Mackerel Mania
  |  First Published: November 2005

The mackerel I talked about last month have come on better than expected. Doggies (Queensland school mackerel), spotties, greys (broad barred), Spanish and sharky mackerel are all making a big show.

The local fishers are getting amongst the schoolies that are right along the coast and sometimes only 100m off the beach. Places like the Rosslyn Bay Harbour Wall are allowing everyone to get a share of these tasty critters. The bigger mackerel seem to be at the wider locations and you will need a boat: Ironpot, Ritamada, Bangalee, Cave, Pelican and Wedge. Pillies appear to be the most popular option for many of the local anglers although lures are becoming more frequently used particularly when the fish are thick. Using both lures and baits can help each method by attracting the fish to the other. Try floating out your pilchard with a piece of red tube above the hooks and as the current increases add a pea sinker just to take it down. Don’t be afraid to let out plenty of line until the fish start feeding. Flashas, Bumpa Bars and Taipans are the preferred chromies and they definitely score all kinds of mackerel.

Speed is of the essence with lure or slugs depending on the chosen species which method is the one to use. Around here the most common reels are Shimano TSM4 or TSS4 about 6-1ratio and the Penn 650-850 Spinfishers. Almost any strong reel with a high-speed retrieve will do the job, but if you nail a big cobia or northern blue tuna some cheaper reels can lead to disaster. Cast your chromie as far out as possible and let it sink until it is nearly on the bottom before retrieving. This lets the lure stay in the zone much longer and gives the fish a better chance at spotting it. For Spaniards, a large chromie being retrieved as fast as possible is irresistible. Doggies and spotties like a varied retrieve and they often grab the chromie on the way down as it flutters.


The debate carries on about whether to use steel or mono leaders. More fish will take the mono over steel, but the downside is that more lures are lost on mono than steel. I use mono as the strike rate far outweighs steel when the fish are timid. When the fish start to really chew, changing to steel might work.

We always take out some bait jigs to collect bait and they regularly get nailed by small mackerel or mack tuna. Lately, I’ve been working with a homemade single hook bait jig using bits of feather, tube and lumo beads above a 1/0 suicide hook and a very small, thin strip of trevally or tuna. The results are astounding on the smaller species of mackerel and even more surprising is the fact that I don’t lose much gear.

On the last trip out I picked up a 10.4kg grey on a jig and this is possibly an Australian record. It could be the shape of the hook and the small bit of tube above the hook that more often than not lodges in the side of the mouth. I started using 2 and 3kg main line with about 15kg leader and as the main line sizes increased so did the amount of fish I lost. The extra pressure put on the small hooks either pulled the hook, broke it or helped wear the leader. I am not saying this is better than the other ways of catching mackerel, rather that trying new ideas leads to improving your fishing skills and knowledge.


Once again the Rocky Barra Bounty has concluded. This tag and release barramundi tournament is one of the best around as far as the whole package is concerned. Every fish was released after being tagged and photographed with the camera and the ruler to prevent any minor indiscretions and maintain absolute credibility.

The Rocky Barra Bounty was also assessed as part of a trial Fishing Competition Accreditation scheme.They came up here to judge and compare the event to other competitions. They looked at a number of factors, including environmental impact and effect on the local community. Overall, the Rocky Barra Bounty is the new benchmark, receiving the maximum 5-star rating.

The fish numbers were down on previous years with tides and wind playing havoc on conditions. All the anglers agreed that it was very hard work to score a barramundi. There were only 109 barra tagged with an average size around 60cm. The biggest was 1.02m, caught by Rod Fogarty, and the smallest was 27.5cm.

The two days varied and as usual the majority of barra landed came in over the low tide, just before the early run-in. The town reaches of Rocky proved to be a fair starting point with the biggest barra and a decent percentage of the counted fish caught there. The other species categories were won by anglers fishing the Port Alma area back to towards the cut through (Devils Elbow before floods changed the course of the river).

This year the individual champion, Craig Griffiths, used lures, although in previous years bait has shared the honours. Second and third were Rosscoe James (bait) and Mark Thompson (lures). From the fishing right up to the presentation night the event was run and handled with professionalism by a well-practised team. Incidentally my team came in third (Thommo reckons this year he was given a handicap instead of a partner).

A funny thing happened on the way to the Bounty and I learnt a very valuable lesson. Safety must be a priority and rushing to finish a job, such as setting up a bow-mount electric motor, is no excuse for slackness. Having made the mounting brackets I was trying to get it all together with time to practise before the competition. Taking an ill-advised shortcut I propped the canter lever frame in the air while I drilled the holes in the base. I had only begun drilling when the whole lot collapsed, pinning my finger in the mount. This accident resulted in a broken, half severed finger that required stitches and forced me to take time off work. Worst of all was that I was unable to prepare properly for the competition. To avoid accidents like this, take your time, do a basic risk assessment and don’t cut any corners.

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