Summer Spanish Mackerel - by Joe Malat

Summertime Spanish usually range from 1 to 2 pounds. In North Carolina, most of the macks are taken by boaters who have the ability to move with these fast swimming fish as schools of mackerel cruise along the beach, looking for food. But, surfcasters who happen to be in the right place at the right time can have a lot of fun, and these fast swimming, hard hitting torpedoes can add spice to otherwise lackluster summer surf fishing.

Spanish will readily come into the surf if the food is there, but the water in the surf zone must be clear and fairly calm. Correct lure selection is essential to consistently catch macks from the beach. Spanish mackerel usually feed on silversides, small menhaden or very small finger mullet, an it follows that the most effective lures are those that are shaped like silversides, menhaden or mullet.

Lures for Spanish mackerel work best with a high speed retrieve, probably because the fast-moving lure resembles a panicked baitfish swimming for it's life. The most popular artificials are usually metal jigs two to three inches long, weighing up to 2 ounces.

The color or finish on the lure will vary, but sometimes the macks will show a distinct preference for a certain color. Silver is still a consistent producer, but the color of the lures have changed from silver to a lure with some color. Pink and white is probably the hottest, and there are several other combinations that folks will use. Gold can also be very good.

On the beach, long casts are often necessary to reach the fish, so the tackle necessary to propel a lure that weighs less than three ounces almost a hundred yards can be fairly specialized. One or two piece, light action, graphite or graphite-composite rods in the 9 to 11 foot range are ideal. The tip should be light, but not too whippy, or most of the power of the cast will be absorbed by the rod. The advantage to graphite is the lightness of the blank, and that is very important when repeated casting and extra distance are involved. I like the white series of Team Daiwa spinning rods, mated with the Daiwa Emblem-X reels.

Spinning reels with skirted, deep spools, filled with eight or ten pound monofilament allow for maximum casting distance. The long handle, deep longcast spool and fast retrieve ratio of the Emblem 4500XT reel is a favorite of mine. A shock line of 12 pound test mono tied to the main line with a blood knot or Uni-knot will prevent break-offs on the cast, and act a leader in front of the lures. Don't use any snaps or swivels.

Spanish also have excellent eyesight. They will steadfastly resist a lure preceded by a wire leader, but they also have a mouth full of razor-sharp teeth. Because the macks are so leader shy, experienced mackerel anglers never use a wire leader. The monofilament shock line acts as a leader, but occasionally a lure will be sacrificed if the fish hits the lure from the front as it is moving through the water. Most folks feel losing a lure or two is the trade-off for getting the bites. It pays to experiment with the type of retrieve. Usually a steady, fast crank is effective, but a jigging of the rod while cranking the reel, which gives the lure an "injured-baitfish" look may also work.

During the heat of summer, fish act a lot like people, and tend to be less active during the middle part of the day. For this reason, early and late are often the two best times to fish the summer surf. This is especially true of Spanish mackerel, and it seems the trend during the past few years is for the Spanish to be considerably more dependable in the evening than at the first light of day, especially on an incoming tide.

While boaters may catch Spanish mackerel along the entire length of the Outer Banks from Ocracoke to Oregon Inlet, beach anglers consistently find them at only a few locations. An occasional school of macks may work within casting range of folks on the beaches north of Oregon Inlet, but that is a sporadic occurrence, and most of them are small fish.

Spanish mackerel may be scattered along the North Beach from Avon down to Cape Point. The Point is probably the best bet for consistent appearances. It doesn't happen there every day, but this is a "fishy" place, and if conditions are right, chances are good the Spanish macks will appear early or late in the day, on any given day at the Point from mid-June through early September.

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