On days where mackerel are scarce, the main issue is finding them. Nevertheless, with the right gear and terminal tackle, once you’re into them you should be laughing all the way to the BBQ. So here are a few tips on how to avoid a compulsory visit to the chippy on the way home.
In short, cover as much ground as possible. As far it’s possible to do so without pissing off other anglers, make the most of your swim. Repeatedly sweep from one side of your arc to the other and back again. Although mackerel will move with the baitfish etc, you may discover a little holding patch – possibly an underwater pinnacle or gully that proves fruitful.
Try different depths. Some days the mackerel will be shallow, other days they will be deeper. To ‘search’ different depths, one successful technique is to cast out and subsequently count how long it takes from your lead hitting the water for it to reach the seabed. If it takes, say, 20 seconds, then cast a second time in the same area and start your retrieve (at the same rate) after 18 seconds. Continuing this routine almost all the way to the surface will ensure that you’re exploring all depths.
TIP: Take up slack line on impact. Being able to ‘feel’ your trace as it sinks means that if you’re lucky enough to pass through a shoal of mackerel on the drop then you will instantly know their depth – so long as you are counting! Naturally, this works particularly well if you’re loaded with braid.
Regularly change your traces until you find the one that works on the day. If other people are catching, see what they are using and continue to explore with that style of trace – it helps take at least one variable out of the equation.
Retrieve at different speeds. Sometimes cranking your gear back in like a man possessed works wonders, yet other times a snail’s pace hits the spot.
Retrieve using different styles. Everyone has their favourite, be it a steady retrieve, or using the rod tip to help jig it back to the shore, or a combination of the two. Try alternating between them to see which works best. Again, if there are other anglers nearby, keep an eye out to your left and right to see if one method appears to be more successful than another.
As with most sea fishing, external conditions can play a major role in the success of your session, and adapting to these can make all the difference.
Weather/sea conditions – As far as weather is concerned, ambient light and wind strength and direction will all affect you when lure fishing for mackerel. As mentioned in part 1 of this guide, changing your traces to compensate for these can make all the difference.
With regard to sea conditions, since you are solely relying on visual stimulant to catch fish when feathering, clear water/good visibility is preferred – although it could be argued that if it’s too clear then the mackerel will know your gear isn’t real food. I’ll take a chance on that though, since if they can’t see the trace in the first place then they ain’t going to chase it!
Since viz normally plummets right after a storm, a few calm days before your session should ensure decent conditions…unless there’s a bloom in the water.
If you get to the mark only to find crappy viz, fear not. Putting a very thin sliver mackerel on each hook may be enough to provide a little scent trail, tip the balance and land you a few fish.
Tides – Try to plan a session where you will be fishing through different states of tide, not just up or down. Hedge your bets by fishing both a running tide and slack water. Also, you may find mackerel moving closer in as the tide continues to rise, possibly bringing them further into your casting range as water depths increase.
Final note: This article is well worth reading for those previously considering a day of catch and release on feathers.