The Scomberomorus maculatus is a mackerel species that swims to the Northern Gulf of Mexico in springtime and returns in fall to south Florida in the Eastern Gulf and Mexico in the Western Gulf. There are a variety of Spanish mackerel groups that inhabit Florida waters, including the Atlantic group and one or more Gulf groups. As water temperature rises, the Atlantic group migrate along the western Atlantic coast from Miami in Florida to as far as Cape Cod in Massachusetts, before returning in fall. The Eastern group migrates from the Florida Keys during late winter and spring and slowly continues westward until they reach the northern Texas coast. During fall, this group will migrate back to its wintering grounds in the Florida Keys.
Spanish mackerel have green backs and silver sides that are marked with roughly three rows of round yellow spots. Their lateral line makes a gradual curve downwards from the upper end of the gill cover toward the caudal peduncle. The first dorsal fin is spiny and black at the front. White posterior membranes have black edges. There is a single row of cutting edged teeth in each jaw and they are large, closely-spaced, uniform and flattened. These teeth appear similar to those of the bluefish, as is the case with King mackerel and Cero mackerel as well.
Spanish Mackerel prefer shallow waters. Sand bottoms are ideal in depths ranging from 10ft to 40ft and occasionally they can be found as deep as 80ft. Opportunistic hunters, these fish are voracious and their diet consists mainly of small fish and even shrimp and squid. Striped anchovies, menhaden, alewives and thread herring are devoured greedily, although anchovies are eaten more by juveniles than adults.
Fast, exciting fish to catch that are generally found in abundance, Spanish mackerel play an extremely important role in sports fishing. Anglers target them for a variety of reasons. Some enjoy their taste although their flesh is too oily for most people, some delight in their speed, others thrill in their numbers and serious fishing enthusiasts catch them for bait fish. They are preyed on by almost all the big game fish in these waters. Here are some tips for Spanish mackerel fishing in Florida:
Bait for Spanish Mackerel
Live bait such as striped anchovies, fusilier and other small fish works wonders. These fish can also be caught on lures and artificial baits, as well as frozen bait.
Techniques for Spanish Mackerel
There are several ways that Spanish mackerel can be caught and they all work with varying degrees of success. Most of these methods will also work for fish such as tuna, giant trevally, queenfish and other smaller mackerel species. Another advantage to the variety of techniques is that there is always something else you can try when one is not working. The screaming first run of a big Spanish mackerel is exhilarating. They will take your lure or bait and swim away fast, while your rod bends over double. Here are some ways to catch them:
- Trolling lures and rigged bait is one of the best methods to use for working an area to find the fish. It will not be long before you locate them.
- Livebaiting for Spanish mackerel is highly effective. Always have live bait in the water when fishing around structure such as reefs or shallow wrecks. These fish love live bait and will take it readily, particularly if dangling from a bobbing balloon.
- Casting and jigging requires more effort but can make all the different when other techniques are not working. Retrieving a metal chrome jig at high speed is very tempting for Spanish mackerel to bite.
- Floating baits is another easy method. Bait that is floating or drifting in the water is responsible for a high number of nice Spanish mackerels.
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