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Plan your mack attack
  |  First Published: February 2009



The next couple of months are looking promising for the mackerel fishermen with some good Spanish mackerel already caught from Cape Moreton through to Point Lookout.

I knocked off just after New Years for a couple of weeks and as soon as I get back to work in late January, I’ll be spending the majority of charters trolling Moreton Islands shallow coffee rock reefs. Target species will be school, spotted and Spanish mackerel and if the water isn’t dirty green, the odd wahoo or yellowfin tuna might also be on the menu. The majority of Spaniards already caught this pelagic season have been taken on trolled gar and lures but I find slow trolled live-baits a great option and a nice relaxing method of bagging a few mackerel.

The key is catching quality live-bait. Sometimes it takes a bit of running around to put some quality slimy mackerel, yakkas and pike in the bait tank, but it’s usually well worth the effort. I’ve spent the last couple of months jigging and bottom bouncing in the deeper water and haven’t been stopping for livies very often. From reports it seems the usual bait grounds just out from the south passage bar have been very inconsistent and putting a few livies in the tank has been hard work.

The predominately northerly winds keeping the green water in close have probably been a major factor with the lack of bait. But once we see the southerlies become the prevailing breezes the bait should start to hold in close and be easier to find.

There are lumps of coffee rock all the way along the front of Moreton Island with most in around 10-15m of water and they all can all hold mackerel. As usual it’s usually a case of finding where the bait is holding, then you will find the fish.

The peak bite periods are normally dawn, dusk, tide changes and weather changes. All you need when slow trolling livies is very simple rig, consisting of around 30-40cm of single strand 40-50lb wire, back to a 4/0 live-bait front tow hook. Use another approx 10-12cm length of wire to connect the front tow hook to a rear No. 1 treble as a stringer hook. Always use black swivels to connect the wire leader to the main line to limit the amount of bite-offs from the hooked fishes mates.

Pin the livie through the nose with the front tow hook and then pin the stinger treble just behind the livies ring hole. You need to make several rigs with different lengths from tow hook to stinger hook to cater for the different size baitfish. Troll with the engine just in gear as slow as possible, letting the bait track nicely and get that little bit deeper.

Down riggers also work well when the fish are hanging deeper especially as the sun gets higher in the sky. Using the smaller hooks you don’t need to fish with heavy drags, or you’ll pull too many hooks on running fish, so let the fish run and tire themselves out. The use of outriggers, that get your rod parallel to the water are also vital to getting your bait tracking better and sitting deeper. Don’t go overboard on line strength, 25-30lb is plenty as mackerel are clean fighters. Early season Spanish are usually smaller fish in the 6-10kg class and as the season progresses, the fish tend to get larger and can be caught right up to June.

The billfish boys have been having a ball on small black marlin in the last couple of months and that’s likely to continue on in the short term, so if you want to catch a marlin, now’s your chance.

In other news, the DPI has concluded it’s inshore fin-fish review – and what a joke. To lump fish like amberjack, yellowtail, kingfish and mahi mahi in the same category with bream and whiting is unbelievable. Then to do conduct a rocky reef review and only to be discussing snapper just seems outrageous! I think amberjack, kingfish and mahi mahi should obviously have been included in the rocky reef species, not the inshore fin-fish species. I also think the offshore fish didn’t get the proper focus they deserved with the main focus being on bream, whiting, flathead, tailor which are the real inshore fin fish.

These scientists want us to take the heat off the snapper stocks and then they go and put ridiculous bag and size limits on other bread and butter species of the offshore fisherman such as amberjack, yellowtail, kingfish and mahi mahi, what to me seems like a brain dead decision!

Amberjack for example have gone from no limit to 75cm, and to a bag limit of two fish. These fish eat much better in the smaller sizes and in the later part of the year, mostly fish in the 45cm to 65cm are what’s commonly caught. I think three or four fish at 45cm would have been a more sensible limit than two at 75cm with anglers now going to target the bigger fish that don’t eat that well anyway – logic I just don’t get.

As far as I am concerned the offshore anglers have been jibbed again in this inshore fin-fish review and the bread and butter estuary species (bream and whiting), which this review should have been all about didn’t get the protective limits they needed, because they are easily accessible.

Although the DPI seem did seem to get something right. I was pleased to see the bag limit for cobia reduced from 10 to two and Queensland school mackerel from 30 to 10, which I think are much more sensible bag limits.

Until next month, enjoy your fishing, take care on the coastal bars and if you’d like to join me on a charter (max 5 people) give me a call on 07 3822 9527 or 0418 738 750.

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