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  • Writer's pictureRaeford Brown

Spanish Invasion

In the early Spring, along the North Carolina coast, the invasion begins. Fishermen of all ages love to hear that Spanish Mackerel have been caught from the shoreline to the deep blue ocean.

It’s a sign that winter has long departed and the surf temperature is 68 degrees. Around these parts, we may get some warm water in April, but the most action will begin in May.

At dawn, there’s a steady stream of boats, large and small (sometimes TOO small) making their way across the bar, and every eye on every boat is on the lookout for Spanish Birds. These birds can spot schooling glass minnows, dive down and grab a couple, in a New York minute.

Where there are masses of glass minnows, you’re almost guaranteed to find Spanish Mackerel having a feast.

I believe one reason that Spanish fishing is so popular is because the fish is so easy to catch. You don’t have to have an expensive boat or fishing tackle that requires a second mortgage on the house. An inexpensive rod, either open face or a spinner, with a light rod is sufficient.

For the lures, you can get started with the easiest, and the least expensive, of all of the selections at tackle shops. Clark Spoons. They come in several sizes, two basic colors, with some added colors that Clark has unveiled in recent years. Even as a guy who has tried virtually every type of bait anyone has recommended, I still enjoy the simplicity of tying a little piece of metal with a hook onto my fishing line, and run about 5-6 MPH just outside the breakers, just enjoying life

In reality, my setup these days will see 5 rigs in the water. One will be a Yozuri Deep River about 3 inches long... and it will be pink. That lure will be about 60 yards behind the boat. I’ll have two planers, one rigged with a silver Clark spoon, the other with a gold one. The planers are cool little devices that will take your lure down anywhere from 10 to 40 feet of water, depending on the size of the planer, the distance it’s pulled behind the boat, and the speed of the boat. I like a number 1 and a number 2 planer. That puts the two Clark spoons at two different depths. When a Spanish hits the lure, it causes the lure and fish to trip the “trigger” on the planer, sending everything to the surface.

My other “go to” rigs will be Clark spoons, one pulled about 20 feet behind a 2 ounce trolling sinker. I like the ones with beads coming out of both ends.

Helps keep the line from twisting while you’re trolling. One of the lines will be pulling about 25 yards back, the other about 10 yards. The leads will keep the lures a few inches from the surface, allowing them to reflect the sun’s rays, and that is what gets your prey’s attention.

Now, a couple things. I like to use a small swivel (Kroc 70 pound swivels) tied to my fishing lure. From that, I tie a 15 or 20 pound test Fluorocarbon line to the swivel, and tie the lures to the other end. Fluorocarbon is less likely to be seen by the sharp-eyed Spanish Macks. Two reasons that I use the smallest swivel is because Spanish can see larger swivels, and they will attack it. Their teeth are sharp, and you’ll end up losing your lure if that happens. The other is so that the swivels are small enough to go through the eyes on my rods. Otherwise, you’ll have to “hand line” the last 20 feet of leader and fish to the boat. That will lead to a tangled mess on the deck, especially if you have two or more fishing coming in at the same time. Of course, you will still have to “hand line” in the planer rigs.

The idea is to get the fish in, and get the rig back in the water as fast as possible. Nobody catches any fish when the lures are not in the water. In North Carolina, as of right now, the minimum size for a Spanish Mackerel you can keep is 12 inches “fork length”. That’s from the tip of the nose straight back to the “fork” of the tail. Total length would be to the folded tip of the tail. For me, 12 inch fish don’t provide a lot of meat. A 16 inch or larger are easier to clean and provide enough meat for most people.

Here's a warning. Learn how to identify Spanish, and be able to distinguish between a Spanish and a King Mackerel. The NC Marine Fisheries web site has pictures of the two side by side.

Some juvenile Kings will have similar spots to the Spanish and a lot of newcomers have found themselves in some hot water when being checked by Marine Patrol officers. Even though a 20 inch honest to goodness Spanish is a nice fish to catch, Kings have to be at least 24 inches. Not unusual to find Kings mixed in with schooling Spanish, and it’s a distinct possibility to hook up with a King. Just make sure it’s at least 24 inches

If you like this kind of information, please let us know. I’ve done a lot of fishing, mostly in the ocean, and I enjoy fun fishing when I don’t have to get too serious.

George Papastrat who, along with his wife Elyse, own Tideline Marine. He managed to hook up with a decent Spanish Mackerel about 20 inches long. Note the spots. In a future article, I’ll show you the difference between Kings and Spanish, with some tips on how to tell the difference. Photo Credit to Raeford Brown.

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