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Spanish Mackerel Fishing in the Whitsundays: Your Guide to Getting The Big Dogs.

Updated: Aug 3, 2023

Whether you prefer trolling, live bait fishing, high-speed trolling, or casting and retrieving, Tackleworld Airlie Beach has the gear, lures, and expertise to meet your needs.

There's not much better than the thrill of Spanish mackerel fishing in the Whitsundays, North Queensland's angler's paradise. These fast and formidable fish offer an exciting challenge for fishing enthusiasts. In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore the best techniques and lures for catching Spanish mackerel in the Whitsundays. Tackleworld Airlie Beach, your premier fishing store, has everything you need to make your fishing expedition a success.

A man holding a large Spanish mackerel
Very decent Spanish.

If you’re chasing mackerel and find yourself coming up short, then you’re in the right spot. As long time locals and fishermen ourselves, Tackleworld Airlie Beach have spent years honing a deep understanding of these waters.

By the end of this guide, you'll be well-equipped for an epic Spanish mackerel fishing experience in the Whitsundays and the rest of the north.

Quick Guide


Section 1: Research and Preparation

a. Fishing Regulations in the Whitsundays:

Before embarking on your Spanish mackerel fishing adventure in the Whitsundays, it's crucial to familiarize yourself with the local fishing regulations. Regulations help protect the fishery and ensure sustainable fishing practices. Check with the relevant authorities or visit their official websites to obtain up-to-date information on fishing permits, bag limits, size restrictions, and any seasonal closures. Adhering to these regulations not only preserves the fishery for future generations but also helps maintain a healthy ecosystem.

b. Understanding Feeding Patterns:

To increase your chances of success when targeting Spanish mackerel, it's essential to understand their feeding patterns. Spanish mackerel are opportunistic predators that often feed on schools of baitfish, such as herring, mullet, garfish, and slimy mackerel. They are known for their speed and agility when hunting, using bursts of speed to chase down their prey. Look for areas where baitfish are abundant, such as around reefs, drop-offs, and channel edges, as Spanish mackerel are likely to be nearby.

Timing is also crucial.

Spanish mackerel are more active during certain times of the day, typically feeding aggressively during early mornings and late afternoons. However, they can also feed throughout the day, especially during tide changes when baitfish are concentrated. Observing bird activity, such as diving birds or hovering seabirds, can often indicate the presence of feeding mackerel. Airlie Beach tides can be found here.

A table of freshly caught reef fish
Selection of target species

Section 2: Gear and Tackle Selection

a. Fishing Rods:

When it comes to selecting a fishing rod for Spanish mackerel in the Whitsundays, several reputable brands offer high-quality options. Consider the following brands known for their durability, strength, and performance:

  • Venom: Venom is renowned for its durable and reliable fishing rods. They are also Aussie made. Venom Stickbait 7"11" 40-60lb is a popular option that provides the strength and line capacity required for battling Spanish mackerel on a popper or stick bait in the far north. the Venom Ocean Warrior 24kg Stroker is a great option for trawling or as a boat road.

  • Daiwa: Daiwa is another brand that provides excellent fishing rods for targeting Spanish mackerel. The Daiwa Spartan S80-6/8 is a top-notch choice, offering a strong backbone and excellent sensitivity to detect even the subtlest strikes.

Daiwa Spartan Fishing Rod
Daiwa Spartan

  • Shimano: Shimano offers a range of rods suitable for Spanish mackerel fishing, such as the Shimano Tiagra 15-24kg. This rod is designed specifically for offshore angling and features a robust construction that can handle the powerful runs and aggressive fights of Spanish mackerel.

b. Reels:

Pairing your fishing rod with a high-quality reel is crucial when targeting Spanish mackerel. Consider these reputable brands for your reel selection:

Shimano Tiagra
Shimano Tiagra

  • Shimano: Shimano offers a wide range of reels suitable for Spanish mackerel fishing, for trawling we suggest the Tiagra combo, the Talica 20ii or the Speedster 10ii such as the Shimano Saragosa SW. This reel combines smooth drag performance, high line capacity, and durability, making it ideal for handling the powerful runs of Spanish mackerel.

Daiwa Saltiga
Daiwa Saltiga

  • Daiwa: Daiwa reels are known for their advanced features and reliability. The Daiwa Saltiga 10000H is a popular choice among anglers targeting Spanish mackerel, thanks to its robust construction and exceptional drag system.

Shimano Charter Special Fishing Reel
Shimano Charter Special

  • Charter Special: For a cheaper no frills option, The Shimano Charter Special Overhead Reel is ideal for trolling, bottom basin and live baiting. Built to be strong enough to withstand any challenge, the Shimano Charter Special Overhead Reel has a massive 15kg maximum drag and 9kg/274m line capacity.

c. Fishing Lines:

Choosing the right fishing line is crucial for successfully targeting Spanish mackerel. Consider these reputable brands for braided lines:

  • Daiwa: Daiwa J-Braid x8 is a popular choice among anglers due to its strength, sensitivity, and smooth casting ability. It offers excellent knot strength and durability, ensuring you can handle the fierce fights of Spanish mackerel.

Daiwa J Braid
Daiwa J Braid

  • Nomad: Nomad Panderra X8 Braid is another top-performing braided line. It features enhanced abrasion resistance and smooth casting, allowing for longer casts and improved control when battling Spanish mackerel.

Ice Blue Mono
Ice Blue Mono

  • Shogun Blue Ice Fishing Line: for a monofilament option. The versatile Shogun Ice Blue line is specifically designed to excel in various fishing conditions. Its exceptional qualities make it an ideal choice for both high-performance spinning and trolling reels.

Special mention* While catches can (and do) be made without wire leaders, consistently landing these fish often necessitates their use. There are a few exceptions, particularly when trolling spoons for king and Spanish mackerel, but overall, the chances of successfully reeling in toothy critters significantly increase with the implementation of wire leaders.

Remember, Tackleworld Airlie Beach stocks a wide range of fishing gear from various brands, allowing you to choose the best equipment for targeting Spanish mackerel. Their knowledgeable staff can provide personalised recommendations based on your preferences and the specific fishing conditions in the Whitsundays.

Daiwa Saltiga Dive Stars Lures
Daiwa Saltiga Dive Stars

Section 3: Effective Lures for Spanish Mackerel

a. Metal Jigs:

Metal jigs are a popular choice for Spanish mackerel fishing due to their ability to imitate fast-moving baitfish. Consider the following brands and models:

metal fishing jig
Halco twisty

  • Halco Twisty: The Halco Twisty is a classic metal jig that has stood the test of time. Available in various weights and vibrant colors, it offers a versatile option for targeting Spanish mackerel. The chrome and silver colors are particularly effective in attracting strikes.

  • Nomad Madscad: The Nomad Madscad is a sleek and realistic metal jig that mimics the movement of a wounded baitfish. Its darting action and lifelike finishes make it an irresistible target for Spanish mackerel.

  • Nomad Buffalo: The Buffalo is a Slow Pitch Jig, or often called a flat-fall jig. It is centre balanced and will fall with a fluttering action enticing the fish to strike as the lure falls. It is ideal for sinking through schools of tuna or mackerel hanging deep, or using for reef species hanging down deep when worked with long slow flicks of the rod.

b. Surface Poppers:

Surface poppers create exciting topwater strikes and can be effective when Spanish mackerel are feeding near the surface. Consider these surface popper options:

Nomad Chug Norris Lure
Nomad Chug Norris

  • Nomad Chug Norris: The Nomad Chug Norris is a highly regarded surface popper known for its loud popping noise and impressive casting ability. Its large profile and aggressive popping action make it a standout lure for attracting Spanish mackerel.

Rapala X-Rap Pop
Rapala X-Rap Pop

  • Rapala X-Rap Pop: The Rapala X-Rap Pop is a versatile surface popper that produces a splashy and enticing popping action. Available in various colors, it is designed to imitate wounded baitfish, triggering aggressive strikes from Spanish mackerel.

River2Sea Dumbell Popper
River2Sea Dumbell Popper

  • River2Sea Dumbell Popper: King of the poppers, the Dumbbell is the most exciting range of surface bloopers to hit our market, fish with one and you will know why. Weighted with casting distance in mind, the popper is constructed with hardwood / hard plastic, achieving excellent buoyancy and as a big fish popper it is fitted with VMC trebles and extra heavy duty split rings.

c. Chrome Spoons:

Chrome spoons are a classic and effective lure choice for Spanish mackerel. Here are a few options to consider:

  • Gillies Baitfish: The Gillies Baitfish spoon is a tried and tested lure that mimics the swimming action of baitfish. Its chrome finish and fluttering motion make it a reliable choice for enticing Spanish mackerel.

Gillies Baitfish a small metal jig
Gillies Baitfish

  • Halco Twisty: In addition to being a popular metal jig, the Halco Twisty is also available as a chrome spoon. Its proven design and reflective finish make it a versatile lure that can attract Spanish mackerel in various conditions.

  • Arma Anchovy : The Arma anchovy is a highly regarded chrome spoon known for its realistic fish scale pattern and lifelike action. Its weight distribution allows for long and accurate casts, increasing your chances of reaching feeding Spanish mackerel.

d. Trolling Lures:

Trolling is a highly effective technique for targeting Spanish mackerel, and specific lures are designed for this purpose. Consider these trolling lures for Spanish mackerel in the Whitsundays:

  • Halco Laser Pro 190: The Halco Laser Pro 190 is a popular trolling lure that offers a realistic swimming action. Available in various colors, including the Classic Blue Mackerel and Chrome, it is highly effective in enticing Spanish mackerel to strike.

  • Rapala X-Rap Magnum: The Rapala X-Rap Magnum is a reliable trolling lure known for its durability and lifelike finishes. With its strong swimming action and built-in rattles, it can attract the attention of Spanish mackerel from a distance.

Purple trawling lure
Nomad DTX Minnow

  • Nomad Design DTX Minnow: The Nomad Design DTX Minnow is a versatile trolling lure available in different sizes and vibrant colors. Its long-distance casting ability and realistic swimming action make it a go-to choice for targeting Spanish mackerel. (Highly recommend the purple fusilier)

A man holding a Spanish mackerel

Section 4: Fishing Techniques and Strategies For Targeting Spanish Mackerel

Spanish mackerel can be targeted using various techniques, providing anglers with flexibility based on their preferences and the prevailing conditions. Here are some effective methods to increase your chances of success:

a. Trolling:

Trolling is a popular technique for Spanish mackerel fishing in the Whitsundays. Set up a spread of lures behind your boat, covering different depths and distances from the surface. Opt for lures with vibrant colors and realistic swimming actions to mimic the mackerel's preferred prey. Maintain a trolling speed of around 5 to 7 knots, adjusting as necessary to entice strikes. Keep an eye out for diving birds or surface disturbances, as they indicate a potential feeding frenzy.

b. Live Bait Fishing:

Using live bait can be highly effective when targeting Spanish mackerel. Choose lively and robust baitfish such as garfish, slimy mackerel, or mullet. Rig your live bait on sturdy hooks and attach a wire leader to prevent bite-offs. Deploy a live bait rig by suspending the baitfish at various depths using a float or a downrigger. This method allows you to present a natural and enticing meal for the mackerel.

c. High-Speed Trolling:

When Spanish mackerel are in an aggressive feeding mood, high-speed trolling can trigger their predatory instincts. Equip your boat with high-speed lures designed to be trolled at faster speeds. These lures often have a streamlined shape and can handle the increased resistance at higher speeds. Maintain a speed of 10 to 15 knots, adjusting based on the lure's specifications and prevailing conditions. High-speed trolling can produce exhilarating strikes and intense battles with Spanish mackerel.

Benny Crisp with a big Spanish Mackerel
Horse Spanish

d. Casting and Retrieving:

For a more interactive and engaging experience, try casting and retrieving lures to entice Spanish mackerel. Look for schools of baitfish near the surface or target areas where mackerel are known to be active. Choose lures that mimic the appearance and movement of baitfish, such as metal slugs, surface poppers, or soft plastic swimbaits. Cast your lure beyond the feeding zone and retrieve it at varying speeds, incorporating pauses and erratic movements to imitate an injured or fleeing prey. Be prepared for explosive strikes as the mackerel pounce on your lure.

Remember to adapt your approach based on the prevailing conditions, such as water temperature, tide, and weather patterns. Be patient, observant, and willing to adjust your approach as necessary to maximize your chances of hooking into a Spanish mackerel in the Whitsundays' pristine waters. If one approach isn't working and you know the fish are there, change your plan of attack.

A fisherman holding a Spanish mackerel and a coral trout

Whether you prefer trolling, live bait fishing, high-speed trolling, or casting and retrieving, Tackleworld Airlie Beach has the gear, lures, and expertise to meet your needs. Plan your fishing expedition, equip yourself with the right techniques and tackle, and get ready for memorable encounters with these powerful and prized fish. Tackleworld Airlie Beach is your trusted partner for an keeping those lines tight. When all else fails, you may want to try target these beasts with a straight hook. Spearfishing is also a very effective method of catching Spanish Mackerel, especially if they are there but they are not on the chew. Come see us in the Airlie Beach store for all of your spearfishing needs also, or drop us a line below.

Happy catching.

Man holding big fish (Spanish Mackerel)
Spearfishing for Spanish


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