What Do Spanish Mackerel Eat?

Spanish mackerel love to hit shiny fast moving lures. Once you locate the schools, the silver spoon is your best bet for catching tons of mackerel. Spanish mackerel eat small fish like threadfinned herring, scaled sardines, anchovies, minnows, and finger mullet voraciously. and any other fish that they can bite into pieces.

Hunting in schools, Spanish mackerel will drive the bait balls close to the surface in a very organized manner. Members of the mackerel family employ a teamwork strategy for feeding, which is unusual for fish. This feeding strategy is employed by king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, and cero mackerel.

I run fishing charters off Florida’s Treasure Coast. For more than 40 years, I have been fishing in Florida’s beaches, oyster bars, grass flats, and pretty much everywhere else.

I’ll teach you everything I know about catching Spanish mackerel in the article that follows.

Spanish mackerel are a warm water fish. When the waters warm up in the spring, they arrive in Florida, and when the waters start to cool down again in the fall, they depart. They migrate North and South based on water temperatures.

They are very easy to spot when they are feeding. This is true because they will strike their prey with such force that they become airborne from underneath the schools. They might emerge from the water at a height of four to five feet. If you can get a spoon into the feeding frenzy, it will do the trick.

Spanish mackerel like small fish to eat. The least tern is one of my favorite indicators that the right kind of fish are present for Spanish mackerel. A fish of no more than three or four inches in length can be handled by this tiny white diving bird, which is about the size of a cardinal. Those are the anchovies, thread fin herring, scaled sardines……. The mackerel prefers to eat those exact same fish.

Larger tern species like sandwich terns, royal terns, and caspian terns, as well as pelicans, compared to the least terns, which are all larger terns that are about 20 inches long. All of these various bird species can direct you to the Spanish mackerel schools.

Because they are easy to spot, birds are a great way to find fish that are feeding. You can tell that the underwater predators have not pushed the bait balls close enough to the surface for the diving birds to reach them when they are circling rather than diving. You must fish deep to catch the mackerel if you are angling that school of fish.

Because different bait runs happen in Florida from the spring to the fall, the beach is the best place to find mackerel. Additionally, they will be present in bays, harbors, grass flats, inlets, and tide rivers. and nearly everywhere else where there is food available for them to eat. Spanish mackerel must be found in clean water because they are sight feeders.

When approaching a school of Spanish mackerel that is actively feeding, be careful not to spook them because they could flee or move deeper into the water column. Don’t worry about it if you aren’t in a boat.

A silver spoon is the best lure for catching Spanish mackerel. When fishing with spoons for mackerel, the faster the retrieve, the better. Even if you have a barrel swivel attached to them, your fishing line will twist and you will get bird nests in your line, so they are not my preferred lure to catch Spanish mackerel.

The 3 inch shad with a paddle tail and the Gotcha lure, in my opinion, will catch you just as many Spanish mackerels without tying your line up. The Gotcha lure shown in the image above resembles a silver cigarette and has treble hooks hanging from it. When you quickly retrieve this lure, its angled face causes it to wobble from side to side.

It is quite easy to fish with. You should quickly cast it out and reel it back in. With your retrieve, you don’t need to pause or twitch your rod tip in any way. Cast far and reel it back fast. Slow down your retrieve if you are not getting any bites after starting out quickly.

Another excellent lure for virtually any fish that swims in the sea is the 3 inch soft plastic shad with a paddle tail. Spanish mackerel, snook, speckled trout, flounder, redfish, tarpon, bluefish, lane snapper, mutton snapper, sheepshead, pompano, permit, whiting, and snapper have all been caught by me. with this lure.

90% of the fishing I do uses this lure, and since I work as a fishing guide, I need to put people on fish to keep them satisfied. If you want to consistently catch fish inshore and off the beach, you do need to become an expert with this lure.

Casting and reeling in Spanish mackerel quickly with an erratic and jerking retrieve is the best method. You cannot reel a lure in any faster than a mackerel can swim, I assure you. Be unconcerned about reeling in too quickly for them to catch it. If they want it, then they will catch it.

Some other great lures are jigs. Jigs catch just about every fish. To catch fish that move quickly, such as Spanish mackerel, you can swim them quickly. To catch the slow fish, such as flounders, you can bounce and drag them on the bottom. You can use them to vertical jig grouper, snapper, tarpon, and a variety of other fish species.

A feather jig of some kind might be the lure you want to focus on honing your fishing techniques for because you can use it to cover the entire water column. The ones that resemble longer minnows work best for Spanish mackerel.

Mackerel will slam your lure if you quickly reel them back with an erratic, twitching retrieve.

A large Spanish mackerel weighs 5 pounds, so catching one doesn’t require a lot of rod and reel. Your favorite trout rod will do the trick just fine. The perfect combination is a 2500 series reel and a 7 foot medium action rod. Additionally, every mackerel you catch will feel like a whale on the end of your line as a result of this.

For a mackerel rod, you can extend it up to 8 feet for an additional 20 to 30 feet of casting range. On my lighter rods, I like to use a 10 pound braided line because it will extend my casting range by an additional 10 yards. You should make a nice long cast to a mackerel so that it can find your lure and eat it.

If you don’t use a metal leader, you’ll lose a lot of lures. Even though you don’t need one, they will prevent you from being cut off constantly. Because of their keen eyesight, they can be picky, but a wire leader is still a good idea. They frequently approach your lures from behind, failing to notice the leader until they have been hooked.

You can use live bait to catch mackerel when they are nearby the boat or right off the beach. I’ve caught them using live shrimp, sardines, herring, finger mullet, pinfish, and I’m sure other things I can’t recall. They will therefore consume whatever is placed in front of them.

Spanish mackerel are easy for me to catch with a tiny circle hook. I do this for a few different reasons. Spanish mackerel hit and eat on the run. They keep moving, so you don’t need to use a circle hook to set the hook when they bite your live bait. As they swim away while holding your bait in their mouths, they will hook themselves.

Nine out of ten times, circle hooks will catch the fish at the corner of the mouth. That is the way they were designed. This is fantastic because you won’t get cut off as much without a wire leader. Additionally, you avoid killing any fish that you don’t want to keep by doing this. They will often swallow a j hook.

There is no need to use a larger circle hook than a 2/0. That will work almost perfectly when using live bait to catch Spanish mackerel. Your baits won’t typically be able to swim properly with the hooks in them if you try to go bigger. Keep in mind that Spanish mackerel prefer to consume small fish up to 5 inches long.

It’s fun to catch Spanish mackerel off the beach or wherever you’re fishing for them. They are excellent fighters and, when properly prepared, are suitable for the dinner table. When you locate a school of feeding fish, you can catch a ton of them because they are in schools.

From March to about October, you can find them in any of Florida’s open water areas, so get out there and wet some lines.

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Gear & Rigging

Your equipment can range from a light to medium 7-foot rod to a heavier 8-foot rod depending on the size of the Spanish mackerel, with the action centered in the middle of the rod rather than necessarily at the tip.

Both a standard level-wind reel and a medium spinning reel will work.

You must be ready for a fight right away because mackerel feed while they are on the move.

For this species, many anglers prefer to use a fairly sturdy fly rod, especially when using streamers that mimic quickly moving bait.

Casting is best done with braided line, and higher test fluorocarbon may stop the mackerel from repeatedly snagging the line.

However, be sure to take along some wire leader.

Before you lose too many rigs, you should switch to a wire leader if you start losing fish.

Circle hooks are always advised for all Florida fish because they reduce the risk of gut-hooking and killing fish that would normally be released.

What Does Spanish Mackerel Taste Like?

When prepared with common ingredients like lime juice, melted butter, or other types of light oil and spices, Spanish mackerel fillets are typically described as having a very mild flavor that tastes great.

Spanish mackerel has a milder flavor than other fish species, making it a great fish to serve when introducing someone to wild-caught seafood.


What does Spanish mackerel like to eat?

Spanish mackerel consume shrimp, squid, and small fish like anchovies, sardines, threadfin herring, and silversides as well as other seafood.

What is the best bait for Spanish mackerel?

Spanish mackerel, which can be caught using bait and lures, will eat almost anything, including sardines, mullet, cut bait, squid, and shrimp. Although they favor quickly moving bait, they are not particularly picky when they are feeding. Anglers with experience always have shiny spoons and other heavy metal lures available.

Do Spanish mackerel eat at night?

Even though Spanish mackerel can appear at any time of the day, many savvy anglers focus their efforts in the early morning and late evening hours because these are the best times to catch this species. Spanish mackerel rarely eat at night because they prefer to save their energy for daytime hunting.

How do you target Spanish mackerel?

How to Target Spanish Mackerel
  1. Try using a small gold spoon. …
  2. Watch for those gray-hounding fish. …
  3. Utilize a quick retrieve, and if you’re trolling, increase the speed to eight or nine knots.
  4. Planer or weights can be used to lower a lure below the surface.
  5. Watch for birds.

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