CATCHING MINI MACKEREL ON LURES
Catching a feed of the smaller mackerel species is no problem if you follow these simple guidelines
Collectively, the three smaller members of the Mackerel family (School, Spotted and Grey Mackerel) make for an incredibly popular target species along Queensland’s east coast and it’s not hard to understand why. These pocket rockets look good, fight hard for their size and if cared for correctly taste great on your plate. They are a pretty obliging fish too, in that you can usually target them using different methods and techniques, which helps to keep the fishing interesting. Here’s some tips to help you find and catch a few.
All of these mini Mackerel are generally considered to be inshore species and they are mostly encountered within a few kilometres off the coast. They like to hang around river mouths, islands and close inshore reefs. These places tend to hold the schools of baitfish that they feed on and if you can find the bait, it’s a bet the mini macs won’t be too far away.
Unlike the much larger Spanish Mackerel, these guys are quite happy to venture into surprisingly shallow water at times. Even so, they generally prefer a little bit of depth and you will often find them hanging around shipping channels and the like where the water is slightly deeper. They will happily put up with a bit of dirty water too, so don’t feel compelled to search of clear conditions.
All Mackerel are sight feeders and are most active in daylight hours. Naturally, they do take advantage of prime times like dawn and dusk when the light is low to feed up near the surface but you are just as likely to hook them during the middle of the day if they are in a feeding mood. When it’s bright, techniques which get your lure down in the water column tend to be most effective.
These fish are pretty obliging, in that you can use just about whatever method you prefer to chase them. Probably the easiest approach however is to troll. All you need to do is let out a couple of suitable lures around 30 metres or so behind the boat and travel at a fast walking pace (or slightly quicker) until you cross paths with the fish.
If there are fish around but you aren’t getting hits, it can be a good idea to keep increasing your trolling speed slightly until you do start getting some interest. Just keep a watch on your lures to make sure they can handle the pace and are swimming correctly. If left unchecked, they can blow out and tangle.
If you’d prefer a more active approach, you might like to try spinning for them. If there are schools of Mackerel feeding on the surface you can simply motor quietly up and toss metal lures into the action. A fast retrieve is all you need as it’s the splash and flash of your lure that gets their attention better than anything else.
Sometimes the fish aren’t active on the surface and you’ll need to rely on your sounder to find them or at least the schools of baitfish they are feeding on. Once you do, it’s simply matter of letting your lures sink down below the feeding fish before cranking them up as fast as you can. Just like trolling, if you aren’t getting strikes the first thing you should try is to wind faster.
One final word. Whether you are trolling or spinning for mini mackerel, don’t be tempted to use a wire trace. Adding even a small length of wire in front of your lure will dramatically cut down your strike rate. A rod length of so of ten to twenty kilo fluorocarbon will land most fish and keep lure losses to a bearable minimum.
Lures for small mackerel don’t have to be anything fancy. For trolling, slim bodied minnows up to 12 cm which can be trolled around six knots or so seem to work best. Silver is the preferred colour to match the baitfish they feed on but others do work with greens, blues and purples often popular. Some recommended models would include 120mm Halco Laser Pros and 68mm Scorpions, Classic Lures F14 Minis, and Salmo Minnows (7SDR).
For casting, slugs, jigs, small blades and even Tassie Devils will work at times. For all-round success however I don’t think you can beat the humble silver spoon. Keep it fairly small and wind it fast and they should be all over it. Spanyid Maniacs, Flasha Spoons and Halco’s Twisty are all good options.
All mackerel have sharp teeth and while these mini mackerel may be small, they are no less dangerous than their larger relatives so keep your hands away from the pointy end. Sometimes grey mackerel will be large enough to gaff, but we generally use a landing net to bring the fish into the boat. The net helps to keep them under control and stops a lot of slime and blood getting splattered all over the inside of the boat. Once onboard, a sharp tap to the top of the head will subdue them and make sure you keep all your fingers while handling them. For best eating bleed straight them straight away and slip them into a fresh ice slurry so they are easy to fillet when you get home.
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