Report: Spring Top End mackerel frenzy

SPRING time has sprung in the Top End and with it comes a break from the fairly consistent trade winds we have had to put up with over the last three months.

After a few days of nice calm weather the water was starting to take on that beautiful blue colour and with a day off, a decision to go see if the mackerel were about didn’t take long to organise. With my wife Tarn aboard and the kids at school we were soon sitting on the water ready to go.

A quick run over a glassy sea and in no time we were running a couple of lures out behind the boat. The boat only travelled 200m before Tarn’s rod loaded up and the reel began to lose line in a typical high speed mackerel run. Unfortunately, a shark claimed that Spanish mac about have way back to the boat… We dropped what remained into the kill tank to be used later to try for a golden snapper or two on the way home.

With lures back in the water I brought the boat back up to trolling speed and WHAM …  double hook-up! Yep, the macs were back and ready to play.

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Tarn with a nice Spaniard taken on the troll. 

After a short tussle a pair of 6kg Spaniards were brought aboard to be quickly bled and put on ice. Our lures were once again run out and very shortly we had another double hook-up. These ones were released, as were the next half a dozen.

A quick bottom bash with the remains of the “sharked” mackerel soon produced a pair of nice goldies that joined our mackerel on ice. We were back home and all cleaned up with a nice feed, all in the space of four hours.

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This mackerel took a liking to a new Cutting Edge Axe hard body minnow.

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Slabs of fresh mackerel bait accounted for a nice feed of goldies like this.

A few days later, Clint Johanson and his dad John arrived at Melville Lodge to start a five-day trip with us. Over a beer I told the lads about our success on the mackerel and soon a plan to visit “Mac Mountain” was in place. This time I threw a couple of 8kg spin rods matched to 4000 size spin reels on board so the boys could have a go using surface lures on the mackerel. When the fish are fired up and hitting surface offerings it truly is spectacular fishing.

We started off by running a couple or trolling lures behind the boat to find the fish and get the guys arms all warmed up. This takes a very short time and we quickly hooked and released half a dozen mackerel around the 6kg mark.


Another mac comes boatside in the deep blue, clear water.

Then it was time get the spin rods out and start throwing a few surface offerings around. As the boat drifted in an oily calm sea we could look over the side and watch endless numbers of mackerel swimming beneath us. Excitement levels begin to climb because we knew it was all about to happen…

The first popper landed 30m out and began its high speed bubbling and splashing run back to the boat when in the blink of an eye the lure was suddenly 4m above the water surface firmly locked in the jaws of a high flying Spanish mackerel! As the first fish crashed back to the water and began its lightning fast first run, John’s popper was taken in a massive surface strike that left him in the same position as his son: losing line rapidly!


Clint and John Johanson fighting mackerel.


Mackerel on a Sebile Slider.

This scene was repeated over and over for the next couple of hours until the boys estimate they’d caught and released over 30 mackerel. We also caught them jigging and John has a friend who makes spinnerbait and chatterbait lures so he was keen to try for a mackerel on a chatterbait. One was quickly tied on, sent over the side and about 30 seconds later it hooked up. But this was different to a mackerel run and soon a beautiful golden snapper of around 4kg appeared with the chatterbait hanging out the side of its mouth. I’m willing to bet there haven’t been many goldies caught in 30m of water on a chatterbait!


Word of mouth – this nice goldie ate a chatterbait in 30m of water.

We came back for another go a couple of days later and the mackerel hordes were still there and bitting freely. After another action packed “mac attack” we left them in peace.

It doesn’t get much better than windless days, flat seas and high flying mackerel.

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