Mackerel Fishing Tips for Beginners: How to Catch Mackerel

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With the summer season around the corner, mackerel fishing is going to be a great pastime for fishing enthusiasts. Even if you’re a beginner, there’s no need to worry. Although it can be a little tricky, mackerel fishing is still quite similar to fishing other species.  

There are many methods for fishing mackerels, out of which aiming for the one with feathers is the best one. With the correct bait and a few tricks, you can definitely catch some delicious fish in no time.   

So, if you’re interested in learning some mackerel fishing tips, stay with us till the end.  

Methods of Catching Mackerel 

New to mackerel hunt? Don’t worry, we’ve got your back. If you’re just starting out with catching mackerel, you should gain information about the different methods of mackerel fishing. Here are the best ones with some of their pros and cons –   

  1. Mackerel Fishing Including Feather Method 

This is by far the best method for catching mackerel. Most expert fishers use this method for mackerel fishing. With a few weights, feather rigs, and a solid fishing rod, you can catch plenty of fish in a single go.  

All you need to do is position the rod in such a way that the mackerel feathers rise up like a swarm of bait fish. Again, when you aim the fishing rod forward, turn the reel of the rod along the slack line at the same time. 

Keep reeling in the slack line until you actually strike a gang of fish. And there you are! This method is easy and quite effective when it comes to catching a big group of fish.  

Pros 

  • Helps catch fish in a short time 
  • Works without any bait 
  • Great for catching a big shoal of fish 

Cons  

  • Difficult to get done from piers and other areas with height  
  • Not a good method for snaggy regions 
  1. Float Fishing Method  

This is another popular method that you can use to catch mackerel. Plenty of anglers love this method because it is a fun experience.  

The float fishing method involves the use of a float. You don’t need a lot of gear for this method, so if you’re out for a quick fishing session, this method will be perfect. However, this method can allow you to catch a single fish at a time. If you want to catch a large number of fish with this method, you need a few things. 

Here is the order list for this method:  

  • Solid float  
  • Bead 
  • Multi-hook rig  
  • Medium-heavy bass rod  
  • Weight  
  • Lead clip  

All you need to do for catching a good number of fish is to set up the rig first and place a bead beneath the float. 

Next, insert the mackerel feather traces within the braided main line fish bait. Hook the appropriate weight along the line of the clip and lure the feathers using some small bait fish shreds in a few turns. And you’re all set! 

This is a great method for targeting Spanish mackerel within a wide area. 

Pros 

  • Float is quite easy and fun to use  
  • Covers huge fishing zones  
  • Depth adjustment is possible  
  • Suitable for fishing in rough ground  

Cons 

  • Cannot work without a solid bait  
  • Usually targets single fish unless an additional rig is used 
  1. Spinning Method 

Spinning is also a cool method to catch mackerel. This method involves the requirement of a spinning rod, which is a fascinating tool. 

You will also need a pack of small lures with the rod. Try going for a light tackle and casting lures with sizes less than 1 oz+ for the best results. You can also go for something bigger than this size, which might involve getting a heavier fishing tackle.  

The tackle is the trickiest thing to balance in the spinning method. Once you get the hang of it, this method will be as easy as a piece of cake for you!  

You don’t need any expensive spinning rod to fish fresh mackerel. A basic rod would be more than enough to help you catch that shoal of fish. 

Pros 

  • Works without a bait  
  • Involves very light gear 
  • Includes a variety of by-catches  

Cons 

  • Hectic method of fishing  
  • Time-consuming 
  1. Ledgering Method  

Ledgering is called the ‘lazy fisherman’s method’ since it is an easy method to catch mackerel. Especially beginners enjoy this method a lot since it requires no skill or complicated handling. You can catch a bigger fish with this method compared to float fishing. 

It only requires fishing with weight along the course of the main line and a few techniques for bite detection. The weight plays a vital role in keeping the bait in its place. 

Pros 

  • Effective method for fishing in the acceptable depth of water 
  • Does not involve a knot for the rig 
  • Easy fishing method for beginners  
  • Helpful for catching other species 

Cons 

  • Requires a bait to work  
  • Does not favor fishing in rough ground 
  • Only suitable when fishes are at a close range 
  1. Fly-Fishing Method  

Last but not the least, we have the fly-fishing method, which is a less popular method among experts, but beginners love this method a lot. This is a successful method during good weather days, especially in shallow water. 

If you’re planning to go fishing on a bright and sunny day in a shallow water area, try this method, and you won’t be disappointed! 

Pros 

  • Works with minimum tackle  
  • Exciting activity for newbies  
  • Great method to try in shallow water conditions  

Cons: 

  • Cannot work when the fish are far away 
  • Low success in unfavorable weather conditions 

Guide to Catch Mackerel  

Now that you’re familiar with some of the common methods of fishing mackerel, let’s have a quick look at some of the points you need to follow for catching them properly: 

Best Season for Mackerel Fishing  

Summer is undoubtedly the best season for mackerel fishing. Usually, mackerel are found in seasons when the temperature of the water is very high.  

Peak summer and autumn are ideal seasons for fishing mackerel since water temperature remains raised during these times.  

There is plenty of food for mackerel during these seasons, which is why you can find shoals of fish in a single region. 

Fishing for mackerel becomes extremely hard during the colder seasons. Mackerel tend to disappear during the winter and fall seasons of the year. 

Best Time for Mackerel Fishing  

The most ideal time for mackerel fishing is during dawn or dusk, but you can try fishing during the nighttime. 

During these times, launces, sandeel, and various other small fishes are found abundantly. Shoals of hungry mackerel gather during early dawn or dusk to feed on these small fishes. You can try lure fishing for mackerel during this time to catch a large number.  

During the night, you can use a glow stick for targeting mackerel to the fishing rigs. Small shreds of mackerel can work as the best kind of bait during the nighttime. 

Best Baits for Mackerel Fishing 

The best baits for mackerel fishing include multi-hook feathers or a plain bait fish, most likely mackerel belly strips. 

Although most people opt for bright lures like spinners or spoons, there is nothing that beats the efficacy of feather strings. Most fishermen think that colorful feathers and straw rigs attract Spanish mackerel the most. 

But right now, this idea has changed. Popular feather rigs, or specifically a sabiki rig right now, include 5-6 treble hooks with plain colors imitating a small fish in the water.  

If you’re new to mackerel fishing, a good tip for you is to use the mackerel lures beneath the feather rig to make the bait look attractive. Spanish mackerel swarms more around this kind of rig compared to a plain one. This is why we recommend going for shiny objects as much as possible.  

Try using mackerel strips, squid shreds, etc., to grab the attention of a large number of hungry shoals. Other baits include sand eels, sabiki rigs, and some small baitfish which makes catching mackerel in the deeper water exciting. In other words, anything that tastes real works as the best mackerel lure.  

Best Place to Fish for Mackerel  

You can catch plenty of king mackerel around piers and deep water areas. With the right fishing methods, you can find mackerel in a shallow water column as well.  

The outer banks of North Carolina, the sea bed in Massachusetts, etc., serve as some of the best sites for fishing Atlantic mackerel. You can try rough ground fishing or boat fishing around these areas in the mackerel season. With the best mackerel lures and the best fishing tackle, you can have great fun catching lots of exciting fish. 

Best Rods and Reels

Rods and reels have a vital role in mackerel fishing. With the right rod and reel combination, you can improve your fishing skills more than before.  

The best fishing rods for mackerel would be a light spinning rod, beach caster, or surf rod. You can use a freshwater rod as well, depending on your convenience. Try picking a rod tip of around 24 mm for good results. Something between 10-13 ft. rod length works well for catching Spanish mackerel. 

You can pair this kind of light rod with a fixed spool reel of around 3000 in size. Reels of 6000-8000 also work well with mackerel fishing, but we recommend opting for lightweight reels to prevent any kind of seizing at huge distances. 

Final Words 

Catching mackerel can be a bit tricky, especially if you’re not familiar with the methods, tools, and appropriate fishing season. We hope our detailed discussion on mackerel fishing tips could be of some assistance to you. With the right techniques suggested by us, you can be a pro at mackerel fishing in no time! 


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Russ Egan

Russ is an avid fisherman. He has fished all over the world for more than two decades, primarily for saltwater game fish but also for local trophy fish. Russ writes reviews for all of his fishing gear to help others achieve their own fishing goals. His favorite reel is a Shimano Curado Baitcaster. His dream is to catch a Black Marlin.