Mackerel are one of the most popular pelagic species targeted by recreational and commercial fishermen in South East Queensland. They are fast with razor sharp teeth and provide great sport and quality eating for those that actively target them off the Sunshine Coast. Species available include spanish mackerel, spotted mackerel and school mackerel. The Sunshine Coast gets a reasonable run of all three species between January and May every year.
Mackerel generally frequent areas close to shore. Shallow reefs with raised pinnacles and/or drop offs that have bait holding such as yellowtail scad, slimy mackerel or pilchards are prime places to locate Mackerel. They also love current lines, look for areas where warmer water meets cooler water and you will find mackerel.
Mackerel once hooked will peel off line fast, so a reel with reasonable line capacity is required, a main line of 10-15kilos will be more than adequate for stopping even the bigger spaniards. An overhead reel, if you are trolling or a spin reel if you are chasing the bait schools busting up on the surface. Wire trace is almost essential when fishing for mackerel, a 6-12 inch trace is adequate. Your tackle should include a variety of larger size snap swivels, assorted hooks of 5/0-9/0 size, gang hooks, and lures, good lures to try are hard bodies such as Rapala magnums and Halco laser pros. Chrome slugs and skirted lures also account for their fair share of quality mackerel.
Mackerel will take both live and dead baits, the trick is to use same bait that is prevalent in the area at the time. Usually off Mooloolaba we use live yellowtail or slimy mackerel rigged on a single hook and set below a balloon in a burley trail, but they will also happily take a lightly weight floating pilchard. Fusilier and bonito will attract the bigger Spanish mackerel. Try to present baits so they appear as natural as possible and be sure to set baits along way behind the boat. Mackerel have excellent eye sight and can be boat shy. Once the fish is netted or gaffed extreme car needs to be taken when handling the fish. Mackerel have razor sharp teeth and can leave a nasty wound. The fish should be bled out and placed on ice as quickly as possible.
Spanish mackerel are definitely the most sought after for the table, they have white to pinkish flesh and a strong fishy flavour. They produce an attractive cutlet or a boneless fillet that can be baked, fried, poached, grilled, smoked, barbequed and is even eaten raw. The lesser spotted and school mackerel are pretty good chewing as well provided they are eaten fresh.