School’s in for mackerel
  |  First Published: May 2010

Townsville fishing has been firing for the last couple of months and it can be expected to continue throughout June.

Unfortunately we will have to put up with the trade winds stopping most of our reef trips but if you’re prepared to target smaller or even different species of fish on the inshore grounds then you may be pleasantly surprised.

School mackerel are probably the most sought after winter inshore species due to their schooling nature and can be easily accessed by small boat anglers.

The Alligator Creek weed beds are one of the better known spots and they are quite easy to find by looking for the other boats. On any calm morning in winter there will be at least a couple of boats trying their luck. Be aware that it sometimes takes a cold snap to bring the school macks into the bay.

In the last couple of seasons anglers have reported better catches around the shipping pylons and the structure strewn around Halifax Bay. This can vary from places like Burdekin Rock to wrecks and even rubble pads – the trick is if these places are holding bait, chances are there will be a school of mackerel somewhere nearby.

The key to school mack fishing is berley: without it the school of fish may just keep travelling or even move over to the next boat. A little berley will hopefully keep them in your area and if you’re not fishing in a yellow zone try flicking a metal slice around while floating pillies out at different depths.

It is also worth having a bigger bait of large gar, wolf herring or even live, legal size school mackerel floated out the back. These baits are perfect targets for Spanish mackerel, which tend to follow the school mackerel around feeding on the slower fish.

Those anglers lucky enough to get offshore in the breaks of southerlies have found the Spanish mackerel only too willing on trolled baits of gar or mullet. Trolled lures have been working as well but the best reports have come from the baits. School sized fish from 8-15kg have been the mainstay of most catches. But reports of 25kg plus fish from the reef platforms taken on live fusiliers have also been filtering through.

To the south try fishing the mack patches about 15 miles from Cape Cleveland or any of the shoals holding bait on them between there and the Haughton River mouth.

For smaller boats stick around Cape Cleveland itself as there is plenty of good mackerel country there. Two Foot, Four Foot, Twenty Foot and Salamander Reef are all in a pretty close area, easily trolled around without punching your boat offshore chasing fish. Or similarly Magnetic Island also has some great deep water trolling runs around places like Orchard Rocks or the well-known wrecks off West Point.

If the weather becomes magically flat head out to places like Palm Island to the north or Shark Shoal straight out along the green zone. Palm a deservedly long-standing reputation for big macks. Areas like Albino, Chillcott, Paluma and Hayman rocks all hold good schools of Spaniards at this time of year.

Shark Shoal is more of a hit and miss affair – as you can imagine it’s not called Shark Shoal for nothing – but if the sharks are letting you have a fair go the mackerel fishing here can be fantastic.

For those stuck on land on the beaches it appears the whiting and flathead are back with a vengeance. Pumping yabbies or frozen prawns peeled and fished on a small long shank with a basic running rig will see some action. Places like Cunngulla to the south or any of the northern beach suburbs will do well, although a favourite of mine is Pallarenda past the old quarantine station.

Look for the little holes covering the sand indicating where the yabby beds are and as the tide floods in fish over the top. Try heading down at low tide to check out the yabby beds and keep an eye out for flathead lies. These are depressions in the sand where the flathead have laid in ambush to feed, and chances are they will return to this area on the next run-in tide.

Lastly it is with excitement and sadness that I inform you this will be my last regular column, as I have taken a new job. I will still be fishing as hard as ever and hope to send through the odd feature, but regular ramblings will no longer be possible.

I would like to thank readers and editors for all the help they have given me over the last few years with this column be it with stories or photos. I’m sure my replacement will keep you in the loop as to what is biting and where.

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