You can catch anything when fishing from the Mackay Harbour rock wall….

Conditions: Bottom of the tide with light morning easterlies
Season:  Late Spring
Technique: Jigging lures along the bottom
Target: Mackerel
Gear Set Up: 3-7kg 9′ 3 piece with 5000 size reel, 15lb braid and 20lb leader
Lure Types: Small soft vibe, 40g spoon
Session Rating: 7/10

Fishing from the Mackay Harbour rock wall can be spectacular but it is actually just one of the many great spots available to the land based fisherman in the area. It was early evening as I drove back into Mackay to try and round up a fish or two.  I checked the tides and figured Forgan Bridge in town on the incoming was my best bet. The plan was a simple one; cast a soft vibe as far out as possible and slow-jig it back along the bottom toward the bridge with the current. As per usual, the Tarpon were thick. I hooked a few but the hooks were quickly thrown in their awesome aerial displays. I persisted with the knowledge that the local Barramundi often school with Tarpon when feeding.

After another solid hit, the lure finally stuck in the hard mouth of one of these superb fighting fish. I quickly subdued it after its aerial display had finished. It was too heavy to lift, but a passer-by who used to work on pro-boats hand lined him up for me while I wound in the reel. He finished up by taking a quick snap of me and the Tarpon before heading off on his way.

Fishing from the Mackay Harbour Rock Wall

The next morning, I was up early to fish from the Mackay Harbour rock wall at dawn. It was only to be a short session as paid employment required my attendance.  The water was still pushing past quickly as we approached the top of the tide. The incoming tide seems to create some kind of vortex near the harbour mouth. Instead of flowing into the harbour (as you would expect on the incoming); the current curiously flows from the left (the main harbour) out past the harbour rock wall to the open sea (to my right).

I was using my favourite metal spoon and casting it as far out as it would go before jigging it back along the bottom and up the face of the rock wall. As is sometimes the case when fishing, over the next hour and half I simply could not raise a bite. My time was soon up and I had to make a move.

The last cast pulls tight

Resigned to the session being more about fresh air and nice views, I sent out the last cast. The lure was at the base of the rock wall where it finally got taken on the lift off the bottom. The fish gave a big head shake and before I even realised what was going on, it took off on a sizzling run out front.

The drag was tight but that didn’t stop this fish from taking a lot of line before I finally managed to turn its head back toward me. Pump and wind was my mantra and I was making good headway on getting the fish back in to rocks before it suddenly changed tactic. Not thirty metres out from where I stood, it turned on its side and started circling to the left. There was little I could do but watch as the fish took my line around a large submerged boulder sticking up out of the rock wall 5m out to the left of me. The rock was the size of a large 4wd with the top sitting around 2m below the surface.

In Trouble

I could feel the 15lb braid rubbing on the rock and immediately backed the drag right off. The fish did not need a second invitation and it took off again on another long run. The line was still running directly out to the sunken boulder so I opened the bale arm completely hoping to free it.

The fish kept running and I was losing braid rapidly down across the face of the submerged rock. I really did not want to lose this lure and the new 300m of 15lb braid on the reel. With that in mind there was only one logical course of action available to me; off came the sunglasses, hat and shirt. I handed my rod over to another young fisho who had come over to see what was happening. I told him “just to keep free spooling” and then dived into the water.


Clearing the Line

I grabbed the line with my left and started side-stroking toward the submerged rock. The current was strong – really strong. I had completely under estimated its power and quickly found myself in trouble. Before I knew it, I was washed down to the right, away from the boulder and out toward the open sea. Sidestroke was definitely not cutting it for me at this point. I could barely hold my position and I was quickly running out of steam.

I threw the line clear and began to free-style as fast as I could back up-current toward the rock. It was only about 7m back to the boulder but it was exhausting and my shoes were not helping. I kept swimming hard and slowly managed to pull back over the top of the boulder. Once over the target, I started my duck dive down and opened my eyes. The rock was down deceptively deep and I certainly couldn’t see the braid in the water. Underwater the current took me even quicker than on the surface and I was quickly washed back over the lee side of boulder again. This was clearly mission impossible and my lungs were now bursting. I needed to get back to the surface and back to the safety of the rock wall as quickly I could.

Fish back on

I broke the surface and sucked in that sweet lung-full of air. Looking over,  I saw my new best mate in the world giving out a big “whoop” as he tightened the drag and the rod bent over. Somehow, I had managed to clear the line without even realising it. I swam back in to the safety of the shallows and dragged myself out of the water. The young fella tried to hand me my rod back but I refused it and just lay on the rocks breathing hard to catch my breath back. After a minute or so I had recovered enough to follow old mate over the rocks to the front of the wall where the fish had now taken the fight.

I finally took my rod back and slowly began working the fish back in. Getting this fish in took a while. I knew the braid was damaged and so I was fighting the fish with a pretty light drag setting. The fish was as tired as I was and not able to maintain the strength and speed it showed earlier. As we started to make out some colour, old mate went waist deep into the water in front of the wall and landed me my solid Mackerel Tuna.

Fresh is best

After such an epic fight we were both super stoked to finally land that fish together. The experience was tainted somewhat though when we soon realised the fish was hooked in its gills and could not be released. Old mate quickly put his hand up for the fish. He explained that fresh Mac Tuna is good if bled, iced and eaten fresh as sashimi. I handed over the prize and we both walked back to the car park having a laugh at what we had both just experienced. I was very grateful to him for his help but even more so for not wasting such a beautiful fish. Looking on the Anglers Secrets website the next day I found a pretty tasty looking recipe for preparing a recipe for lightly seared Mac Tuna sashimi which I can’t wait to try on my next catch.

Thanks for reading this post – feel free to read more like it at and leave a comment. Also, if you haven’t already, register your email and I’ll send you out an email with a link to my latest posts as soon as they get published. Thanks again – Scoutfisher



  • Steve says:

    I remember that day quite well. I’d been out there trying to catch a tuna for about a month and all I could get were queenies. Though In the end I lost quite a few good tuna I still managed to get two long tails landed on the wall not long after that day 85cm and 93cm respectibly. I even went and got a couple of spoons the next day I’m still partial to the 30g chrome twisties though.

    • Tim Sibley says:

      Hey Steve – I was pretty happy to see you found that post. That’s gotta be one of my very best fishing stories.
      You were an absolute legend that day. Glad you pulled some tuna man – longtails trump mackies everyday of the week. Hopefully I can get back up to Mackay again sometime and catch me a longtail too. All the best and thanks again for helping land that fish!

  • says:

    On both the north wall and the Harbour Beach wall, there is a prime ambush point for predators during the first of the run-in tide. As the current flows along the corner of the wall and then diverts up onto the beach, it creates a prime eddy for bait to hold and predators to feed.

  • Carl says:

    I’ll be Up that way Soon. Hopefully Too Catch a really good ? Or two. Happy fishing to everyone Up their. Buy 4now. Catch,s up on the flipside.?

Leave a Reply