Skip to main content

5 of the Best Places to Catch Spanish Mackerel in Late Summer

In late summer, Spanish Mackerel prowl the inshore and nearshore waters of the Atlantic and Gulf. Here are the top spots to target these tenacious fish before summer gives way to fall.

5 of the Best Places to Catch Spanish Mackerel in Late Summer
Spanish mackerel provide ferocious action along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts in late summer and early fall. (Shutterstock photo)

My son Justin loaded our 20-foot Jones Brothers skiff in the pre-dawn dark as I double-checked the tackle. All we would need for this excursion were a couple light rods with Penn 9 levelwind reels, bead-chain sinkers and Clarkspoons tied to 30-pound leaders.

“It’s been a long time since I fished for Spanish,” Justin said. “Think we’ll catch some?”

He had moved away from Wilmington, N.C., where he had grown up, and wanted an easy, productive outing during his visit home. By sunrise we were catching Spanish mackerel two at a time.

Abundant, aggressive aerial acrobats, Spanish mackerel earn straight A’s from saltwater fishermen throughout the South. Found inshore in rivers and bays and from the inlets to well offshore, these shiny, hard-fighting gamefish make incredible streaking runs on the hook and can fill a cooler in short order. The most popular technique for catching Spanish is to troll with spoons. They also hit jigs and plugs. One of the best is the Gotcha tube lure, which can be both trolled and cast with deadly effect.


Anyone with a tackle box full of lures that nothing else will strike can use them for Spanish mackerel. Even B-drawer bass lures get bit when Spanish are slashing baitfish on top. Here are a handful of spots where you can target them this fall.


1. Carolina Beach, North Carolina

Shane Snow, who operates Fish Witch Charters (910-443-0356) and runs a 42-foot Carolina Express, says Spanish mackerel fishermen make up approximately 60 percent of his clientele, and that fishing for Spanish around Carolina Beach couldn’t be easier.

“Just buy some spoons, rig them and go,” Snow says. “The most important thing to remember about Spanish is not to put your thumb anywhere near their sharp teeth.”

Snow primarily looks for mackerel along the beach. If they are deeper, he searches for schools with his depth finder. Once he locates them, he trolls six lines—two downriggers with No. 3 planers, two planer rods with No. 1 planers and two top rods with 1/2-ounce trolling sinkers. The lures are gold or silver Clarkspoons.

Bonus Fish: While any other schooling fish might bite, Snow was surprised when his anglers caught seven sailfish in one day. Surf fishermen can purchase beach-driving permits and catch redfish from the sand.

Don’t Miss: Among the local attractions, Fort Fisher State Recreation Area has a Civil War fort and a North Carolina Aquarium (ncaquariums.com).


2. Murrell’s Inlet, South Carolina

Capt. J. Baisch runs Fishfull Thinking Guide Service (843-902-0356;
fishthinkguide.com) and Baisch Boys Bait and Tackle. He says he catches Spanish mackerel from the Murrell’s Inlet jetties to the artificial reefs.

“I like to hit Paradise and Pawley’s Island reefs,” Baisch says. “But if I see Spanish on the jetties, I start there.”

He trolls for schoolies with a No. 1 planer and a Christmas tree rig with a Clarkspoon. On the reefs, if Spanish are boat shy, he casts a Clarkspoon Stick Jig.

“For the biggest Spanish, I slow troll live menhaden or anchor and chum with live finger mullet. When Spanish start chasing the mullet, I switch to tossing them on No. 4 trebles.”

Bonus Fish: Be sure to have a spinning outfit rigged with a big jig at the ready for sight-casting to cobia.

Don’t Miss: Murrell’s Inlet MarshWalk has live entertainment and a slew of restaurants.

best-places-catch-spanish-mackerel-summer
Spanish mackerel strike nearly anything fast-moving and shiny. This one went for a Yo-Zuri Deep Diver. (Mike Marsh photo)

3. Tybee Island, Georgia

Capt. Jimmy Armel (912-239-7309; fishingtybee.com) mainly heads offshore in his 31-foot Sportsman center console to catch Spanish mackerel at Savannah and KC reefs, though sometimes he catches them within sight of land.

“I start with three-dozen live menhaden and plenty more iced down for chum,” Armel says. “If the fish are schooling, I slow troll live menhaden. If not, I drift or anchor over structure and chum.”

How well they bite depends on the tide, he says. “When the tide is strong and the Savannah River is flowing hard, I might catch Spanish along the beach, but they are finicky. That’s when I troll a Clarkspoon on a popping cork rig. The cork’s commotion attracts Spanish to the spoon.”

Bonus Fish: There’s a good chance of hooking a king mackerel or cobia here. Boaters can launch at Lazaretto Creek ramp.

Don’t Miss: CoCo’s Sunset Grille will cook your catch. Fresh Spanish is wonderful on the plate.


4. Sarasota, Florida

Capt. Jim Klopfer of Adventure Charters (941-371-1390; fishinglidokey.com) catches Spanish mackerel at artificial reefs. His favorites are the Alan Fisher and Lynn Silvertooth reefs, which he fishes from a 22-foot Stott Craft bay boat. He also catches Spanish in Big Sarasota and New passes on the way out to the reefs.

“If you see bait on the surface, cast a floating Rapala on a 30-pound test fluorocarbon leader and you will catch Spanish,” Klopfer says. “Once you get to the reef, chum with pilchards, then hook a live pilchard on a No. 1 longshank hook, drop it overboard and hang on!”

Bonus Fish: Target snook in the passes with float rigs baited with live pilchards or shrimp.

Don’t Miss: Back on land, consider a visit to Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium.

5. Grand Isle, Louisiana

Capt. Daryl Carpenter with Reel Screamers Guide Service (225-927-6388; reelscreamers.com) says Spanish mackerel are abundant around Grand Isle. He catches them both in the surf and from his 24-foot Blazer bay boat. Grand Isle has several charter operations and two public ramps at Fouchon and Leesville.

Surf fishing for Spanish mackerel is excellent along the beaches of Grand Isle State Park, as well as from the park’s ocean fishing pier. Simply cast a Gotcha to the surfacing schools in the waves and prepare for battle.

Bonus Fish: Grand Isle also boasts a tremendous speckled trout fishery. “Speckled trout anglers call Spanish mackerel trash fish because they cut the leaders off their popping cork rigs baited with live shrimp,” Carpenter says.

Don’t Miss: Stop for a meal at the world-famous Starfish Restaurant (starfishmenu.com).

How to Rig for the Inevitable Bycatch

Anyone fishing for Spanish mackerel is bound to catch other species, especially king mackerel and bluefish. It’s important to know the difference between kings and Spanish, though, as they have different size and bag limits. Gold spots, prominent on Spanish mackerel, are not the best indicator because small kings can have spots. Instead, look at the lateral line. A king’s has a pronounced dip below the dorsal fin, while a Spanish mackerel’s lateral line has a more gradual slope.

blue-fish-rig
It’s not uncommon to catch bluefish when targeting Spanish mackerel. (Mike Marsh photo)

All three species are attracted to the same offerings. They strike live, frozen and strip baits. They also hit fast-trolled spoons and Christmas tree rigs. None will turn down a casting spoon, hair jig or hard-plastic lure.

The type and size of the leader is the key to enduring strikes from these toothier species. Spanish mackerel are the most finicky and can be extremely leader shy. A typical short leader for Spanish is tied with 30-pound-test monofilament. However, when the water is clear, an angler may have to use 30 feet of 20-pound-test fluorocarbon for trolling a spoon behind a planer.

When kings or bluefish are in the mix, heavier hard monofilament leaders of up to 70 pounds may be required. If even that doesn’t stop cut-offs, wire leaders are the last resort. Choosing a leader is a balancing act because the more visible it is, the fewer the Spanish mackerel strikes.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Hunting Elk with the Ruger Hawkeye Long Range Hunter in 6.5 PRC

Hunting Elk with the Ruger Hawkeye Long Range Hunter in 6.5 PRC

Michael Cassidy and Paul Pluff talk about their elk hunt in New Mexico using the Ruger Hawkeye Long Range Hunter.

Catch More Bass on a Jerkbait in the Cooler Months

Catch More Bass on a Jerkbait in the Cooler Months

This one simple trick will trigger more bass strikes on a jerkbait during the fall months.

Understanding Reel Retrieve Ratios and How it Affects Lure Presentations

Understanding Reel Retrieve Ratios and How it Affects Lure Presentations

Increase a lure’s effectiveness by pairing it with the ideal reel speed.

Action and Power Ratings- How to Choose the Right Bass Rod

Action and Power Ratings- How to Choose the Right Bass Rod

Most fishing rods feature both an action and a power rating, but what do those ratings mean and how do you use them to select the right rod for different scenarios? In this video, outdoor writer and tackle specialist Shane Beilue breaks down the difference between a rod blank’s action and power and discusses what the various ratings of each mean.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Simplify breakfast or brunch for a crowd by making this savory venison chorizo quiche recipe.Southwestern Venison Chorizo Quiche Recipe Wild Game

Southwestern Venison Chorizo Quiche Recipe

Allie Doran - October 30, 2020

Simplify breakfast or brunch for a crowd by making this savory venison chorizo quiche recipe.

If you haven't looked at the smaller urban lakes in your area, you are missing out on some great bass pond fishing.Bass Pond Fishing: Catch Lunkers at Small Lakes Near You Bass

Bass Pond Fishing: Catch Lunkers at Small Lakes Near You

Dan Anderson

If you haven't looked at the smaller urban lakes in your area, you are missing out on some...

Celebrate with great food for your backyard BBQ or picnic with these outdoor recipes.10 Recipes for Your Backyard Get Together Wild Game

10 Recipes for Your Backyard Get Together

Game & Fish Online Staff

Celebrate with great food for your backyard BBQ or picnic with these outdoor recipes.

The colder waters of early spring are prime times to use these proven bait rigs for stripers.3 Proven Bait Rigs for Stripers Striper & Hybrid

3 Proven Bait Rigs for Stripers

J.B. Kasper

The colder waters of early spring are prime times to use these proven bait rigs for stripers.

See More Trending Articles

More Fishing

From striped bass to giant speckled trout and largemouths, these two southern destinations offer a variety of family fishing opportunities.Destinations: Fishing Fun in the Southern Sun Playbook

Destinations: Fishing Fun in the Southern Sun

John N. Felsher - July 24, 2020

From striped bass to giant speckled trout and largemouths, these two southern destinations...

Lake Erie and its onshore marshes offer potential for big smallies and wondrous waterfowling.Big Water, Ample Hunting & Fishing Options on Lake Erie Hunting

Big Water, Ample Hunting & Fishing Options on Lake Erie

M.D. Johnson - November 04, 2020

Lake Erie and its onshore marshes offer potential for big smallies and wondrous waterfowling.

Summer is fast approaching and the fish—from trout and bass to panfish and salmon—are biting. Here's a look at some of the West's hottest bites in the months to come.West's Hottest Summer Fishing Destinations Playbook

West's Hottest Summer Fishing Destinations

Scott Haugen

Summer is fast approaching and the fish—from trout and bass to panfish and salmon—are biting....

Want to tangle with giant striped bass during the fall months? Richard B. Russell Lake on the border of Georgia and South Carolina is the place to be.5 Fall Fishing Tips on How to Earn Your Stripers Fishing How-To

5 Fall Fishing Tips on How to Earn Your Stripers

Terry Madewell - October 12, 2020

Want to tangle with giant striped bass during the fall months? Richard B. Russell Lake on the...

See More Fishing

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now