Spanish mackerel make good showing, keep anglers busy
Spanish mackerel made a good showing around the waters of Anna Maria Island this past week. Whether fishing from the boat, beaches or piers, Spanish mackerel are being caught on both live baits and artificials. For live bait fishers, try using live shiners or live threadfin herring to get in on the bite. You can even catch these high activity fish occasionally on live shrimp. For artificials, use Clark spoons, Gotcha plugs or small white jigs.
Spanish mackerel can be caught along all of Florida’s coastlines. They average in size from 1 to 3 pounds, although it’s not unheard of to catch fish in the 5- to 7-pound range. The Florida record for Spanish mackerel is 12 pounds.
The food value of Spanish mackerel ultimately depends on the diner’s preference. If you like rich, dark fillets, try broiling or frying. Another method is to cut the head and tail off, dress the fish, wrap it in foil with Italian dressing and grill it. If you choose to fillet the fish, remember to cut out the bloodline. Once this is done, you’ll have nice strips of white meat to cook.
Macks provide excellent action on light spinning outfits. I like to use a Stradic 2500 spooled with 8-pound braid paired up with a 7-foot medium-light action spinning rod. For terminal tackle, try using at least 30-pound fluorocarbon for leader. You could use some wire, but most mackerel will see it and not hit your bait.
If you’re using live bait, definitely use a long shank hook. You can start out with a size 2. When the fish are feeding heavily, you can increase the hook size, which will aid in fewer cut-offs. I’ll go all the way up to a 2/0 extra long shank hook if I can get away with it.
If you’re using artificials, try using either something with some flash or something white. Sea Striker’s Gotcha plugs are a popular choice, as well as Clark spoons and Johnson Sprites. Small white crappie jigs are another favorite among pier fishers when the mack’s preferred baitfish are very small.
The Florida limit for Spanish mackerels is a minimum length of 12 inches to the fork of the tail. The daily possession or bag limit is 15 per day. When harvesting mackerel, make sure to thoroughly ice them down immediately after being caught. Also, try to only keep enough to eat for a couple of days. Spanish mackerel becomes strong tasting after a few days in the fridge and doesn’t freeze well.
Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier says Spanish mackerel is the targeted species of the week. Pier fishers using artificials such as Clark Spoons, white crappies jigs or small Gotcha plugs are catching mackerel in the 15- to 20-inch range. Most of the macks are being caught in the early morning.
Once the macks have stopped biting, those in the know are switching over to snapper fishing. Mangrove snapper have taken up residence under the pier, feeding on small shiners and shrimp. Try rigging with some 20-pound fluorocarbon leader, a split shot and a No. 2 live-bait hook to entice these tasty little fish to bite. Live shiners or live shrimp are the baits of choice.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing Spanish mackerel passing by the boards on the early morning tides. At sunrise, pier fishers using Gotcha plugs or white jigs are catching keeper-size macks. Live shiners are producing mackerel, although artificials are an easier alternative. When using live shiners or shrimp for bait, try casting under the pier.
Malfese says keeper-size mangrove snapper are occurring more frequently than last week. While targeting snapper, expect to also catch flounder and black drum.
Steve Oldham at Island Discount Tackle says inshore fishing is resulting in a variety of species. By fishing nearshore structure, inshore fishers are catching keeper-size gag grouper and mangrove snapper. Live shiners or pinfish are getting the bite.
Moving onto the grass flats of Anna Maria Sound, fishers are getting consistent action on spotted seatrout. Most are small, Oldham says, but keeper-size fish are being caught by the patient angler. He suggests using soft plastics on a jig head to catch the yellow-mouthed fish.
Reports of redfish are coming into the tackle shop daily. Oldham says the bite is occurring on the grass flats adjacent to mangroves and under docks. Live shiners or live shrimp will get you connected.
Finally, Oldham says action is picking up at the piers. Fishers willing to be out at sunrise are catching near limits of Spanish mackerel. Oldham suggests using Gotcha plugs, silver spoons or white crappie jigs.
For the night owls at the pier, there’s good action on small sharks. Blacktip, bull and lemon sharks are the norm.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is seeing nothing but redfish. When asked what is happening on his charters, Gross replied, “redfish, redfish, redfish.” Gross is using live shiners — either free-lined or under a popping cork — to catch reds. He is looking along mangrove shorelines on the high tides to locate schools of the copper-colored fish. Average size of the reds this past week was 22-26 inches.
After Gross’ clients have had their fill of reeling up redfish, they are switching to catch-and-release snook. Again, Gross is free-lining a popping cork with live shiners to get the bite. Fish up to 30 inches was the norm this past week.
On deeper grass flats, Gross is catching decent numbers of Spanish mackerel and mangrove snapper. The macks provide drag-screaming action on light tackle, while the snapper provide mouth-watering action at the dinner table.
Capt. Mark Howard of Sumotime fishing charters reports excellent action on catch-and-release snook, spotted seatrout, and redfish this past week.
“On a recent charter, the Roger’s family on vacation from England had an excellent day on the water with a 25 inch spotted seatrout being the notable fish landed,” Howard said.
Bait has been easy on the flats with the early June hatch finally growing to the 2-3-inch range. Howard warns not to crowd the live well, which can stress the shiners due to the high water temperatures on the flats.
Looking forward, the tides next week will provide for some excellent fish catching opportunities. Howard suggests looking for high tides in the morning and a fast falling tide in the afternoon for fishing success.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing inshore, targeting redfish along mangrove shorelines on high tides. Chumming with live shiners gets the reds to rally behind the boat, which provides some excellent shallow-water action for his clients.
Moving to deeper grass, Girle is catching spotted seatrout in the 17-inch range. Again, Girle is using live shiners to get the bite, and finding success drifting over deep grass flats using Berkeley Gulp shrimp on a jig head. By using artificials, he can cover more area and locate concentrations of fish.
Lastly, Girle suggests looking for diving birds while cruising the Intracoastal Waterway. Under these birds are schools of hatch bait, which is attracting migratory species, including ladyfish, jack crevalle and Spanish mackerel. Not only are these fish easy to spot, but they produce good action on light tackle spinning outfits.
Jeff Medley at the south bait shop on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge Fishing Piers says Cero and Spanish mackerel are dominating the pier bite. Spanish macks up to 20 inches to the fork are being caught daily. The same applies for the Cero, with fish up to 5 pounds being reported. Both live bait and artificials are producing catches. For live bait, try using shiners or threadfin herring. For artificials, a 7/8-ounce Gotcha plug seems to do the trick.
Next on the menu at the south pier is mangrove snapper. Live baits, such as shiners and threadfins are resulting in snapper in the 16-inch range. You can also get results using fresh-cut pieces of these live baits. While targeting snapper, expect to catch flounder, grunts and juvenile grouper.
Also, the shark bite is excellent at the south pier, according to Medley. Pier fishers using fresh-cut mackerel or other chunk baits are catching a variety of species including bull, lemon and nurse sharks. The largest shark this week was a lemon shark at an estimated length of 9 feet.
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