Fishing for Spanish mackerel off the Virginia Coast is popular during the summer season. Spanish mackerel usually appear in the ocean in July and remain active until late September.
Spanish mackerel are usually associated with shoals, tide rips, color changes, and current upwellings, all of which are common just off the Virginia Beach oceanfront. Schools of Spanish mackerel often indicated by agitated baitfish, diving terns, or other marine life.
Trolling is the most common technique for catching Spanish mackerel along Virginia’s coastal waters. Tackle for catching Spanish is somewhat specialized due to the species’ keen eyesight.
Line size and capacity can be important when Spanish mackerel fishing, especially when king mackerel are present among the schools. If Spanish mackerel are the only species present, light to medium spinning outfits may be all that is needed. More often, the use of planers and the variety of fish species that may be present will dictate the use of heavier outfits.
Several models of spoons are effective for catching Spanish macks, especially those offered by Clark and Drone. When rigging spoons for Spanish mackerel, it is important to choose the correct leader size and length as both attributes can play a critical role in success.
When conditions allow, anglers usually choose 50 pound test line over lighter lines for a number of reasons. First, heavier leaders are much easier to manage. Secondly, they give anglers a better chance when king mackerel, cobia, large bluefish, striped bass, or other species are hooked.
When fishing in clear water conditions, it may be necessary to use 30 pound test leaders. The length of the leader is also critical, with 20 feet usually being considered the minimum.
In clear water conditions, flourocarbon leaders can also be effective. Although more expensive than traditional nylon monofilament, flourocarbon line is less visible to wary fish.
To get lures to the correct depth, anglers use inline drails, small planers, or a combination of both types when fishing for Spanish mackerel. The most common planer sizes for catching Spanish mackerel are usually #1 or #2. Drail sizes will vary depending on conditions. A basic setup for mackerel fishing should include 2, 4, and 8 oz. drails.
A typical trolling spread for Spanish mackerel might include one or two planer rigs off the stern and drail-rigged spoons off the outrigger lines. Some anglers also fish a small feather jig behind a tiny bird rig, fished far back in the spread on a center line. Regardless of what type of rigs are used, it is imperative that lures be spaced correctly to minimize tangles.
When trolling for Spanish mackerel, speed is also important. Anglers often report that Spanish will not bite trolled lures unless they are traveling at or above a minimum speed. In most locations, 6 knots is considered a good starting speed. Some boats troll as fast as 7-9 knots when fishing for Spanish macks.
It is important to note that trolling speed will be limited by the type of gear used. Planers put considerable pressure on trolling outfits and when speeds exceed about 6 knots, line or equipment failure can occur. To deal with this issue, anglers usually choose drails only when conditions require higher trolling speeds.