Usually by the end of September, schools of Spanish mackerel form off the beach ahead of the fall migration. They gather to feed on the baitfish that are flushed out of area passes. John's Pass, Clearwater Pass, Blind Pass and the pass at Pass-a-Grille are good places to begin your search. Typically, seabirds dive on the bait schools and give away their location. Freshly caught Spanish mackerel are not bad on the smoker or grill as long as they are iced as soon as they are caught. Another reason for catching mackerel is as bait. Sharks and barracuda love them. There are massive numbers of barracuda awaiting the run of mackerel. They usually hunt in groups of five or six, but a barracuda school might number in the hundreds. Locate one of the published, man-made county reefs. Barracuda notoriously patrol the structure like wolves. The strike on a trolled, rigged mackerel is explosive and sometimes appears malicious. It's almost like they know when your mackerel isn't rigged and will take their share of your prized catch. Reeling in a mackerel head is evidence of their precise skill. The proof is when you find a surgical bite only a fraction of an inch behind the hook.
Larry Blue charters the Niki Joe from Madeira Beach Marina. Call (727) 871-1058 or visit captainlarryblue.com.