Mackerel, Scaly

(Sardinella lemuru)

Commonly referred to as Scalies!

The scaly mackerel is one of the most prevalent bait sources on the planet and is closely related to the ever plentiful sardine or pilchard. They are an extremely robust species, this allows them great strength when swimming as live baits and is also helpful during most bait casting situations. They are by far the most preferred bait for casting at large pelagics from ocean rock platforms such as Quobba station and Steep point.


Scaly mackerel can be located from as far south as Albany up to Shark Bay throughout Western Australia yet are rarely encountered on the east coast.


Scaly mackerel are a fast growing species that alternates in numbers over various years with some years proving plentiful and others fairly lean. They can grow as large as 25cm in length and weigh as much as 150 grams although most scalies encountered throughout W.A. average around 100 grams.


Scaly mackerel prefer shallow bays, harbours and estuary systems with large areas of healthy seed weed beds as well as sheltered sandy bays with heavy cover near by. Water depths of 1 – 15 meters are most suitable.


Scaly mackerel can be easily identified by their pilchard or sardine like appearance and bright silver coloured bodies which are much deeper set than those of the pilchard or sardine. Scaly mackerel also have a much heavier scale and instantly feel tough when grasped opposed to the soft lightly scaled bodies of sardines and pilchards.

Taste rating

  • Thirty Taste Rating

Scaly mackerel make excellent bait!

Sport rating

  • Fifty Sport Rating

Scaly mackerel are easily managed on even the lightest of tackle.

Tackle requirements

Ultra light spin and fly combos are ideally suited to targeting scalies both from shore or from boat with braided, gel spun and nylon lines with a breaking strain of around 2 – 3kg proving ideal. Light 2 – 3kg nylon or fluoro carbon leaders of around one rod length help to prevent the fish from seeing brightly coloured lines when fish are being fussy during calm, clear conditions.

Recommended baits, lures and rigs

Small cut pieces of peeled prawn or fresh fish as well as live maggots are sensational baits for catching most small bait fish with very small soft plastic and metal lures and fly’s also proving to be both successful and fun at times. Bait chaser rigs are ideal for targeting most bait fish species including scalies.

Handy hints and tips

Using powdered or pellet berley with fish oils added will not only help to attract bait fish into your fishing area but also keep them there! An old rag doused in fish oil will also work well in most bait fishing situations.

Preferred fishing times and tides

Rising or full tides are best suited for targeting bait fish around most areas although some deep water locations will also produce good numbers during low and falling tides. New moon phases are also preferable for most bait fish species including scaly mackerel.


[What The Fish]