Mack on the Move
  |  First Published: January 2010

The mackerel season has well and truly begun along the Sunshine Coast and by February it should be in full swing.

Spotties and Spanish mackerel have been on the chew and readily available one day but missing in action the next. This of course is typical of the early season schools of mackerel as they seem to fill the coast from the southern most parts first. You need to be ready when the fish are on and get out there immediately.

You won’t need to go far to find boiling schools of spotties; just over the bar. Halls Reef and Jew Shoal are often littered with boiling schools of mackerel and hordes of northern bluefin tuna. A few yellowfin tuna will also join the melee.

A couple of suitable spin sticks loaded with 20lb braid and perhaps a 30lb leader will do the job when casting slugs at feeding fish. This rig is fine for spotties, small mac tuna and bonito but once you start engaging the serious Spanish and fat barrel-chested tuna you will need to up the ante somewhat. An upgrade to 30lb braid and 60lb leader would be appropriate, and if you find your slugs being thieved regularly it may be prudent to introduce a wire leader to your rig. This might reduce the number of hits but it will also reduce the number of bite offs.

Make sure you have a good selection of slugs when chasing mackerel as they can be voracious when feeding on small bait and will often ignore lures that aren’t a pretty good match. Raiders are a great start and a handful certainly won’t do too much damage to the fishing budget.

Tactics can be as simple as drifting across Laguna Bay waiting for a school to surface nearby and firing the slugs over the feeding fish. Then it is simply a matter of crank-like-mad until you register a hookup. Other anglers prefer to be more proactive and search for the fish. Diving birds collecting scraps are a good hint of the location of some active fish on the surface. On approach, however, the school will often sound only to resurface several hundred metres away on another bait mass. This can be incredibly frustrating and most fishos that have crossed the bar at this time of year have experienced this. If you charge into the fray at full noise you might get one cast in before the frantic feeding activity comes to a grinding halt. If you drift in quietly with the wind you will almost certainly enjoy better success.

Some anglers prefer to troll lures or rigged pilchards for the spotties and large lures or baits, such as whole tailor or bonito, for the Spanish variety. Berleying will bring the fish around and the occasional cube carrying a hook in amongst the trail will result in the odd hook up on mackerel, tuna, snapper, mahi mahi, cobia and almost anything else that swims.

Peace and quiet

By February, the river will be a much quieter place and the ramps far less congested. On a recent drive to Noosa to take the kids to the beach we spotted boat trailers in some very unusual places, such is the demand for parking at this time of year.

The river hasn’t fished particularly well during the first half of the silly season. Flathead and bream have been the mainstay of most catch lists. The flathead in particular have been relatively difficult to find with the usual hotspots seemingly devoid of fish. The lower reaches of the river have been the best bet with the river mouth and Weyba Creek worth a look.

The Woods Bay area has also been worth a prospect but large numbers of vessels in every imaginable shape, size and colour have made angling interesting to say the least. Schools of trevally have been active at night in the Woods region with a few mangrove jacks on the prowl.

Weyba Creek has also been a good area to target jacks as has the myriad snags in between the two lakes. Drifting live baits into structure will bring jacks undone, as will working lures close to structure when either casting or trolling or a combination of both. So far the jacks have been rather small, however, it could be that a reduction in boat traffic and angling pressure could see the bigger jacks back to their toothy best.

There have been some great muddies potted during late December and early January, and with the much needed rain also appearing the crabbing will hopefully improve. Very large numbers of jennies have been caught with legal bucks reasonably scarce, but those that persevere will bring home a decent feed.

Along the nearby beaches excellent whiting to 40cm have been taking worm baits, along with a few dart and some quality tailor. From time to time the mackerel and tuna schools push bait right into the breakers and thus become an option for beach anglers. A gang rigged pilchard or the aforementioned slugs would do the job.

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