How To Catch Mackerel off The Gold Coast

Need to know how to catch mackerel off the Gold coast, Author and contributor Anthony Coughran reveals all the secrets below.

Mackerel (toothy torpedos)

We are exceptionally lucky to have such a sensational mackerel fishery on our door step just off the Gold coast. As they chase the warmer water south they grace most of the closer reefs with their presence.
We have seven key mackerel species that visit Australian shores. Grey Mackerel, school mackerel, shark mackerel, snake mackerel, Spanish mackerel, spotted mackerel and Wahoo. Most range from south of Sydney all the way through the top end to Bunbury in WA. With different species stalking different reef systems. Plus 7 sub bait species included in this family. Slimies, yakka’s, jack and mouth mackerel are all included in this family.

How to catch mackerel Gold coastTypes of Mackerel

Mackerel definitely have the most gnarliest teeth out of any fish. Besides sharks. The teeth on mackerel can be compared to a serrated tin can and are easily capable of slicing through flesh like a hot knife through butter. They slice up bait fish and come back to finish the severed fish at its will. A good indication of mackerel being in the area is scales of bait fish floating by.

  • Grey mackerel

    (Scomberomorus semifasciatus) ( broad barred )
    can grow up to 120cm. Size and bag limit for QLD is 60cm or greater and bag of 5. Nsw size and bag limit is no size limits and a bag of 20.

  • School mackerel

    ( scomberomorus queenslandicus) (doggie, blotched, Queensland mackerel.)
    Can reach lengths of 100cm. Size limits and bag limits for QLD is 50cm and a bag of 10. Nsw size and bag limit is no size limit and bag of 20.

  • Shark mackerel

    ( grammatorcynus bicarinatus) ( Scaly)
    Can reach lengths o 130cm size and bag limit for Qld is 50cm and a bag of 10. Nsw size and bag limit is no size limit and a bag of 20.

  • Snake mackerel ( gempylus sepens)

    Can reach lengths of 100cm. Size and bag limits for Qld is no size limits and a bag of 20. NSW size and bag limit is no size limits and a bag of 20.

  • Spanish mackerel

    ( scombermorus commerson) ( narrow barred, spanyd, blue )
    Can reach lengths of 240cm. Size and bag limits for Qld is 75cm or greater and a bag of 3. NSW size and bag limit is 75cm and bag of 5.

  • Spotted mackerel

    (Scomberomorus munroi) ( spotted, spotty, spotties)
    Can reach lengths of 104cm. Size and bag limit for Qld is 60cm or greater and a bag of 5. NSW size and bag limit is 60cm and bag of 5.

  • Wahoo

    ( acanthocybium solandri) (bastard, jack, mongrel, pike mackerel.)
    Can reach lengths of 210cm and is one of the fastest fish in the ocean. Bag and size limits for Qld is 75 and a bag of 2. NSW size and bag limit is no size limits and a bag of 5.

mackerel fishing Gold coast
Different mackerel like to hang in different places

School mackerel: like to hang around inshore/ offshore coral reefs, shale bottom and reef edges. Schoolies like rocky headlands and rocky out crops.
Shark Mackie:  Also like to hang on reef and sandie bottoms and around reef edges and flat reefs.
Snake Mack’s: are usually found around offshore sea mounts, deep ridges and the self.
Spaniards: love ledges with current, headlands, rock bars, and reef edges. They can be found out to the edge of the continental shelf.
Spotted Mackerel: found in flat reefs, reef edges, rocky and sandy open waters in bays, coastlines and offshore coral reefs.
Wahoo: like to hang in current lines around coastal reefs rocky/ sandy reef ledges offshore reefs, reef channels, shoals, headlands and pinnacles.

How to Catch Mackerel – Tips and Techniques

Bait fishing for Gold coast mackerel

Wire is normally a must as the teeth on most mackerel are gnarly. In addition mackerel will easily slice straight through any fluorocarbon or monofilament.


An unweighted half or whole pillie can often get the fussiest of mackerel to bite. Once you have found the schooled up fish. Pillies are mainly used under a float either while drifting or anchored.

Dead baits for towing

slimies, Bonnie’s, small mack tuna, frigates, gar and pillies all work well as trolled Baits. Different baits work better for different mackerel. Towing pillies, and slimies are good for spotties, shark, school and grey’s. Where towing Bonnie’s, mack tuna, frigates and gar are good for spaniards and wahoo.

mackerel fishing palm beach gold coast
Live baits For Mackerel

Best live baits for mackerel is Slimies, Frigates, Bonnie’s, trevally and yakka’s. Either slow trolled, drifting or anchored.

Bait set ups for mackerel

You don’t need to go super heavy for most mackerel a 15- 30lb set up for school, grey, shark or spotties will do the job. 15-50lb gel coated wire is best. 20-50lb set up for spaniards and wahoo with 30-80lb gel wire.

Artificial’s for mackerel

How to catch Mackerel with Skirts

Skirts are still one of the best ways to score a wahoo. You cover ground while you fish. 5- 9inch skirts work best. Cut face skirts still seem to be catching more off our shores then most other skirt patterns. You want to troll your skirts between 6- 12knts depending on current speed and the type of skirts. But you will be able to tell if they are skipping or not. You want your skirts sitting at the front side of the waves created by the wake of the boat. Fish will only hit the lures at the bottom of the waves.

So set you lures at the right length so ensure you get the best out of them. Teasers help a lot as well. Try and always line your tow up so you are heading away from the sun. As you will always get more hook ups.
Best colours: pink, purple, blacks and lumo.
Set up: 20- 60lb mono. We troll with mono so they won’t cut you off. Using braid will Often result in line cutting, so one line cutting the other if they get crossed. Over head set ups work best but jigging rods with 12000 spin gear works well too.


20- 80g metals work well on mackerel once located. Casting in front of these schooled up fish and ripping it past them will result in hook ups. If they are hitting this technique. Cast out Let it sink for about 20- 60secs. Then rip it in. Speed is essential to hook ups. Faster the better. A slower wobbling rod tip retrieve also works well.
Colours: doesn’t matter as its all about the speed of retrieval.
Set up: 15- 40lb braid 20- 50lb leader. 17- 50lb rod and a 4000- 10000 reels.

Tothy tornado on the chase Wahoo
How to Catch mackerel with Hard bodied lures

Deep and shallow diving lures also catch mackerel. Ex rap, laser pro and pacemakers are just a few and they all work well.
Colour: red head, slimy and purples work well.
Set ups: same as your skirt gear. 20-80lb mono. Over head or heavy spin gear. Having a down rigger will help your lure hit the right depth. Can use the same as your skirt gear.

Popper/ stick baits

Once you have found them. You can start to throw stick baits and poppers around them. These lures particularly work best around the reef edges. Colours: red head, slimy, green and gold and purples.
Set up: you want heavy spin gear. 20- 50lb braid to 30- 80lb leader On a 7ft rod and a 5000- 12000 reel.

Spanish mackerel and Wahoo
Micro jigs

Jigs are used in much the same way as metals. Drop to the bottom once you have found the schooled up fish. Then rip them back up through the water column. Faster the better.
Colours: doesn’t matter it’s about how fast you work them.
Set up: same as metals. 20- 40lb braid 30- 50lb leader. 7ft rod with a 4000- 8000 reel.


Used much the same way as metals. Let them sink and rip them in. Heavy jig heads. 5- 9inch profiles.
Colours: greens, blues, pinks, purples and pearls.

Catch mackerel - How to guide
Fish preservation and cleaning

Once caught you want to bleed your fish as it will let all the blood out of the muscles and flesh. A quick cut through the gill lining or the vain in throat, then a brain spike and straight onto the ice box will keep your catch in the best eating condition. Mackerel are great on the chew when bleed and put straight into an ice slurry or on ice. Mackerel are also very good raw ( sashimi ) with a bit of soy and wasabi it’s great.

They are very nice steaked or filleted and crumbed, deep fried, pan fried, steamed, in a salad, on a sandwich, curried, garlic style or even just baked whole or whole on the BBQ and even done in pasta. Just add a few herbs, spices, lemon and garlic or what ever floats your boat and get into them. They also freeze quiet well. As the flesh doesn’t form as many ice crystals as lots of other fish and is only one of a few fish I will actually freeze. But fresh is always so much better. Mackerel is one of only a couple of species I will freeze. Their muscle bands don’t leave much moisture to swell while freezing. Hence the flesh stays good. Most fish species have a high moisture content in their flesh. So they don’t freeze well. But Mack’s are one species you can freeze.

Mackerel seasonOnly take what you need

* remember to only take what you need. As it’s not always necessary to keep your bag limit or more fish then you can eat that night.
* caution is advised once fish is landed. They still have a lot of energy and are very strong and can often result in injury from there teeth and from hooks coming loose and in bedding into your flesh. A wet towel straight over its head and eyes is the best way to calm any fish.

Having a fish ID app, fish ID books like Grants guide to fish or a fish almanac will help you identify the species you have caught. Which mean there will be no confusion when you get back in or with dpi. Or you can ask us. But if you are unsure take a pic and throw it back. If you would like to learn more about how to catch mackerel why not book on one of our Gold Coast Fishing Charters. Best Months are December to April.

shark chartersfishing charters gold coast





Copyright – How To Catch Mackerel – Gold Coast Fishing Charters Article Published 22/7/2020



Facebook Comments

Leave a Reply