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Catching Florida's Spanish Mackerel

Catching Florida's Spanish Mackerel Catching Florida's Spanish Mackerel
By Jim Hammond

Get on out there and get some. The arrival of the Spanish Mackerel brings fun fishing to Jacksonville, Florida.

Now that they have arrived you will see many anglers both Fly Fisherman and Conventional Tackle Fisherman getting their limits of these tasty fish.

Here are some of the tricks for catching your share.


To troll for these fish you will need the following:

1. Bait Casting style reels.
2. Bait casting rods, from six to seven feet in length, medium to medium heavy action.
3. Spool the reels with 50 pound test PowerPro line.
4. Sea Striker # 1 size planners, one for each rod.
5. A supply of 00 and 0 Clark Spoons, with the red bead.
6. 20 to 40 pound test monofilament leader.
7. 100 and 50 pound test snap swivels (BLACK)

The set-up:

Spool the reels with the PowerPro line, from the line on the reel tie on a 100 pound test snap swivel and clip it to the planner. From the other end of the planner clip on a 50 pound test snap swivel, tie to this 10 to 20 feet of monofilament leader line. To this tie on a Clark Spoon.

Repeat this step for each rod you intend on using. I like to troll three rods and have a couple more ready to use if you snag one and lose your rig (this sometimes happens).

TRICK: paint your planners flat black.

Now that you have your rigs ready, make your way to the jetties on the last of the incoming tide. LOOK FOR THE DIVING BIRDS (terns). They are your friends and will tell you where the fish are. The fish are driving up glass minnows and the birds are feeding on them, so this is generally where the fish are.

Get your boat speed up to about 4 to 6 miles per hour and send out the planner rigs. I like to let out about 50 to 75 feet of line before locking the reel down. When the planners are engaged, the rod will bend pretty good and will be almost impossible to hold for any length of time. Place the rods in the rod holders and troll around the outer edges of the diving birds. When you have a fish on the bend will be gone from the rod and the rod will be jerking and bouncing around. DO NOT troll through the middle of the birds, as you will scatter the fish. If you troll around the edges you should be able to catch plenty of Spanish without sending the fish off in another direction.

Keep in mind, the further that you let the planner out behind the boat the further DOWN the planner goes.


To be successful with the fly rod you will need the following:

1. A fly rod that you can cast about 75 feet or longer.
2. Extra fast sinking line.
3. 30 pound test monofilament leader.
4. A fly that looks as much like a glass minnow as possible.

If you visit the Orvis web site at you can see pictures of a few of the patterns that work well and they are, Glass Minnow, Bead Eye Charlie, Bearded Charlie, Deep Water Gotcha, Spawning Gotcha, Kirk's Fly Spoon (in silver) and the Cowen's Albie Anchovie. These are just a few of the proven Spanish Mackerel flies. Orvis will sell you the fly or the material to make your own. When you find the fly that you want to tie, click on the picture and you will have a list of the materials needed to tie it yourself.

These fish are feeding on GLASS MINNOWS and that is what they want. They are not interested in mullet, shrimp or anything else, they want GLASS MINNOWS. The point that I am trying to get across is tie your flies to look as closely to glass minnows as possible. If you can work with epoxy, this is the way to go.


Again, find the diving birds, ease your boat up close to them and make your cast in the middle of them. Let the fly sink until it reaches about 20 feet deep. Strip the line back to the boat as fast as you can. The fish also gather up along the edges of the jetty rocks and you sometimes can cast along the edges to pick up a few fish.


The tackle needed:

1. A light spinning outfit with a rod about 7 feet in length, I like the Shakespeare IM7 Intrepid.
2. 10 to 20 pound test PowerPro line on the reel.
3. 00 or 0 Clark Spoons, with the red bead.
4. Thirty pound test monofilament leader line.
5. Barrel swivels, very small, black.
6. 1/2 ounce trout weights, painted black.

Spool the reel with the power pro line, from there tie on a barrel swivel or the trout weight, then to that, tie on about 1 to 3 feet of leader line and to that the spoon.

Find the birds or go to the end of the rocks and cast your spoon in the middle of the diving birds. Let the spoon sink to about 20 to 30 feet. When the spoon is deep enough, WIND LIKE HECK. These fish are fast swimming feeders and the faster that you can wind there more you will generally catch.

Size and Bag limits in Jacksonville, Florida for Spanish Mackerel:

The bag limit has increased from 10 fish per person to 15 fish per person, with the minimum size limit of 12 inches long at the fork.

Recipe for smoked Spanish, Um, Um, Good.

Fillet the fish, leave the skin on. In a sauce pan, melt 1/2 stick butter, add 1/2 of a beer (NO LIGHT BEER), add some crushed garlic and onion.

Place the filets skin down on the smoker, brush on the concoction in sauce pan. Let smoke until done, usually, one to four hours, depending on the heat of your smoker. Call me when they are done so I can come over and taste test.

For charter information, you can call me at (904) 757-7550 in Jacksonville or email me at [email protected].

Good Fishing
Capt. Jim Hammond

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