Like many fish in the Scombridae family, the Spanish mackerel is a speedster and a prized game fish. While Spanish mackerel are great sport on light tackle, they’re also often used as bait when pursuing large pelagic species, such as marlin and giant tuna. The Spanish mackerel has a slender, long body with silvery sides and a blue-green back. The first dorsal fin has spines, whereas the second has soft rays followed by a series of finlets. The fish closely resembles other mackerel but can be distinguished by bronze-colored spots and a black leading edge to the first dorsal fin, as well as pectoral fins that are edged in black.
During their migrations, Spanish mackerel school close to land, which makes them an ideal target for fly rodders in small boats and those located on piers and jetties. Anglers rarely gear up specifically to chase Spanish mackerel and are often armed with a “standard” nine-foot, nine-weight setup. What Spanish mackerel lack in size, they more than make up for in fighting ability, with long, blistering runs being the norm. In the early spring, Spanish mackerel are abundant off the Carolina coasts. The fish move north as the season commences, with fish found in abundance off New York in June and the New England states at the height of the summer.
Spanish mackerel can be found inshore, near shore and offshore. They tend to prefer open water but are sometimes found around structure like reefs and wrecks in large, fast-moving schools, which are routinely found off North Carolina through New York.
Spanish mackerel can be found throughout the Gulf of Mexico and up the Atlantic coast of North America. They’re abundant around Florida, but largely absent in the Bahamas and Antilles.