With Australia Day’s public holiday bearing down upon us, what better way to show your patriotism than to bring home a beautiful mackerel to be cooked on the BBQ while you listen to the final songs in the Hottest 100.
Various members of the mackerel family inhabit our warm summery waters with the best results in winter normally, but unusually good catches reported every post-Christmas holiday’s period due to the numbers of baitfish around. Spotties, schoolies and spanish mackerel are live and kicking in local waters usually during February as long as the bait schools are in good numbers.
Scomberomorus munroi (spotty) and Scomberomorus commerson (Spanish) are easily distinguishable from one-another. Spotty mackerel have a light silver-grey body and then have several rows of spots on sides with a silvery-white belly. The Spanish mackerel on the other hand vary with numerous thin, wavy vertical bands on body (number of bars increases from as few as 20 in a 40 cm specimen, to as many as 65 in a 150 cm specimen) and they have an iridescent blue-grey back. Spotty mackerel carry a minimum size limit of 60cm and bag limit of five, whereas Spanish mackerel need to be minimum 75cm and the maximum take is 3 fish.
With the beautiful clean water coming upstream with each high tide, the baitfish are surging towards close to the Noosa, Maroochy, Kawana and Caloundra Bar’s – which is great news for mackerel fans. Post Christmas, the baitfish schools are generally prolific in the rivers but they have been reportedly on the move around the close reefs and bays along the coastline making it easier for anglers with small boats to duck out the front and catch a feed. Schools of long tail tuna, mac tuna, spotty and Spanish mackerel are normally be marauding bait schools off the coast at this time of the year and when the weather is pleasant enough – anglers young and old can venture out to some of the hot spots.
With some fairly light winds forecast over the weekend it means that a few boats will be able to have a fish offshore. Spanish mackerel follow the bait schools of bonito, frigate mac tuna, slimy mackerel, big yakka and tailor. They readily take trolled baits and big lures. Some days lures work better and other days troll baits, so it always pays to try your luck with both. A lure that is always a sure-fire hit with mackerel is the Berkeley Frenzy Mungo. These deep diving minnows are about the same size as a big slimy mackerel and have a great tight action when trolled. They come in a variety of good mackerel colours and will be a sure winner this season, so why not give them a try.
If you are lucky enough to catch some live yakka, slimy mackerel, small mac tuna or a bonito rig it up with wire leader, a solid single hook at the front to hook through its mouth and several heavy duty trebles along its back and tail to ensure a hook up. Troll the live bait at a slow walking pace, making sure your motor is just in gear and just ticking over slowly. Follow bait schools around when in sight or just work a good patch of reef that usually holds bait. Spaniards will also hammer trolled dead baits like bonito. These can be rigged many different ways. I do so using several big gang hooks with a cast net lead clamped to the shank of the first hook. Rig the gang along the back of the bait to make it swim upside down and fairly straight. Troll it slowly at varying speeds around your local reef.
Fantastic for the cook in the family, mackerel can be used many ways. Either cut it up into steaks to throw straight on the barbeque or fillet and skin for crumbing or grilling, either way the flesh is excellent eating and tastes superb when it is at it’s freshest. With some of the abovementioned tips in mind, you have no excuse but to try your luck on our easily accessible local inshore reefs. You won’t regret it after your drag starts smoking after a mackerel commits to the buy!
Noosa: Plenty of spanish mackerel to 15kg and spotties to 4kg from Sunshine, North and Chardons Reefs. Snapper, moses perch and pearl perch caught early yesterday at The Hards. Whiting and dart along Teewah and Castaways Beaches. The odd mangrove jack in the Frying Pan. Trevally in Woods Bay and off Munna Point.
Maroochydore: Spotties to 4.5kg around Old Woman Island. Good dart off Marcoola Beach. Plenty of whiting and sand crabs between Goat and Chambers Island. Flathead from Picnic Point and Bli Bli bridge. Jacks from the Creeks.
Mooloolaba:. Grassies, parrot and spotty mackerel on the Gneerings and 12 mile. Quality whiting and dart along Kawana beach. Trevally from McKenzies, La Balsa and Minyama. Sand crabs throughout the lower River.
Caloundra: Spotties on Currimundi reef and Brays Rock. Whiting along golden beach. Queenfish and flathead from the boardwalk. Big jew at Shelly Beach. Mangrove jack in the canals and creeks.
Matt, David and Steve were at Sunshine Reef trolling Halco Laser Pro lures when they boated these two Spaniards (6kg and 7kg) and a 3kg spotty.
Craig and Dave got these 8kg and 13kg Spanish mackerel at Chardon's Reef on pillies.
Dave McGregor won the SLAM fishing of the week prize with with his 18kg spanish mackerel that was caught on a slow drifted pilchard behind his kayak off Point Arkwright.
Matthew and Tommy worked the bait balls off Old Women Island with small chrome slugs for a tray full of average sized spotties.