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Anglers Insights - North Coast Mackerel on Stickbaits

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Jack Nolan from MYLESTOM NSW

I’m a part-time boat mechanic part-time fishing guide so pretty much everything I do on a day to day basis involves fishing.

I grew up in a small town just 20 minutes south of Coffs Harbour and spent all my spare time fishing, surfing and diving. There's plenty of reasons why I keep coming back session after session but the main one would have to be fishing topwater. Whether it’s popping whiting off the sand-flats in the local or stick-baiting Spanish, it's downright addictive.

As we all know between the months of January to June our Northern NSW are littered with Pelagic’s and in particular Spanish Mackerel. What do you find most appealing about this species?

There are many things I find appealing about Spanish. But the main one for me would have to be their ability to leap 15 feet or more out of the water in hot pursuit of your stickbait. Whether you hookup or not its always awesome to watch.

When selecting your tackle, I think a lot of people go way too heavy. What’s your preferred set up?

I think a lot of people buy a stick-baiting setup to try cover all basis from Spanish to GTS. And with Spanish Mackerel being the less dirty fighter you don’t need such a heavy setup to land these fish. I mean I’ve watched someone in the boat next to me throwing stick-baits on a rod you would pick up from garage sale on Saturday morning. That being said the ideal setup would be

ROD: around 8ft in length and PE 6 (nothing too heavy)

REEL: nothing too big and bulky around the 8000 - 10000 size is perfect

LINE: braid is a must when throwing stick-baits, anything between 50-70lb is fine just make sure you have plenty on your reel as they will empty it quickly.

What have you found the best sizes profile to be?

I throw lures between 140mm and 220mm. But the size I’ve found to be the best here is around the 180mm, I think it best matches the size of the bait we get here on the north coast. It's definitely worth having a variety so you can change to find out what the spannos want on the day.

Have you found the preferred profile for this fish differs on location and day?

Whenever I pull up to a spot to fish I will always be looking around to try to find out what bait is holding in the area and present a lure that will best match that, from there I will begin changing lures every 30 or so casts until I find what they want on the day.

Are you finding any tide changes affect the bite, or is it more first light gets the bite?

Definitely both, mackerel can switch on and off in an instant. the biggest advantage with throwing stick-baits compared to fishing with livies for Spanish is that you don’t have to join the crowd on the local bait reef jigging bait during the prime bite time in the morning. You can be on the reef fishing hours before others have even arrived. That being said I’ve also had some cracking sessions in the middle of the day on the change of tide, so sometimes it pays to wait out the quiet period.

The perfect scenario would be a change of tide at about 9 o’clock in the morning, this will extend the bite period from first light until 9:30 ish

Is water temp or water clarity more important when chasing these fish?

If the water temp is under 21 degrees I pretty much won't bother fishing, instead move around until I find warmer water. So I would say temp is definitely more important than clarity. Although when the EAC is running here on the north coast if you find good blue water chances are its usually warm as piss.


What are you mainly looking for on a reef? Is it bait presence or more current and edges?

It changes through the season.

Early season I will look for more current and blue warm water as the fish are only just arriving so they will be quite patchy and in the better water, then as the season progresses I will be looking for tightly packed bait schools in less than 20m of water.

The perfect reef would be: A good reef in 15-20 metres of water, had bait tightly packed on the top of it with current running over it, water above 23degrees and blue.

There’s always been a debate on what’s better, Trebles or Singles. What do you prefer? 

Spanish are one of the hardest fish to hook on stickbaits as they rarely commit and try to eat a whole lure instead they will try to snip it in half.

I have tried everything to increase the hookup rate. Singles, trebles and both. I’ve found that quite often you won't actually hook the Spanish in the mouth and will hook up either below or above the head as it swipes at the lure. When using trebles you increase your chances of pinning a hook in as there are 6 sharp points swinging around rather than just the 2 with singles.

Are you sounding for these fish or is more of a trial and error? `

Yes definitely, I will keep one eye on the sounder while drifting and casting, hoping to mark fish 5 or so metres below the boat, it’s always exciting when you sound up fish just under the boat because when there that high in the water column you know they will easily be able to see your lure. Some days I will do a slow lap over the intended reef and try to work out what depth the Spanish and bait is holding at.

What’s your most memorable session or fish?

It was on the 17th of April this year. I just got back from a Barra trip up north and was flying over to the Kimberley working for 8 weeks. It was my last shot at stick-baiting a Spanish for the season. We landed 6 or 7 Spanish in a short 2-hour session but had probably 15 or so hits and multiple airstrikes. The biggest fish I landed that was just shy of 20kg and when it ate the stick-bait it felt like was watching the fish fly through the air for a minute or so before it landed so I could try setting the hook properly.

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