Spanish Mackerel Are “Hot” in the August Heat
Featured In Coastal Angler Magazine
August is “ Spanish Mackerel Time ” around Atlantic Beach! Spanish fishing this time of year can be "GREAT FUN" for the whole family. You can catch Spanish off the piers, in the surf and from boats. Spanish Mackerel are one of the easiest fish to catch and one of the best table fish you can eat.
For Spanish Mackerel to be legal, they need to measure at least 12 inches long to the fork in the tail and you can take 15 per person per day.
From the piers and surf, it’s all about “plugging “ for Spanish. Gotcha-Plugs, Kastmasters, Cripple Herrings, Clarkcasters and Diamond Jigs are all top Spanish lures for the pier and surf. The colors can vary from day-to-day, but the Gotcha-Plug with the red head/white body/gold hook has always been dependable. In the Cripple Herring, Clarkcasters and Diamond Jigs the best colors are gold and silver in 1/4 to ½ oz.
With plugs you have to reel "fast" and "jerk" the lures fast because Spanish respond best to fast-moving lures. Make sure to select a lure that’s the same size as the baitfish that the Spanish are feeding on; this can make the difference between filling up a cooler or not getting a bite. Usually the best action is from midway down the pier to at the very end of the pier. Most of the time the hot bite is early at sunrise and late at sunset. Check out the ocean to see how the baitfish are moving with the currents and wind. That’s where the Spanish are feeding on the bait, so you need to pay close attention on what the bait is doing.
You can also catch larger Spanish off the piers but you will need to fish live bait. Live mullet or live shad are the best two baits to catch larger Spanish in the 5 to 6 lb range. The best rig is a small #27 wire leader about 6” long with a #6 Eagle Claw Gold Treble Hook. Both the Oceanana Pier and the Sheraton Pier here on Atlantic Beach always have good Spanish action this time of the year.
You cannot always catch Spanish from the surf but sometimes they will come within casting range. Fort Macon State Park is the best place surf fishing. At Fort Macon, you have both a rock jetty where Spanish come to feed and the inlet where the Spanish come in and out with the tides. The best lure from the surf is a Kastmaster in a 1/4 to ½ oz in silver or gold or a diamond pattern. These Kastmasters work well because you can throw them so far. That’s the key when you are fishing from the surf, you have to be able to reach the Spanish as they are coming through to feed.
Trolling for Spanish from a boat can put you into some really "HOT" action. Artificial Reefs 315, 320 and 330, Cape Lookout, Beaufort Inlet, along the Beach, Beaufort Inlet Shipping Channel and Shackleford Banks are all great places to catch Spanish. Clarkspoons, Mackerel Trees and Drone Spoons have caught more Spanish than any other lure when trolling. Clarkspoons come in #00, #0, and #1 in gold, silver, green, pink and chartreuse. All colors will work but the Gold #00 is usually the one you want to have behind the boat.
When you are going to use Clarkspoons or Drone Spoons you will need some #1, #2 and #3 planers and trolling weights from 1-1/2 to 6 oz. You put the planers or trolling weights out in front of the spoons, connected by a 25 to 30 feet long leader of 20 to 30 lb monofilament. Make sure when you are trolling spoons you use a ball bearing swivel to keep the line from twisting and the spoon from spinning under the water.
Another great way to catch Spanish is a Three Squid Rig with a Bird. Kids love fishing the bird, it stays on top so you can see the action as the Spanish come up and hit. You also can catch three fish on one rig if they are feeding hard. You don’t need a planer or trolling weight…just hook the squid rig behind the bird and float it behind the boat, it will stay on top and the Spanish will come up and smash the squids. The best colors in squid rigs are clear silver, pink, chartreuse green silver, purple black and fire tiger. The color on the bird does not really matter, just pick out the color you can see the best behind the boat.
Yo-Zuri Plugs work well on Spanish too. It’s also a lure you need no planer or trolling weight…just let it float from the back of the boat and wait for a Spanish to come up and hit it.
Another easy trick for catching Spanish is using a hand line. A hand line is simply a planer attached to 30 feet of cord with a spoon attached off the back of the planer. You don’t even have to have a fishing rod to catch Spanish on a hand line. You just tie the cord to your cleat off the back off your boat and let the planer take the spoon down. When you see the planer come to the top of the water, pull it in because there's a fish on it. People usually run one hand line off each corner of the boat. You need about 25 feet of cord and then 30 feet of mono off the back of the planer with the spoon attached. No #1 & #2 planers work best when fishing hand lines for Spanish.
When trolling for Spanish you have to keep the right speed - usually around 1500 to 1600 rpm or around 4- 5 mph is the best speed. You may need to vary your speed to see what is working the best for the most bites.
Live baiting for Spanish is the best way to go for the bigger fish. You probably won't catch as many Spanish live baiting but the fish you do catch will be bigger, often catching 5- 7 lb class fish in the summer months. Live finger mullet and peanut menhaden are the best baits. You need some 18 - 27 lb wire and small treble hooks in the #6 to #8 size. Just make the leader 10 - 12 inches in length. The best live bait fishing will be around the Artificial Reefs 315, 320 and 330, all of which will hold fish. For live baiting, you don’t want to move too fast: the key is just keep the line tight enough that the finger mullet or peanut menhaden can be swimming around naturally. If the Spanish are shy of the wire rig you can switch to 40 lb Seaguar Fluorocarbon to get the bites. Expect to get cut off some when not using wire but you will be getting bites!
So, come to Atlantic Beach and enjoy some "great Spanish fishing!"
About the Author: Capt. Matt Lamb offers full-day and half-day Crystal Coast fishing charters, using his local fishing knowledge to carry anglers to the area’s finest fishing spots. He specializes in backwater fishing for red drum-- from topwater to live bait. He also spends a lot of time chasin’ spanish mackerel, king mackerel, bluefish, false albacore, and Atlantic bonito, all of which can be caught close to Atlantic Beach, or in some cases inside the inlet. Chasin’ Tails Outdoors is located at 613 Atantic Beach Causeway in Atantic Beach.
Contact Matt at 252-240-FISH or at www.chasintailsoutdoors.com.