When researching for a fishing trip to North Queensland with my good mate Ryan Dixon, everyone who had spent some time in the area kept saying the same thing over and over again, ‘You’re going smack-bang in mackerel season.’
We hit the road in the middle of August and made our way towards Airlie Beach over a week. Fishing most of the likely spots on the way up, with mixed results, we were excited to finally arrive in Airlie. A few beers at the camp kitchen with like-minded travelling souls gave us confidence that our reels would be screaming the following day.With no more than 5-knots predicted for the day, we plotted around the Green Zones to travel to some wide out spots recommended to us by a good mate back in Brisbane. The first of these was the Edward Group of islands.
Neither Ryan nor I had done a lot of mackerel fishing so we decided to start by trolling Rapala X-Raps around in search of fish. Our lures were in the water no longer than five minutes when both reels started screaming at a blistering pace. After a short battle on 15kg spin tackle we had two mackerel on board, each weighing 10kg. We repeated the troll and once again got a double hook up. We figured there were plenty of fish in the area, so we decided to cast lures at them, Ryan sticking with the X-Rap and myself choosing an 85g Raider – and both got nailed!
We stayed in Airlie Beach for a fortnight and fished a lot of the Whitsunday Islands. A few of the standout areas included the most eastern islands, such as Dolphin Point, which is at the northern tip of Hayman Island, and Double Rock. We found that some of these more popular spots fished best at first light before the boat traffic starts.
Spinning outfits were the most practical for chasing Spaniards around the islands, especially fishing from a small boat. They allowed us to troll, cast and jig all from the one outfit. If trolling is your thing, then overheads would be fine. Choose a rod rated around 10-15kg with a light enough tip to throw small 20g slugs but has enough power in the butt section to turn any rogue mackerel you may come across. A spinning reel that holds around 300m of 15kg braid is perfect.
When trolling lures we attached them using a 30cm length of single strand wire attached to a solid ring. Solid rings are much better than swivels when chasing these toothy critters as swivels have a tendency to get bitten off, resulting in lost fish and lures!
While throwing slugs, we used a metre-length of 50lb mono tied directly to the slug. The slug itself acts as a buffer from their teeth and they are cheap enough that you don’t mind losing the occasional one.
There are plenty of other areas in the Whitsundays that produce Spanish mackerel. The areas we found most successful had plenty of bait showing on the sounder. Look for narrow channels with deep water running between the islands, these spots can be a gold mine. Concentrating on these areas resulted in Spanish mackerel mixed in with other goodies like GTs and coral trout.
As we did our road trip on a tight budget, it suited us to eat Spanish mackerel for the best part of two weeks. It is great just grilled on the BBQ plate, but my favourite way to cook it was in a Thai Green curry sauce with a variety of fresh vegies. The fillets also keep very well, either frozen or in our case Cryovac, and stored in the Engel fridge.
There are two main boat ramps that will get you out into the Whitsundays. One is at Shute Harbour and gives good access to Hamilton Island and the Edward Group. The other is at Abel Point and is very secure with the VMR right there and the police station situated across the road.
Before you head out into this beautiful part of the world, make sure you grab a free Green Zone chart from the local bait and tackle store.
I highly recommend the Spanish mackerel fishing in this area to anyone, and when you’re not out on the water fishing, there are plenty of good times to be had on the shore!Reads: 4479