by Jarrod Day
When it comes to targeting pelagics, Spanish mackerel tick all the boxes. Found in the warmer waters of the Indo-West Pacific region, particularly in tropical and sub-tropical waters. They are offshore, pelagic (surface-dwelling) fish and live around offshore and coastal reefs. Spanish mackerel are pack hunters, swimming in large schools terrorising baitfish. For an angler in search, they are lure eating machines and put up a fair and entertaining battle. Vicious in their attack response, they are everything a sports fisho dreams of. They strip line from a reel at high speed, take any lure presented to them and go aerial when hooked-up.
When mackerel are located, you can bet you’ll get a double hook-up at some stage.
Where to find
Spanish Mackerel are quite an easy species to target in the ocean. Often, they can be found lurking around offshore reefs and bommies or where currents converge. They are quite sleek and very fast in the water and are always in search of an easy meal. Anglers in search tend to focus their efforts on structure such as reefs, bommies or even jetties which extend into deeper water. In offshore waters, reefs and bommies attract a large array of baitfish species. Spanish, being the pelagic hunter that they are, tend to cruise the reef edges always on the lookout. In areas where currents funnel through coral atolls and around reefs, you can always bet a spanyard will be around somewhere ready to pounce on anything resembling a baitfish.
Those in search of Spanish mackerel use trolling or live baiting as effective methods. When it comes to lure fishing for Spanish mackerel, they can’t resist a lure and while trolling has its own specialised methods, high speed spinning is without doubt the most energetic and brutal.
Before getting straight into the specifics of high speed spinning, using the right outfit for the task will make the entire equation much more comfortable and enjoyable.
High speed spinning can be undertaken with practically any rod and reel package although if you want to enjoy the brutal battle, a light but good quality outfit will make the challenge of landing the fish far more enjoyable.
Graphite rods in a 7ft in length with a line rating of 8kg’s will suffice as the majority of Spanish mackerel encountered range between 4 and 10kg’s. Larger fish are possible and providing your knots and line is up to spec, you’ll have no problems when taking on the battle. While there is a myriad of outfits available for every price point, I choose to use a Wilson Blade n Tails extra heavy which has never once shown signs of struggling when under the pressure. A 4000 or 5000 series reel is more than adequate and I would personally have it spooled with 20lb braid just to get the upper hand early to avoid the catch being eaten by sharks.
Once a bommie or reef has been located, small metal slugs become your weapons. Ideally, something shiny in a 30-60g weight is about the standard unless there is current to contend with. In that case, you may have to up size to something a little heavier. Having found a potential location, drop the metal slug over the side letting it sink to the desired depth. If fishing in heavy terrain, don't let the lure hit the bottom or it will become snagged. Once at the desired depth, flick back the bail arm and wind like a banshee Indian. After around 10 turns of the handle, stop and pause for five seconds letting the lure sink a meter or so, then crank again. If there are any Spanish around, they will be hot on the lures tail in seconds. Before the lure is ripped out of the water, pause for a few seconds more. Often a fish that has been chasing the lure but missed the opportunity to get it before reaching the surface, will inhale it on the pause. If no luck, drop the lure and repeat the process.
If the reef you have chosen to begin with doesn’t produce, move off to the next and continue to work the areas where they could be possibly hanging out. In saying that, jetties can often produce Spanish mackerel to. Lucinda in FNQ is a very productive jetty and while spanyards might be the main target, you can always expect the welcomed by-catch of fingermark and various trevally species. Fishing a jetty as such should have most of the focus put on the pylons. In this case, free-spooling the lures next to the pylons is an effective technique, followed by the consistent crank back to the top.
High speed spinning for spanyards can see a variety of lures be used but some can be quite expensive. With such a sharp and savage teeth array that Spanish mackerel have, lures are lost very quickly once they attack them. To save losing lures, it pays to tie on a short length of wire or Kevlar leader in front of the lure. Don’t just opt for any wire though; single or 49 strand is quite rigid which can impede the lures action. Where possible, use a flexible wire or Kevlar. Kevlar looks more like a thin rope or braid and is extremely strong. Another is Graphite Metal Tresse which is basically a braided line made from metal fibres woven in with braid.
When it comes to lure selection, Spanish will eat anything and everything. In saying that, I still prefer to use chrome and shiny blue colours just to add some flash into the water column on the retrieve.
Metals being used should weigh from 30g to 60g depending on depth and location being fished. Sea Iron 45g jigs have been working exceptionally well for me and being chunky in their design, make vertical spinning easy. Hooks should always be upgraded, if you’re taking fish home for a feed, treble hooks will secure a fair hook-set but they do make a mess of the fish’s mouth. If you fish for sport and release your catch, stick to using a 4/0 sized single lure hook. The hook-up rate will be excellent but the damage to the fish will be minimal compared to that of when using treble hooks.
Spinning for Spanish mackerel is a lot of fun and very easy to do once you have found a potential location where there are fish. Light tackle is all the rage nowadays and with a spanyard on the end of your line, you’ll be in for some serious high speed mayhem.