The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 8 No. 51 - September 10, 2008

reel time

Rig light for exciting mackerel action

From the September 10 Issue
Reel time

SUN PHOTO/RUSTY CHINNIS Captain Randall Fowler lead his dad,
Randy Fowler, to some hot mackerel action off Anna Maria last fall.

September is the month when Spanish mackerel invade Florida’s west coast waters. They can be found harassing massive schools of bait fish that have begun the fall migration into the inshore waters. Tampa Bay, local passes and the Gulf should be jammed with these voraciously feeding game fish. Look for them as they slash though schools of bait, showering them skyward, as seagulls and terns wheel overhead.

This primordial ritual works to the advantage of anglers, guiding them to the heart of the action. But don’t make the mistake of the uninitiated who run their boats right through the melee. Approach cautiously, calculating wind and current to position your boat for a drift. Cutting the engine will keep the fish and bait from sounding and give you a much better chance at success.

Live bait, spoons, plugs, jigs and flies are all effective. Keep it simple and fish with light tackle. For the fly rod angler a light 6- to 7-weight outfit and small Clouser style flies are a perfect match. Attach a small 6-to 8-inch trace of light wire to a 30-pound butt section of leader using an Albright special. If mackerel become leader shy, try using double long shank hooks and mono leaders. Flies can be tied on these same hooks in lieu of wire leader. Light spinning tackle is also effective. Try the same light wire leader with small white bucktail jigs or silver diamond jigs. Ultra-light tackle from 4 to 6 pounds adds up to some exciting action on these speedsters. For those anglers who choose to troll, avoid running through the action and concentrate on the edges of the school.

Those anglers who don't own a boat can still find excellent action on Spanish mackerel. The bridges that span the Gulf passes provide a great vantage point to target mackerel. The areas near the main span often tend to be the best due to the increased water depth and current flow. The local piers including the Anna Maria City Pier and the Rod and Reel Pier should also be excellent locations to target mackerel. Size the weight of jigs, spoons and flies according to the strength of the current to provide the best action. The passes are also a great place to target mackerel from a boat. An early morning outgoing tide seems to be the best, but a good incoming tide can also provide great action.

No matter what your angling method always bend down the barb on your hook. It's unlikely that you’ll lose a fish if you keep a tight line. Mackerel are fast swimmers and have extremely sharp teeth. You need to release them quickly if you don’t plan on eating them. You’ll also stand a better chance of keeping your fingers and a clean boat if the hook can be easily removed. Mackerel is excellent table fare when prepared fresh, but doesn’t freeze well. So limit your catch to a fresh meal instead of catching your limit.

Spanish mackerel must be at least 12 inches, measured from the tip of the snout to the rear center edge of the tail. The bag limit is 15 per angler per day per day

Whatever your strategy, rig light and explore the Gulf, bay and passes, you’re sure to fall into some fast and furious action.

AMISUN ~ The Island's Award-Winning Newspaper