Spanish mackerel has to be one of the most enjoyable species to hunt. One does not have to be a deep diver or have a long breath-hold to take these fish, one must only apply the basic pelagic hunting techniques and spend enough time in the water. Mackerel appeal to many divers because of their exciting fight.
You can find mackerel in many different terrains and conditions and they will surprise you now and then, by appearing out of nowhere in an unexpected place. However, if you target mackerel you will find yourself often hunting in a current. Mackerel are a predatory fish and they target baitfish, yakkas, slimy mackerel, fusiliers etc. Baitfish are easily found at the current side of some structure, a bommie, island, promontory (headland), wreck etc. Where current hits a stationary object it stirs up food into the water attracting the baitfish to feed. This is where you will find mackerel hitting the bait. At times the current is not so strong and you can locate yourself at this hotspot but where the current is strong the idea is to do regular drifts over it.
Burley and Teasers
To increase your chances of taking a fish it is effective to use burley and teasers or flashers. Too much burley will attract fish but often it increases the sharks in the area and makes hard to land a fish. Usually a slow and regular dribbling of burley into the water is sufficient. Old fish frames etc. from an earlier hunt are ideal. The extra activity of the baitfish eating your burley also attracts bigger fish. The person on the boat, while watching the divers in the water, can help lay a burley trail as well.
Teasers send regular flashes of light into the water that can be seen at some distance. This action approximates feeding or injured fish. Mackerel are very curious and so long as you don’t make aggressive movements towards them, they will often surprise new guys with how close they will swim, checking out not only the teasers but also the diver.
In a current one supports the teasers in the water with a small float designed for this. The float bobs up and down with the surface water movement causing the silver plates to spin and flash. One chooses the depth to drop these teasers and ties the line on the flasher float at that level. It should be far enough away so the fish are not intimidated by the diver’s proximity.
It works that a diver and his buddy has one set of teasers between them. They enter the water up-current of the targeted hotspot, with enough time to load guns and set the teasers. The diving is done one up, one down, with the diver on the surface watching his buddy to ensure he/she returns safely. Although the diver on the surface may pull on the teaser line to excite more action, his main job is to be the safety diver for his buddy.
If there are mackerel in the area you can almost guarantee they will come and have a look. What you do with that can make the difference between taking a fish or not. Mackerel can be so brazen and surround you as a school, making it very easy to take a shot. But this is not always the case. They often are a bit wary and will disappear as an inexperienced hunter dives hard at them, eyes wide as saucers, gun extended. Your body language is often the difference between getting a good shot or not. Everyone will, in time work out their own way of disguising their eagerness, but disguise it you must. No hard and hungry looks at the fish. Looking away often brings them in as does calm movement in the water, not obviously towards them.
Usually targeting mackerel while drifting in the current is not hard diving. It is composed of time floating along interspersed with moments of intense action as the speared fish run. A great way to spend time.
Safety Tips in Current
- Don’t swim constantly against the current. Your time below the surface is going to get more fish and a puffing diver, already tired from fighting a current will struggle to dive well, and to dive safe. You can always do more drifts.
- Stay with your partner. If he/she has a fish on, it may need a second shot. When dive buddies split in the water both divers are more at risk. Diving is more fun shared.
- Use floats, float-lines and flags. If you are on a hotspot on the reef it is likely that other fishers and divers will visit. The most dangerous thing in the ocean for a diver is not sharks, it’s boats. Your floats and flags reduce this risk by a great degree. It is also important to display a large Alpha Dive Flag from your boat while diving.
- Watch your buddy for the entire dive and a short time after surfacing. Blackouts usually occur close to the surface or even on the surface. If the diver goes out of sight because of low vis, follow his rig line.
The Mackerel Experience
Mackerel are fun. They are exciting, and unlike kingfish and dogtooth tuna they usually fight clean, in open water, increasing your chance of landing the fish. They are beautiful in the water, their long silver shapes ghost out of the depths, sleek and silent. And they are delicious, raw or cooked in many different ways. I hope you enjoy the mackerel experience as much as I do.