How To Catch Spanish Mackerel (Plus Free PDF Catch Card)

By: Joseph Simonds on March 13, 2019
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catch spanish mackerel

It’s Spanish Mackerel time!

Insider member, Daniel Flinn, is back with another excellent how-to article and PDF catch card.

You might recognize Daniel Flinn from some of his other articles here:

This time he’s teaching us all about how to catch Spanish mackerel.

You’ll learn:

  • When and where to find them (plus telltale signs that they’re in the area)
  • How to retrieve your lure for maximum strikes
  • The gear (and specific type of leader) to use so you can bring more macks to the boat
  • Why they make great targets for a family fishing trip

Enjoy and don’t forget to download your free PDF catch card here!

Spanish Mackerel

Scomberomorous Maculatus

inshore spanish mackerel

Where:

  • Offshore in open waters around structure
  • Nearshore around open water, including flats and oyster bars
  • Onshore in the surf and near piers, especially during the warmer weather

When:

  • From March to September
  • As the water warms, they will come closer to shore

Gear:

  • Light to medium spinning or bait casting tackle preferred
  • Medium to stout 7 to 8-foot rod
  • 12-20 lb. braided line
  • 30-40 lb. fluorocarbon leader; steel leader if losing gear
  • 1/0-2/0 circle hook to match bait size
  • Bobber, especially one that attracts upon intermittent retrieval.

Bait:

  • Minnows, mullet, greenbacks
  • Cut bait such as squid
  • Live or dead shrimp threaded on the hook

Lures:

  • Shiny spoons, heavy metal lures
  • Plastics with jig heads—anything flashy or colorful that can be reeled in quickly

Tactics:

  • Look for diving terns and pelicans or bait being driven to the surface
  • Drift into the area so as not to spook the mackerel
  • Retrieve shiny lures quickly
  • Try varying depth and retrieval speed
  • Use steel leader if the fish are cutting the line too often
  • If fly fishing, use colorful flies that mimic minnows
  • Sight fishing is one of the best ways to find these fish

Trends:

  • Spanish mackerel begin moving from the deeper offshore waters to inshore waters in March
  • As the water begins to warm above 70 degrees, they move nearshore where anglers can catch them from piers and the beach
  • They usually travel in large schools and move constantly in search of prey

Community:

  • Just about anyone, from marina personnel to anglers, will tell you where the Spanish mackerel can be found.
  • Boats will often follow schools and congregate where the fish are being caught. Be sure to leave plenty of room for the other boats as a courtesy.
  • Check the fishing section in the local newspapers and magazines. Scan online fishing reports such as those produced by Fishin’ Franks in Southwest Florida.

how to catch spanish mackerel

Wholly Spanish Mackerel!

By Daniel Flinn

spanish mackerel lure

Blink twice and you’ll miss this speed demon of Florida waters.

Reel in line neatly cut near the leader and, you guessed it, another Spanish mackerel.

While they aren’t necessarily prized for their eating quality, this slim-lined, colorful, and powerful species is a superior fighter and most certainly worth the effort.

Before you target this species, there are a few helpful suggestions to consider.

When & Where

From March to September, when you see those birds, especially small terns, diving into the water for bait, chances are, Spanish mackerel are driving the bait to the surface.

Pelicans might get into the fray as well.

Since Spanish mackerel travel in large schools, there will be quite the commotion on the water’s top.

You’ll find these feisty fighters offshore in the spring and then all over the bays and inland waters come summer.  

They might be out on the open flats or hanging around near oyster bars with redfish or speckled trout.

During the warmest weather, they can be caught close to shore.

Keep in mind that these fish are hunters.

They don’t sit around like flounder and wait for the bait to pass by.

They search and destroy, often sending out “scouts” to look for prey.

Once they find their potential meal, they surround their quarry and move in for the kill.

Epic Spanish Mackerel Fishing [VIDEO]

Gear & Rigging

Depending on the size of the Spanish mackerel, your gear can vary from a light to medium 7-foot rod to a heavier 8-foot rod with the action centered in the middle of the rod, not necessarily at the tip.

A medium spinning reel or a conventional level-wind reel will work equally well.

Mackerel feed on the run, so you’ll need to be prepared for a fight from the get-go.

Many anglers prefer to use a fairly stout fly rod for this species, especially with streamers that give the impression of quickly moving bait.  

Braided line works best for casting, and higher test fluorocarbon may prevent the mackerel from constantly cutting the line.

However, be sure to take along some wire leader.

If you begin losing fish, you’ll need to switch over to wire leader before you lose too many rigs.

As always, circle hooks are recommended for all Florida fish, as they are less likely to gut-hook and kill fish that you would normally release.

Haywire Twist Fishing Knot (Wire Leader) [VIDEO]

Bait & Lures

Spanish mackerel will eat just about anything including sardines, mullet, cut bait, squid, and shrimp.

They prefer quickly moving bait, but when they’re feeding they are not particularly picky.

Seasoned anglers will always keep shiny spoons and other heavy metal lures on hand.

Some even boast that this species will attack a bare, gleaming hook with nothing on it.

They will take bottom or top lures, so it’s best to try a variety of lures if the go-to silver spoon is not producing.

Also, try varying the depth of retrieval as these fish can be anywhere in the water column.

Start with a quick retrieval and then slow it down.

Other artificial lures that work well include the Gotcha, minnow spoons, and plastics with jig heads.

If you decide to use plastics, keep plenty of them in your tackle box as Spanish mackerel will tear them up quickly.

Whatever you use, remember that it should be colorful and capable of fast retrieval.

Spanish Mackerel For Dinner

Spanish mackerel are easy to clean and can make fine fillets.

Recipes for preparing this species abound, and many anglers like to smoke these fish.

They can be a bit oily, but if prepared correctly, they can be quite tasty.

Catch, Clean, Cook and Eat! Spanish Macks [VIDEO]

Family Friendly Fishing

Since Spanish mackerel are considered easy to catch, they make a great target for family fishing.

Take the kids along and let them enjoy the fight these fish give.

Watch for diving birds, boiling surface, and boats congregating around a certain patch of water, all indicators that these fish are on the prowl.

Conclusion

Hope you enjoyed that article by Daniel Flinn!

If you want to catch spanish mackerel this spring, summer or fall, keep these tips in mind:

  • Use light to medium spinning gear
  • Look out for diving birds or bait boiling on the surface
  • Find them offshore around structure, or nearshore on the beaches, piers, and flats near open water
  • Vary retrieval speed and depth to find where they’re striking
  • Use live bait, silver spoons, Gotcha plugs, or similar lures… when they’re eating they’re not too picky!
  • Use steel leader if they’re cutting you off

Feel free to download the free catch card PDF here, so you can save it to your phone or print and laminate it to take it out on the water with you.

P.S. Have a question for Daniel?

Ask him in the comments below!

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Brad StephensEd LibrickThom RayPhillip ButlerDave Merritt Recent comment authors
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Brad Stephens
Member

I love the integration of cooking and recipes. I think catching and cooking your own wild meals is a lost art; and there are many species that are disregarded without justification. To many grocery stores!

What are some of your favorite sizes/weights of spoons for off the beach or pier?

Ed Librick
Member

Fish looks really good. I like to print down favorite recipes for fish and save it in my files. I was told spanish mackerel are fishing tasting but your dish disputes that and I would like to make your recipe.

Thom Ray
Member

Well done. Looks tasty!

Phillip Butler
Member

Wow. So much good info. Can’t wait to put it in play. And the food looks delicious.

Dave Merritt
Member

Thanks! Great video! I like Spanish, they are an abundant fish for us in Florida and I am looking for ways to prepare them. This will get a trial in my kitchen soon. Keep cooking! Keep posting!

Devon Buffington
Member

Hey, I am glad to see this! I was fishing on a pier in Galveston one day with about 100 other anglers and I was catching these. No one else was catching anything but hardheads . I had no idea why I was catching them, or what I was doing special, and have not been able to repeat the feat. Will definitely try this out on my next trip.