Spanish can be caught on artificial lures and natural bait, but I prefer to cast lures to the schools of feeding fish. Anything silvery with a bit of flash will produce, but my favorites are small 00 size Clark spoons and 1/2 ounce to 3/4 ounce Hopkins Shorty lures.
Spanish macks sport an impressive array of very sharp teeth. Catching toothy critters usually means wire leaders are in order, but wire will discourage takers, so I'll opt for a couple feet of 40 to 60-pound test fluorocarbon leader in front of my lures. I'll lose a few lures to the mack's razor sharp teeth, but I'll get the bites and you can't catch 'em if they don't bite! A very fast retrieve, about as fast as you can turn the reel handle, is key.
If you run up on a school of feeding mackerel, avoid charging through the middle of the pack. Approach the feeding fish from the side of the school and cast into the commotion. Often the fish will go down deep when approached by a boat, but will remain in the area. When this happens I'll cut off the motor and drift, especially if my sonar is marking fish. I'll drop the lure to the bottom and work the water column vertically from the bottom to top. While I'm drifting I might suspend a Clark Spoon about three feet below a float, cast it away from the boat and let the wave action work the lure. Usually the fish will resurface, sometimes right next to the boat! Trolling lures at least 100 feet behind the boat at five knots will also draw strikes.
Some folks don't care to eat Spanish mackerel, but I like them. If you plan to invite a few home for dinner, be sure to get them on ice immediately and cleaned as soon as possible when you get back to the dock. Keep only what you can eat within a day or two. They are an oily fish and do not freeze well, but this makes them an excellent candidate for smoking. Smoked mackerel makes an excellent fish dip. I also like them broiled or fried.
If you fillet your macks, be sure to cut out the row of fine bones that run laterally along each side, beginning at the head end of the fillet. Two quick swipes with a sharp knife will take care of that problem.
Spanish Mack Attack!
Spanish mackerel are seasonal visitors to Charlotte Harbor, and are most abundant during the spring and fall seasons. These aggressive feeders can often be seen slashing through schools of baitfish, but if you don't see mackerel going airborne as they crash the bait, birds will be hovering above the carnage, waiting to pick up bits of baitfish left behind by the feeding mackerel. Follow the birds and you will find the macks.