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Captain’s Corner: Mackerel make an early appearance

By Steve Papen, Times Correspondent
Published: March 3, 2018 Updated: March 4, 2018 at 07:05 PM

With air and water temperatures warmer than normal, the spring mackerel run is headed for an early start. Spanish mackerel are showing up in good numbers on the beach and on wrecks offshore in less than 60 feet. There also have been scattered schools of ravenous king mackerel offshore in these same depths. Concentrate on wherever the bait is located and constantly watch the bottom machine because these concentrations of bait can be found from 10 feet all the way to 80 feet this time of year. Action should pick up in the next few weeks as the fish head north for the summer. There are two main techniques in targeting these fish. First, troll a colorful assortment of spoons and jigs behind a planer, a very fast and effective way to find a concentration of fish in a large area. Start in areas such as the Betty Rose, Indian Shores reef and other large-profile structures because they typically hold large schools of bait. Another method is live baiting. An early trip to most area bridges with a cast net helps ensure a live well full of frisky baits. Live chumming is the preferred method to get these fish schooling around the boat. Live bait rigs for mackerel should consist of a long shank 1/0-3/0 hook and a 6-inch length of wire. Use a line-to-line knot to attach the wire to your monofilament, as the macs often hit swivels by mistake. As far as rigs for the kings, wire again will keep cutoffs to a minimum but increase hook size.

Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at (727) 642-3411 and