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Macks in the black.

Each year since commercial trawlers were banned, Spanish mackerel schools have grown. The schools have expanded to the point they're no longer just a species that visits our area in the winter. Truly one of the great success stories in fishing, these tasty gamefish demonstrate an abundance and eagerness to bite that endears them to any Southeast angler who likes to put a line in the water.


Spanish mackerel were caught in good numbers along the beaches all summer. But the peak run begins now. Locally, the shallow reef area sometimes called the "Kingfish Hole" east of the St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park features unmatched numbers offish. It's no secret the fish are here, so expect some company, and be prepared to contend with perhaps a hundred commercial castnetting boats as well. That's why some anglers avoid the area despite its great fishing.

Crowds aside, this is one great spot to fish. My favorite technique by far is to throw single-hook jigs in an area where fish are present. With all the other boats it's not a bad idea to anchor, put out a chumbag and start doling out frozen or fresh glass minnows. The mistake I see anglers making is to not work the lure fast enough. Erratic doesn't hurt either, but that can lead to more lost lures as the fish hit the leader versus the bait.

While the epicenter is just south of Stuart's St. Lucie Inlet in about 20 feet of water, there are other options. Schools are dispersed throughout the region, including area inlets and the Intracoastal Waterway.

For the casting-challenged, or when trying to find fish away from the crowd, trolling is effective. Small Clarkspoons work great, although they're a little painful to lose due to their cost. Cheaper jigs with a little tinsel or Mylar work just as well and also aren't as subject to the spin factor. Swivels must be used and even then it is imperative to check for line twist to avoid breakoffs.

One thing I have found immensely useful when trolling for macks is to put one lure a little deeper. An old-style planer will work, but mandates such heavy tackle that I prefer a downrigger. While the main beauty of trolling is that it covers a lot more water, it also ensures a higher hookup ratio for novices as well as keeping you on feeding fish.



The mackerel themselves also make great bait for spinner sharks moving through the area. Though they tend to set up for the winter off Hobe Sound, Singer Island and all the way down to Boynton Beach, these migrating predators must pass through here first and now is the time. It takes beefier gear, but their fast bites and aerial battles make for a primo game. Also, don't overlook the species that gives the area its moniker. Kingfish up to 50 pounds gravitate to all the food sources in the area. Slow-trolling a whole live Spanish mackerel, goggle-eye, horse mullet or big blue runner double-hooked with a wire leader is generally considered the most effective technique for smoker kingfish. Keep in mind that the consumption of kingfish over 31 inches fork length is not recommended due to elevated methylmercury content. However, there's no law that says you can't enjoy the smoking runs of these fish and then release them--especially since there are plenty of tastier Spanish mackerel to take home for dinner.

Launching in Port Salerno at Sandsprit Park in the Manatee Pocket, it's a short run to the fish; hang a right at the inlet and you'll see the fleet. Being so close to shore, there are days when small boats can access the mackerel even when it is rough offshore.


Conventional wisdom might say it's a little early, but sailfish season kicks into gear this month. Live-baiting might be better in the heart of winter, but now's the time to troll. No matter what lures or bait you prefer to drag behind the boat, dropping a dredge off the transom is a great fish attractor. Composed of real or fake baitfish, they can be as complicated or as simple as you make them. On my small boat, the clear plastic-strip dredges with fish shapes are the most convenient. They don't come cheap but it sure is nice to pull a big bag from the console and within minutes deploy what appears to be a massive school of baits behind the engine. They don't just bring up sails, either, as curious dolphin often come into the spread to take a look.

Everybody knows about the link between cold weather and sailfishing--the colder the front, the farther south the sailfish migrate. Choppy days can really light up the fishing. Following the front, the wind goes offshore. Seas are often a tolerable three to five feet inshore of the massive swells in the Gulf Stream, especially south of Jupiter. Not fiat by any means, but not life-threatening scary either.
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Author:White, Eden
Publication:Florida Sportsman
Geographic Code:1U5FL
Date:Nov 1, 2009
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