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.
We’ve all heard the story from our fishing mates before which starts out with “you should have seen this mammoth fish I lost the other day...” (insert two hands held wide enough apart to be credible but not too farfetched). Let’s face it, any angler who has ever caught a fish will agree that there’s nothing worse than hooking up a decent fish, playing it and getting it within arm’s reach and then it flicks it’s head, spits the hook and slips away quicker than you can say “landing net!”.
If this has happened to you more than once, then I suggest you read on. And if this has never happen and every fish on the line you’ve managed to land, then please drop me an email as I’d love to know your secret! The following is my top tips on landing that fish regardless of species, tackle or location.
1) Most importantly: Set your drag BEFORE you start fishing. It’s essential to find a happy medium between too loose (the fish takes off and gets away) and too tight (the fish snaps you off in mere seconds of hook up). A rule of thumb is to regularly check your drag is how you originally set it by pulling it with your hand every dozen or so casts.
2) Be prepared. I always take a landing net, even for whiting fishing. It is a great investment at $30-40 for an estuary one; ideal for flathead, bream, whiting and trevally and $50-60 for a super sized snapper net for offshore species. If targeting larger species or fish which aren’t afraid to take a bite out of your hand/foot like jack, jew and tailor, then a short gaff is what you require. You will get a gaff with a timber, plastic or lightweight aluminium handle for between $5.00 and $15.00 these days.
3) Be patient. Once you have hooked a fish, have a play – this is how junior anglers learn to handle their catch. This way the fish will tire after extensive fighting and deception attempts. A tired fish will be much easier to land than one going full steam into the mangroves and snags.
4) Wear out the fish, not your gear. When the fish decided to make a "run" by taking some of your line as you release the drag slightly, point your rod tip in the direction of the fish to reduce tension at the tip of your rod. I’ve seen many anglers work against the fish and the tension/friction has snapped the line unnecessarily. Tighten you line if the fish starts coming back to you or if it jumps out of the water – this is all an attempt to distract you enough to loosen your line so it can spit the hook.
5) Don’t duck for cover. If you can see any cover in the water (logs, rocks, mangrove shelves), get the fish as far away from the obstruction as possible. Large fish will almost always run towards cover. If it gets into the cover, 95% of the time it's game over.
6) Move around. Use the current and land structures to your advantage. The fish will try to dart everywhere in an attempt to escape, but you the savvy angler should be moving to parts of the bank where you have a better position to get the fish as close s possible before removal from the water. Anglers who sit in the one spot in their boat and then complain about flathead dropping off their lines have no-one to blame but themselves! The direction the current is flowing can also be used to bring the fish in close and quickly.
7) Game On. Be prepared to fight to the last second as some of the bigger fish will fight and fight and fight. If they ease up for a moment, they are usually considering their next tactic – this is your moment of glory so pounce, retrieve fast and your hard work will pay off.
Boat Landings can be tricky; as your fish gets closer to the boat, drop your entire rod and reel to your waist. If the fish goes under the boat, get your rod tip in the water and follow it. If you can see the fish, you'll know when it's tired. It'll roll over on his side. And if you can't see the fish, you should be able to feel it. Avoiding the hooks, use the thumb and index finger to grip the fish by the lower jaw. This holds the jaw wide open and temporarily paralyses the fish. Then grab the fish by the mouth or get the landing net out!
Using a Gaff: Only gaff a fish unless you're planning to take it home as in most cases your gaff will kill or maim the fish. Aim the gaff at the upper body just below the nape of the neck and use force to pierce the scales. Once gaffed, the fish will be paralysed and you can easily bring it onto the boat.
Using a net: Always try to land a bigger fish with a net. Place the net in the water and lead the fish into the net head first. Don't stab the net at the fish as this is the easiest way to lose the fish! If you don't get it the first time, re-aim and try again. Keep the fish in the water if you plan on releasing it.
Beaching a Fish: Before there were fancy fandangle toys like nets and gaffs (as my granddad likes to say) the only way to bring in your fish was to beach it. This involves leading your catch into increasingly shallower water and gradually sliding the fish on its side onto dry land. In salt water, time your retrieval with an incoming wave. As the wave recedes, quickly grab your beached fish and pull it ashore.
Hopefully the information I have offered will gradually decrease the number of “The one that got away” stories this weekend! Just remember that practice makes perfect and fish for the future – only keep what you need.
Noosa: Spotty mackerel are wide spread in the bay and some big Spanish mackerel from Sunshine. Dart and whiting along Teewah. Jacks in the Sound and up Weyba Creek overnight on live bait and prawn lures. Whiting scattered throughout the lower river. Mud crabs scattered throughout the upper river. Trevally around 750g and tailor up to 1.5kg in Woods Bay.
Maroochydore: Spotty around old women Island, spotties and snapper to 2.4kg from Arkwright shoal. Dart and whiting in the mouth. Flathead and bream from the mouth of Eudlo Creek. Jacks to 2kg in Eudlo Creek and 1.1kg from the cod hole. Whiting in the lower river. Tailor to 45cm along the north shore.
Mooloolaba: Grassies parrot and mackerel on the gneerings. Bream to 1.2kg from the boat moorings. Plenty of billfish from the Mooloolaba 8 mile. Trevally along La Balsa and McKenzies Bridge. Whiting and dart along Kawana beach.
Caloundra: Spotties from Currimundi reef. Flathead and queenfish to 85cm off the boardwalk. Whiting along golden beach. Mangrove jack in the Creeks and Pelican Waters.
Allan Morgan was trolling a large pilchard rigged with tru turn gangs at walking pace around the Blinker for this 4kg Spanish mackerel.
Nathan Ainsworth was working a small transparent popper on the flats above McKenzies Bridge when this 570g whiting decided to inhale it.
Ron Martinot was fishing in Twin Waters Canal with mullet when this 1.081kg jack smashed his bait.
Although dusky flathead numbers have slowed up Jeremy was lucky enough to snag this 54cm fish from the Bli Bli reach.
Witnessing an ever increasing number of visitors to our beautiful waterways with boats, jetskis, kayaks and of course on foot – it has also become evident that some people are not fully prepared for the conditions the Sunshine Coast dishes up on the weather platter each throughout Summer! In any one day we can be served an early morning snack of mild wind, little swell and a gorgeous sunrise with not a cloud in the ski....then in less than a few hours we can get a main course of lunchtime gale force winds and swell that surfers can gorge themselves on. Afternoon tea could be a freak thunderstorm heated and supper will likely be a beautiful sunset, rainbow and light sea-breeze making a mockery of your stories of killer wind from earlier in the day. So – are you prepared for Queensland’s idyllic summer weather?
To better prepare for the upcoming summer weather conditions, I have made a list of things I do to maximise safety when boating and fishing, which in turn gives me greater piece of mind so I may enjoy the experience more!
1. BE WEATHER-WISE
Most importantly - check local weather conditions for boating safety the day before and on the morning or afternoon you head out. Poor weather can ruin a beach, river or reef trip, so it is often better to reschedule than push on and brave it. Keep in mind that wind can also change at an instant so keep an awareness of strength and direction when out also. A sudden drop in temperature and darkening sky is a telltale sign that a storm is on the way.
2. FOLLOW A PRE-DEPARTURE CHECKLIST
Be prepared for any possibility on the water such as freak storm, running out of fuel, collision or even getting lost! I ask myself the following questions prior to departure:
· Have I checked the weather?
· Checked the boat/jetski is in full working condition.
· Do I have enough fuel for the round trip, plus some up my sleeve in case?
· Do I have sufficient water and food for the return trip?
· Is all the appropriate safety equipment onboard and in working order (oars, rope, radio, epirb, fire extinguisher, lifejackets etc)?
· Have I instructed my passengers on my safety equipment?
· Have I advised a reliable person of my boating plan? Include where you are going and when you plan to be back as well as the number of passengers on board (in case of emergency).
Some of the following safety equipment is required by law - you should check the laws with your local Coast Guard.
3. DESIGNATE A BACKUP DRIVER
Make sure more than one person on board is familiar with all aspects of your boat’s handling and safe operation. If the primary driver is injured or incapacitated in any way, it’s important to make sure someone else can follow the proper boating safety rules to get everyone else back to shore.
4. USE OF LIFEJACKETS APPROPRIATELY
The number of boaties and jet skiers who get booked each holiday season for having lifejackets onboard but forget to actually wear them is pretty high. Make sure you have a lifejacket to suit the type of water you are boating on. You need a PFD type 1. The flotation collar is bigger on this jacket and keeps the head above water. This is for use in smooth, partially smooth and open waters. Suitable for offshore boating. PFD type 2 keeps you afloat but does not have a collar to keep the head above water making it only suitable in rivers and dams - smooth and partially smooth waters. It is compulsory to wear a life jacket in Queensland when crossing a coastal bar in an open boat that is less than 4.8 m in length and if you are under the age of 12 in an open boat, while it is under way.
5. SOBER BOATING
According to the Maritime Safety, one third of all boating fatalities involve alcohol. The blood alcohol limit on the water is the same as on the roads, meaning the driver must have a blood alcohol limit of less than 0.05, the same rules as on the road. The effects of alcohol are enhanced while on the water due to the sun, wind, waves and constant motion. Reflexes and response times to emergencies are slowed and swimming ability deteriorates considerably. Keep in mind if you are anchored or moored and aboard the craft consuming alcohol, the blood alcohol limit applies.
6. CHILDREN'S SAFETY
Children are not aware of rules, regulations and commonsense while on the water. So it is up to their parents and guardians to have an awareness of where they are and what they are doing while on the bank, in the boat or if swimming in the water surrounding the boat. All children under 12 years must wear a lifejacket if travelling in an open boat, so hire or buy a good Lifejacket or life vest with a collar that turns a child face up in the water. It must have strong waist and crotch straps, a handle on the collar, and preferably be a bright yellow or orange colour for good visibility.
Attach a plastic safety whistle to the Lifejacket and teach the child how to use the whistle - and practice using it. Additionally, ensure that children thoroughly understand safety procedures and can respond appropriately in an emergency. Practice safety drills and situation role-plays so that emergency procedures become second nature to you and your children.
Children must also be kept within the bounds of the vessel and should never sit with their legs or arms dangling over the sides of a boat that is underway. People have allowed children to hand off the side of their boat, ride on a donut or inflatable ring behind the boat or hang off the transom while in slow forwards motion. Children can be very unpredictable and this does not change simply if you have instructed them to stay away from the propeller. So be very conscious of children near the propeller not only for the deadly chances of getting run over.
LOCAL FISHING REPORT
Noosa: Spanish and spotty mackerel from Little Halls and jew shoal. Whiting and flathead in the frying pan. Mangrove jack in Weyba Creek, woods bay and in Noosa Sound. Trevally around Munna bridge and Woods bay. Jacks, flathead and bream between the lakes. A few whiting from Munna Point.
Maroochydore: School and spotty mackerel on hard bodied lures and trolled gar. Elbow slapper whiting off the beach at Mudjimba. Bream and flathead above bli bli bridge. Whiting 23-30cm along bli bli flats. Mud crabs throughout the top end of the river. .
Mooloolaba: A 25.5kg Spanish mackerel was taken on trolled bait with a squid skirt out off Mooloolaba yesterday morning. Sand crabs in the lower mooloolah on the making tide. Grunter, jacks and flathead above bli bli bridge. Jacks under McKenzies bridge and in the Kawana canal. Whiting in the sand basin over night. Golden trevally and bream along La Balsa wall.
Caloundra: School and spotty mackerel off Brays Rock and a few Spanish to 8kg on the 5 mile. Elbow slapper whiting and dart along Currimundi. Whiting between the bar and Bells. Jacks up to 2.7kg in Coochin Creek on live bait and lure. Flathead between Bells and Coochin on trolled hard bodied lures.
The Spaniards were in excellent numbers offshore of Noosa and Mooloolaba. Mark Arnall trolled up this 7kg
specimen at Jew Shoal, just one of many boated around Noosa this week (supplied by www.fishingnoosa.com.au).
The humid weather in between showers had the mangrove jacks on the move in the rivers. John Hope from
Cooroy got this 2kg 'Jack' at the Munna Point Bridge (supplied by www.fishingnoosa.com.au).
Greg Heathwood was fishing from the Cane Bridge above Coolum Creek before the rain on Sunday when he
nailed this 2.43kg jack on a pilchard.
There are a lot of smaller dusky flathead in the rivers at the moment.
Ryan fished aboard anglers advantage above bli bli bridge for this 44cm specimen.