Scott’s Species – shark mackerel, a slashing surface speedster

In the latest edition of Scott’s Species, Western Angler editor Scott Coghlan discusses shark mackerel. The speedsters don’t get as big as Spanish mackerel, however, sharkies are a great sportfish in their own right and offer some thrilling fishing in WA!

Species: Shark mackerel, Grammatorcynus bicarinatus

Eating: 3 stars

ID: Two lateral lines. Often an olive or gold colouration on the flanks, with spots on the belly.

This sharkie smashed Glenn Edwards’ lure at the Mackerel Islands. Picture: Western Angler

Shark mackerel often move in large schools, meaning that the action is hectic when they turn up, with multiple fish hooked at the same time, and will come into very shallow water.

There is no better example of this than at Quobba, where they often show up in huge numbers at the start of summer.

The Quobba sharkie run is famous with shore-based anglers who enjoy high-speed spinning.

Huge numbers are hooked at platforms like Garth’s, Camp Rock, Caves and Two-Mile, and fly fishing for them is also an option.

When schools of sharkies are around and chasing bait, they can be quite easily identified even if you can’t see the fish.

They will slash through the surface with great speed, not jumping like tuna.

Anyone who has moored at Dirk Hartog Island’s Turtle Bay will have seen the local sharkies chasing bait late afternoon.

Their first run when hooked is dynamic and scorching, but they usually lack stamina.

A trip to Dirk Hartog produced many shark mackerel for Scott Coghlan. Picture: Western Angler

Found from Albany (at times) right up the coast, they grow to more than 1m in length and 14kg. A fish around 10kg is a memorable one, but most will be from 4kg to 6kg.

Every year some good fish get caught around Perth by anglers chasing Spaniards.

Many anglers avoid eating shark mackerel as they have a strong ammonia smell when cleaned, similar to sharks and hence how they got their name.

However, this disappears when the flesh is cooked and sharkies are good on the plate.

Shark mackerel will take baitcast pilchards, mullet or garfish, but are a great target on lures.

Michael Parker tempted this shark mackerel with a soft plastic off Lancelin. Picture: Curtis Waterman

They will hit minnow lures with venom, and will also chase down surface lures such as poppers and stickbaits, making for some exciting hits.

Large metals are another good option, along with white leadhead jigs.

Sharkies are generally not fussy, but we have seen times when they are focused on tiny baitfish and won’t hit anything bigger.

When chasing sharkies, spinning gear is fine, with a casting rod of 2.4m-2.7m matched to an appropriate spinning reel (capable of fast retrieves) spooled with 9kg-14kg line more than adequate.

Sharkies can be caught near Rottnest Island, as proven by Eddie Sheppard with this 110cm specimen.