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Taxed on Macks!

By Sean Bekkers

Leading up to Christmas I had been waiting for the opportunity to head out and chase mackerel off the coast and although it was December and the mackerel should have well and truly been here, the reports were not promising. Just the odd one or two fish were being caught and well out of my reach too due to the wind. Although this wasn't a promising sign, I managed to line up a break in the persistent wind, blowing NE and I had high expectations for a successful mackerel trip.

Usually when chasing mackerel I set some lures and troll for the first part of the trip, giving me a chance to locate the bait and in turn the mackerel, whilst keeping an eye out for the birds. This also gives me time for a sneaky morning brew. I have found over the years that just jumping from spot to spot can lead to missed opportunities, especially when the fish are not stacked up on your marks.

As per the reports, the mackerel were not playing ball and we didn't even get a strike. However, after scoping out some good ground on the sounder, we decided to drop some plastics. Whilst working the bottom with some plastics I opted to float a pilly off the back with my Okuma Azores 8000 matched to my Okuma Pressure Point rod. No steel trace, just a set of gang hooks straight onto 60lb leader.

Toward the end of our first drift I had a screaming run, however shortly after setting the hook I was bitten off. That's the risk of not running steel trace I guess and although somewhat disappointed with the result, it was good to know that there was the odd mackerel around. Another hour passed with no real action of note, so we opted for a location change and a short burst onto a ledge this time. The ledge rises from some 20m of water into about 14m and although it doesn't appear to be covered in gnarly rocks, it tends to hold the bait and in turn the fish. As earlier our patience was getting tested. Kaitlin had managed a nice grassy sweetlip on a ZMan 3" MinnowZ, whereas I only managed a steady stream of small stuff, like grinner and whip fish. Apart from that it was dead... this was killing me.

The surface action was starting to liven up in the distance and Kaitlin started getting itchy feet as she wanted chase some tuna around. On cue the Azores started screaming with the unmistakable grab and run of a good size mackerel. Chaos ensued and the fight was on! After the first massive run I started to think the hook must be set well and my confidence grew in landing this fish, however the fighting and running had me a little confused. That was until I caught a glimpse of it and saw that a good size Spanish had taken a liking to my floating pilly!

By this stage I could feel the hooks rolling around as the fish turned, which led me to playing it a little more rather than cranking up the pressure. As it came to the boat, for what seemed to be the last time, Kaitlin yelled out that there was something else with it. I asked "another macky" and received the reply "NO! Shark, shark, shark!" I quickly opened the bail arm and let the fish run, however as it made a dash for the bottom it appeared to be pretty tired and the shark that was in pursuit looked like a solid three metre tiger.

For a moment I had resigned myself to the fact that I had just lost the first Spanyid of the session and one that would have been my PB too. Whilst the bail was open I cranked up the drag, started the engine and knocked it into gear. Once the boat got going I flicked the bail over and this was all in and attempt to get something back. After a minute the head came to the surface and whilst Kaitlin drove the boat, I skull dragged in what remained.

We ended up with 65cm of Spanish mack, pre-bled by 'Bruce' the shark. I mentioned to Kaitlin that "I've never landed a Spanyid off here" and in true supportive daughter spirit she quickly replied "You still haven't", LOL. You have got to love the banter as part of a fishing trip. A pile of boats headed our way, which is fine as we decided to chase some tuna around, instead of fighting amongst the people and sharks.

After catching up with a school of chopping tuna on the surface, we discovered that they were small mac tuna, which when chased on light outfits and light leader can be a heap off fun. Like all tuna, once they're honed in on a particular food source, they can be extremely frustrating to hook... until you crack the code. We rolled through a heap of different plastics that have worked in the past, including ZMan Slim SwimZ, Scented Jerks ShadZ and 3" MinnowZ, rigged on 3/8oz TT Lures HeadlockZ jig heads, however in the end the hook up came from throwing a TT Lures Hard Core metal slug in a 20g. After getting into a few the sharks were keeping them busy as well, so we decided to make our way back in.

On the way back I had mixed feeling about being taxed. I felt slightly cheated on the Spanish mackerel as we had put a heap of work in and only come away with half a fish. On the other hand though that half a fish was pretty big, so I didn't feel cheated for long. Along with an awesome day, which had moments of chaos, getting the opportunity to see a tiger shark in the wild going about its  business of catching fish (even if it was mine) is something that doesn't happen all the time and both Kaitlin and I agreed that it was impressive. The next trip out over the break saw us get into a handful of school mackerel, without Bruce making an appearance. All in all, getting taxed is just part of the game and we aren't the only ones fishing out there.

Hope you're all getting amongst it... screaming drags!

Gear List:
Okuma Pressure Point Jig / Popping Rods
Okuma Azores Blue Spinning Reels
Platypus Bionic Braid

Okuma Epixor XT Spin Reels
Platypus Platinum Braid

TT Lures HeadlockZ HD Jighead
ZMan 3" MinnowZ

TT Lures Hard Core Metal Slugs