Mackerel is a favourite eating fish, be it simply pan fried in butter, smoked, or being made into paté, it is so versatile it will always be a firm favourite.
It is also the first fish many anglers ever catch. Numerous anglers have been introduced to fishing by dropping feathers into the sea and pulling up mackerel. Surely it can't be that easy, can it?
Well, in short, yes it can, but only if the fish are there and the conditions are right. Generally, when they are there and in abundance many people have a "Mackerel Day", where they will be out at first light and hopefully back ashore with their catch before the sun gets up and too hot. I like to get the smoker going and prepare and smoke and then vacuum seal my fresh line caught fish which will then last the year.
Rigs are very simple ... in the main they consist of feathers. However, how many feathers, what size hooks, and what colour feathers? That is where it starts to become technical.
A few tips: Keep it simple. We have found that those using maximum of 4 feathers will generally catch more than those using 6 or more feathers. Because there is less scope for tangles, this results in more effective fishing time. Another top tip is to flatten the barb on the hook. As long as the fish are reeled in under tension they will not come off, but once onboard will fall off the hook easily.
This is a must do tip for those wishing to keep fish for live baits. Mackerel do not take to being handled and will die soon after if they have been touched with bare hands. However, if you do not touch the fish and provide it with cool aerated water then it will stay alive for many hours.
The technique is really quite simple. If the boat is over a shoal of fish the skipper will alert you to the approximate depth they are at. Failing that, it is a case of dropping your feathers over the boat and trying different depths. Maybe start at the sea bottom and work your way to the surface jigging the feathers as you do so. The act of moving the feathers up and down in the tide is the favoured method and when the fish are biting there will be no mistaking "Fish On".
Generally, mackerel are considered a numbers game. People stocking up and filling up the freezer and providing for family and friends ... 'Make hay whilst the sun shines'. The numbers game also comes into effect when being collected for live baits or bait for the day, the anglers will want to "Catch their bait as quick as they can".
Mackerel For Sport
A growing attraction is to enjoy them for their sporting attributes. The mackerel is a member of the tuna family and pound for pound is a very fast and hard fighting fish. Many anglers are now choosing to target them with a single lure on a very light rod. Many are now using fly rods and catching them on the fly.
As well as being a versatile table fish its also a versatile fish in the manner in which its targeted and caught. Because of the numerous methods and techniques used for catching them there is also a whole menagerie of tackle configurations. For general mackerel fishing (Table and Bait) then a 6lb to 12lb rod is ideal. Either fixed spool, or multiplier.
A top tip is instead of using a plain lead on your set of feathers is to use a Pirk, or similar weighted lure, this method is responsible for catching some fine Bass, which are often swimming below the shoals of mackerel. (At time of writing, there is a ban on keeping bass for rod and line pleasure anglers).