When Mackerel Get Finicky

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Eric switched spoons three times before discovering what the mackerel would hit.

Sometimes catching Spanish mackerel is such a piece of cake it seems silly – birds are diving, fish are busting bait, and anything you toss into the fray gets snapped up the moment it hits the water’s surface. At other times, however, those mackerel can get downright finicky. And few things are more frustrating than retrieving a lure through fish that are busting water over and over again without getting a strike. So, how to you trick those finicky mackerel into taking the hook?

angler with a mackerel

Eric switched spoons three times before discovering what the mackerel would hit.

  1. Change your spoon or lure color. In the above picture the spoon that (finally) worked for this angler was silver with green prism tape. This day four anglers were casting four offerings: plain silver, plain gold, pink/silver, and blue/gold. Fish were jumping all over the place, but bites were few and far between. Everyone started switching colors and when Eric put on the silver/green, he got hit immediately. Everyone found a similar greenish color spoon, and everyone began hooking up on cast after cast.
  2. Change your spoon or lure size. When the fish are feeding on three-inch anchovies, they may ignore a two-inch spoon and a four-inch spoon. Size matters.
  3. Try speeding up your retrieve or trolling speed. It’s rare that slowing down will get mackerel to bite, but speeding up often does the trick.
  4. Try allowing your spoon to sink well beneath the fish before beginning a retrieve. For whatever reason, there are times when they seem to prefer a presentation that goes from down deep up to the surface.
  5. Add weight a few feet from your spoon if casting and/or up-size your planers if trolling. Even when you see the fish jumping, sometimes getting the offering down a few feet makes a world of difference.

Finally, remember that when you’re fishing with a pack of boats that’s chasing breaking fish, leaving is sometimes the best option. It may feel crazy to do so, but a bunch of boats can make these fish skittish. Sometimes, if you leave and can find a school of fish that isn’t being pressured the difference in the bites will be night and day – no matter what your offering may be nor how you’re presenting it.


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