Girls on the Macks By Josh Behrendorff

It’s not too often that I get a visit from the water police, mainly because of their limited resources up here in the north, so I always feel a little privileged when their inflatable rib pulls up alongside my boat to do their mandatory checks.

On my latest triennial catch up, we got through all our niceties and mandatory checks before one of the sergeants queried me why I was fishing in the creek when the inshore grounds are holding really good late season mackerel. HE left me speechless, since when do the boys in blue give out hot fishing tips? Regardless, the following morning I was back on the water with my daughter Amelia and Bob and his daughter Hannah who hasn’t had many chances to land any fish, at least until this point.


One of the big secrets to having successful fishing inshore for mackerel is to fish light and with finesse. Without using the light leaders and light rods with smooth light drags we find that we either don’t get the strike or if we do, we just pull the hooks. All the 2-4kg rods we were using had 15lb braid with 20lb fluorocarbon leaders.

Leaving the boat ramp, I steered the boat towards Magnetic Island. While the boys in blue let on that the macks were on the chew inshore, they didn’t specifically say where. I was planning to troll lures around the headlands searching for bait or birds which will hopefully have predators close by. Arriving at Magnetic Island, we set out a spread of lures and begun trolling the headlands searching. Above the water there wasn’t much doing, the skies were grey, and the heavy rain clouds were threatening, the birds were scarce, and there were no signs of boiling baitfish, jumping mackerel or tuna. We stuck to our game plan, confident that the bite will likely happen around the tide turn, although I was keen to be in the same vicinity of the baitfish before the dinner bell rang….


We finally located the fish, sitting a lot closer to the headland than expected, sitting in 5-8m of water, only a couple hundred meters off the headlands. As we first found the bait, it was spread out and hugging the bottom, although the closer we got to the turn of the tide, the tighter the bait balls appeared and the higher up in the water column they moved. We knew it was only a matter of time before one of the rods buckled over; however, the girls were getting more and more restless the longer we motored. Finally, the port side rod tip bounced before loading up, followed by the sound of Bob’s Saragosa drag. Bob quickly handed the rod over to Hannah as we cleared the other lines. With Hannah being reasonably inexperienced on a fishing rod, I left the boat in gear to ensure that tension was maintained throughout the fight. With Bob coaching her on good technique, it wasn’t long before Hannah wrestled the meter long grey mackerel to the side of the boat ready for a gaff shot. The excitement on Hannah’s face as I slung her fish into the esky was priceless, if this was the only fish we got all day, we still would’ve gone home happy. But, where there is one mackerel, there is always more.


The next rod to go off was the lightest set up we had out, my little favourite soft plastic 2-4kg rod with a little 3000 Stradic and the way that this fish took off, we knew we were a little under gunned. My daughter Amelia was quick to take the strike while we scrambled to clear the other lines; however, this fish was smoking us, and the spool was hot to touch as the line screamed off. My little girl held on tight, locked her knees under the gunwales in the corner of the transom and patiently waited for this blistering first run to slow. The problem was the fish wasn’t slowing, and she was running out of line fast, so I warned Amelia that she is going to have to wind fast while I began reversing up on the fish. She began putting some line back on the spool, enough that I was confident she had turned the fish towards the boat and I wasn’t wrong, this fish started swimming straight back to the boat to the point that we thought we may have lost it. I knocked the boat back into gear to see the rod gently load back up. Poor Amelia was looking tired, her little arms have never had to wind so fast in her life, her face was beginning to glow and sweat beads begun to form. As the fish neared the boat it took on a whole different fighting strategy, it decided to use the boat as structure. Time and time again the fish ran straight under the boat, I was supporting Amelia as the fish lunged under the boat before trying to surface on the opposing side of the boat, threatening to cut the line on the hull or motor. Bob jumped into action at the helm steering the boat forward, backwards left and right to try and give us some sort of chance to have a clean fight. The fishing rod spent more time underwater trying to keep the line clear from the hull than it was above water. After what felt like an eternity we caught a glimpse of this giant slab of silver, Bob and I both called it for an oversized grey, however as the fish used it’s flanks in the current to stay just out of reach of the awaiting gaff its colours changed to reveal it’s true identity, a Spanish mackerel and a big one at that!


I had no idea where the lure was or how well the little size 2 trebles were holding. All I know is that I was praying that I could sink this gaff shot in for my baby girl as she deserves this fish. After a few very nervous moments the fish finally comes boat side, within reaching distance for the gaff to secure Amelia’s first ever Spanish mackerel. Her fish was longer than the esky, measuring in just over 1.2meters but as the saying goes, where there’s one, there’s gotta be more.

We continued to work this headland and were rewarded with mackerel pass after pass. We managed to tick off four of the mackerel species in the hour-long bite time, school mackerel, grey mackerel, spotty mackerel and Amelia’s Spanish mackerel. The first two fish were the biggest of the day and were the most memorable of the day. The excitement of watching the young ladies catching these fish was priceless, a memory that none of us will forget anytime soon. I’m so glad they agreed to come fishing for the morning. Until next time, stay safe and tight lines.