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