Spanish mackerel may be the Rodney Dangerfield of fish, but they really are the complete package of speed, strength and table fare, deserving a lot more respect than they get. And in these warmer months, they’re biting and one our prime targets.
A schooling species, mackerel hunt in packs, rounding up schools of bait and slashing it to pieces with their razor-sharp teeth. Our objective is to get one of those live baits into the school, only our bait has a hook in it.
We us long-shank, 2/0 hooks with 40-lb fluorocarbon leader or nylon coated wire to help prevent cut-offs from the mack’s sharp teeth. We fish around structure, range markers, buoys and bridges, which are all places that hold the bait the mackerel are after. Our tackle is light to medium weight to provide all the sport we’re looking for. The drags on our reels are set on the loose side to keep the hook from ripping out of the mackerel’s soft mouth.
Lots of live sardines are in our live well when mackerel fishing, as we use them to live-chum the fish and keep them within casting distance. Mackerel are hard fighters, and good at the table when prepared properly. We bleed and ice our fish immediately after they are caught if the plan is a fish dinner. Don’t freeze mackerel. A favorite way to prepare mackerel is smoking, the final product making fantastic fish dip.
One last thing: Beware of the mackerel’s teeth. A long dehooker or long pliers keep your fingers away from that mouthful of tiny razor blades.