Fishing For Spanish Mackerel

Fishing For Spanish Mackerel

Spanish Mackerel (Spaniards or narrow-barred mackerel) are one of Australia’s favourite saltwater sportfish.

Sleek and built for speed, Spaniards use their body’s design to attack their prey at speed, slicing their way through the water before slicing their way through the baitfish they have honed in on! This high paced attack often sees Spaniards leaping from the water, sometimes up to 15m high, with baitfish fragments falling from either side of their razor-sharp teeth as they greedily go about their daily feeding.

Commonly found at lengths between 60 and 100cm, Spanish Mackerel can grow up to an impressive 190cm and over 50kg in weight! They are easily identified by the appearance of numerous thin and wavy vertical bands on the body and an iridescent blue-grey back that blends into blue/silver sides and a silver/white belly.

Spaniards are a pelagic species meaning they are constantly on the move and this means they need to eat a lot of food. That plays into the hands of anglers and means that average Spanish Mackerel are not too difficult to catch.

The most exciting way to chase Spaniards is with cast and retrieved topwater lures such as stickbaits and poppers. And while there are plenty of Spaniards taken on trolled minnow lures and baits, and even live and dead baits fished under floats, the real fun happens when a giant Spaniard rips a hole in the water’s surface as it crashes into your lure at full speed! These spectacular strikes often see the fish leaping clear of the water on the initial strike and even more rare, but equally satisfying, the Mackerel leaping out of the water to come down on your lure from above! 

Lure casting for Spanish Mackerel is about locating the fish more so than the retrieve used by the angler. There are two key locations to find Spaniards; on the pressure wave in front of a bombie or reef, or where large concentrations of fusiliers and other baitfish are found. If you can combine both a pressure wave and baitfish, you can almost guarantee that a Spanish Mackerel or three will be close by. 

When a likely area is found, long cast and fast-paced retrieves bring about aggressive responses from Mackerel. With poppers, strong blooping retrieves that shift a lot of water and make a lot of noise are ideal. If you’re using stickbaits, long sweeps of the rod can be effective, but most anglers prefer to retrieve the stickbait as fast as they can, while trying to keep the tail of the lure in the water to stop the lure tumbling and tangling on the leader.

Once a Spaniard is hooked the fight is on in earnest. The initial run is fast and long, often described as drag burning or making the reel scream! Line disappears from the reel incredibly quickly and you just know it’s going to be a big effort to recover all that lost line.

Thankfully, after the first big run, most Spaniards only have one or two smaller runs left in them, however they still demand smooth rod work and constant pressure to get them boat-side. Once boat-side, most Spaniards are gaffed and then despatched very quickly to avoid their razor-sharp teeth doing any damage to unwary fingers, toes and ankles.

Spanish Mackerel are a common species throughout their range, which extends from Coffs Harbour in NSW, north into Queensland and across the Top End, and then down the Western Australian coastline to just above Perth. The species is a welcome addition to most anglers catch bags as they are a beautiful fish to eat, however anglers must be warned that occasionally on the East Coast, Spanish Mackerel can carry the ciguatera toxin so oversized Spaniards tend to be released.

All in all, Spanish Mackerel rightly hold their place as one of Australia’s favourite saltwater sportfish. Fast, beautiful to look at, grow to impressive sizes and taste great on the plate –there’s not much more you can ask from any fish!

The Nomad Design DTX MinnowRapala Magnum X-rap Divebait & Rapala Magnum Xtreme 16cm are all fantastic lures to use if trying to land one of these awesome creatures!

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