What's hot: Spanish mackerel have invaded Old Tampa Bay. The annual migration is in full swing. These fish can be easily caught. Look for them around range markers, bridges and shipping channels. They are a schooling fish and therefore travel in large groups. Initially look for bird activity or surface frenzies.
Tip: Once located, mackerel can be attracted and concentrated by using a chum block, a smelly concoction of ground by-catch from shrimpers that usually is frozen into a solid chunk. Hanging one over the side of the boat will almost always bring fish to you.
Safety: There are several important things to remember about mackerel. They have very sharp teeth that they will use on anything, especially humans. They are often hooked in the skin instead of the mouth. Handling a freaked-out mackerel with hooks flying around can be painful as well. Playing the fish with a loose drag is imperative because the hooks will pull easily.
Tackle: Using a hook with a long shank is helpful for preventing biteoffs. Thirty-pound test leader material is somewhat forgiving if the fish hit the bait above the hook. Some anglers use single-strand wire. It is very effective but much more difficult to work with, as well as time-consuming when it is time to rerig. Many people perceive mackerel as oily or "fishy," but I think they are delicious. The secret is to ice the fish thoroughly and eat them fresh. They lose some of their desirable texture when frozen.
Dave Walker charters out of Tampa and can be reached at (813) 310-6531, at www.snookfish.com or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.