February 21, 2020
Looking for a really fun fish to catch? Have you considered Spanish Mackerel? These small, fast, and tough fighters are found throughout the Southeast United States. Anglers fishing for Spanish Mackerel will find a great day on the water and a delicious meal afterwards.
As part of the mackerel family, Spanish Mackerel have a lot in common with King Mackerel and Cero Mackerel. In fact, many confuse the Cero Mackerel with Spanish Mackerel as they are very similar in coloring; and sometimes King Mackerel juveniles are confused for Spanish Mackerel.
The best way to identify a Spanish Mackerel is to check the coloration and the lateral line. Ceros have the same silver bodies and yellow spots across the sides, but they also have yellow bars that Spanish Mackerel do not have, which helps to distinguish the two. King Mackerels have a severe lateral line change along their sides, look for this lateral line on your mackerel to determine if it’s a king mackerel or Spanish Mackerel.
Spanish Mackerels are found throughout the subtropical waters from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. They migrate throughout the year from Texas to the Carolinas, sometimes as far north as Massachusetts during the summer months.
Florida anglers have their choice of coasts when it comes to fishing for Spanish Mackerel. They are found on both the west side in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as the East Coast in the Atlantic. The Florida Keys is another fantastic fishing location when looking to catch Spanish Mackerel.
You’ll find Spanish Mackerel swimming in large schools in open water close to the coastline and shallow waters. During the heat of the summer they like to swim into nearby bays and flats, while winter months have them out a bit farther looking for something to eat. The best time to fish Spanish Mackerel is typically from March to September as they come closer to shore. You can also look near oyster bars and piers for a school of Spanish Mackerel during these warmer months.
As we mentioned, Spanish Mackerel are really fun to catch. They are fast and wiry, and getting them in the net is quite the adventure.
You’ll want to use light to medium tackle with either shiny bait or lures for your Spanish Mackerel fishing trip. If you’re using bait, try live or cut minnows, mullet, squid, or shrimp. Otherwise you can try shiny spoons or plastics with jig heads to get their attention. Spanish Mackerel will strike fast, so you have to be ready with the reel.
If you see birds diving into the water, you can bet some Spanish Mackerel are nearby in the feeding frenzy. Cast your offering into the mix and get ready for the strike. Spinning rods, conventional rods, and fly fishing rods are all used to catch Spanish Mackerel. If you opt for fly fishing, use flashy streamers for a successful outing.
While fishing for Spanish Mackerel offshore, you’ll want to reel them in quickly to avoid sharing your catch with another predator. Believe it or not, Spanish Mackerel are commonly preyed on by their larger “cousin”, the King Mackerel. Nothing rings the dinner bell for a Kingfish quite like a panicked Spanish Mackerel thrashing to shake the hook loose once it takes your bait!
Some anglers will fish from a pier or the surf (on the beach) for Spanish Mackerel. The height of the waves will determine your tackle: light tackle for calm waters, medium tackle for big waves. Fish with glass minnows, menhaden, or shiners to bring your catch to the line. Start in the early morning hours for best results.
You can opt to fish for Spanish Mackerel on your own, or hire a local charter to really improve your chances for success. Local Captains will know where to find Spanish Mackerel, which bait to use, and how to entice them to your bait.
Once you have your Spanish Mackerel harvested, get ready for a delicious meal. They are best eaten just a few days after catching them so make sure you ice them really well on the boat. They are not great after being frozen, so plan your meal soon after your trip. You can have them as sushi, or try grilling, smoking, or broiling them. Add a few spices and enjoy the rewards of your hard work.
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