South Florida is famous for its Spanish mackerel runs. These silver-sided fish are generally 1-3 pounds in weight, but the Florida record is a whopping 12 pounds (the world record is 13!). They don’t require as much of a gear commitment as many big game fish-and can be caught with light tackle from spinning, fly or bait cast rigs.
Since Spanish mackerel feed in big schools and chase their prey to the surface, you can often spot their location by watching for small terns and even pelicans diving down to feed. We went to our Florida fishing expert, George Poveromo, for some tips on how to catch these beauties. While December is the time for famous mackerel runs, spring through late summer is a prime time for fishing these quick open-water fish.
Here are some tips from, George Poveromo, for your next big adventure.
If big game fishing isn’t for you, but catching great eating fish in a relaxed setting is, December marks the start of the Spanish mackerel run. These crowd-pleasers can be found anywhere from along the beach on out over the deeper reefs. However, they concentrate heaviest along shallow reefs and ledges between 30 and 50 feet of water.
This is somewhat simple fishing; the boat is anchored along a shallow reef, a chum bag is hung over and maintained throughout the day, and live baits (small to medium pilchards being best, followed by live shrimp) are free lined back into the chum slick. Once the Spanish arrive behind your boat, they’ll feed recklessly. Yet, boat a few and they’ll become more cautious.
Light spin tackle with 8lb test monofilament line that’s topped with a few feet of 12lb test monofilament, a tiny barrel swivel, six inches of 30lb test Titanium leader and either a 2/0 long shank or 2/0 in line circle hook, is all you’ll need.
Once the mackerel become wise to your baits, toss out some “freebies” and live chum them back on the feed. The next step, once the bite wanes, is to remove the Titanium leader and tie a long shank hook directly to the mono top shot.
You’ll lose some fish to cut offs, but you’ll get strikes you wouldn’t have had by sticking with the Titanium leader. A white bucktail tipped with a live shrimp, incidentally, is also a deadly offering; jig it through the chum slick. Trolling small spoons, feathers and swimming plugs will also see action. It’s a productive alternative if you don’t have live bait.
A couple prime Spanish mackerel spots from Fort Lauderdale exist off the Sunny Isles pier. Both are reefs and troughs; the shallow one is within 30 to 38 feet of water, whereas the outside one is in the upper 40 to 50 foot deep range. Leaving Port Everglades Inlet, hang a right and run south approximately ten miles.
These shallow reefs are excellent to fish when the wind is cranking from the northwest, typical with an approaching cold front, as they’re sheltered by land. What’s more, Spanish mackerel turn on under high pressure associated with cold fronts.
Thanks George! See you out fishing!
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