with very light north to northeasterly winds. This allows the small tinnie anglers the opportunity to get among them particularly of an early morning. Overcrowded boat trailer parks are the go at this time around our ramps!

Small macks can be caught using the traditional ganged hook rig and pilchards, live herring, strips of ribbon fish and also squid heads. When on the chew they are not all that fussy, and best results will come from letting your bait sink down a bit and retrieving very slowly. Anchoring at any of the local hot spots and setting up some berley will definitely help. There is no need to go way offshore, as one of the most productive close in spots is around Slade Island just off Mackay Harbour and a short 10 minute run in a tinnie.

The run through on the eastern side of Slade is a top spot; and the northern end is also popular. There is a rocky point on the southwestern corner that runs out for a couple of hundred metres that is also worth a try.

Many anglers troll pilchards for these small macks, and it is imperative that the bait swims straight and does not spin. Careful placement of hooks and the use of a very small bean sinker in front of the pillie will help. Alternatively there are pre-rigged gangs available from your local tackle shop, which will be happy to advise you on rigs and other tackle.

Lures are an exciting way to catch macks and various lures have achieved “must have” status among mackerel anglers. These include jigs like raiders, Pegrons and similar offerings styled on the Old Toby lures. The bright chrome finish combined with a fluttering action is definitely a turn on for the small macks. They are not limited to metal lures though, and many anglers get good results using barra style minnows, in both shallow and deep diving versions. Look for lures that have darker backs with lighter sides and belly and that are around pilchard size. There are numerous lures of this type that will work well, including the ever-popular Rapala CD range, Manns Stretch 10 and 20s, Reidy’s Goulbourn Jacks and similar offerings.

If trolling, my suggestion is to have a couple of lures running at different depths on short fine wire traces, and remember the small macks are likely to be found well away from any structure, but around the close inshore islands is a good place to start. The easiest way to find the macks is to look for boats congregating in a small area, but don’t then troll through them as you will be very unpopular.

I expect given the lateness of the start of the mack run, that they will hang around well into the New Year, but this will be very dependant on the weather. Hot humid days with still mornings and afternoon north to northeasterly sea breezes are the time to be out chasing the macks. Tide changes early in the daylight hours with these conditions, are the number one time to be on the water. Remember though check the size limits and limit your catch to a couple of fish as there is a high percentage return of fillets from each fish.

New Year, New Resolves

Given a new year is starting, it is time to look forward to coming challenges in the fishing world. Some anglers will set themselves individual targets and species to chase, but my New Year resolution is to simply spend more time fishing, which is a great escape from the pressures of modern life.

You can also be sure that there will be new moves by extreme groups to further limit our enjoyment of our recreational fishing. Perhaps these people see more value in watching the box rather than being outdoors, enjoying nature and catching a feed of fish. I believe these restrictions would be more palatable if they were actually based on facts rather than half-truths and suppositions. If the angling community is so small as to not warrant proper representation and consultation, one wonders how we are able to cause such widespread environmental damage and depletion of fish stocks. We are seen as an easy target and that’s why the real issues such as urban run off and sewerage are not addressed.

While I live in hope I won’t be holding my breath for any changes. It seems strange that Queensland anglers are such a problem, yet those in the NT apparently aren’t and their government actually encourages recreational fishing. They must have different anglers there maybe?

As I said my aim is to spend more time on the water this year. Over the last few years I have mainly fished freshwater with the occasional foray into the salty stuff, but this year I am going to get back to some of my old saltwater haunts. It will be hard though to get used to cleaning up afterwards, as with freshwater fishing it is really only a matter of a quick wash for the gear, back the drags off and put the boat in the shed. Saltwater fishing means more maintenance on the trailer and outboard and more cleaning up after a trip.

My other aim this year is to finally catch a sooty over 50cms, which is something that has always eluded me, yet my mates seem to be able to score them at random. Out of the hundreds and hundreds of sooties I have caught my best remains at two fish of 49cms. This year dammit, it’s going to happen!

Remember though you won’t turn a scale sitting at home dreaming about fishing so get out on the water and enjoy the fishing while you can.

See you at the boat ramp!

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