Fishing With Straws? Get Ready to Catch Some Spanish Mackerel
The Macs were talking about are Spanish Mackerel and they should start the spring run sometime soon now and of course, with them comes their cousins the King Mackerel, following right on their heels. Spanish mackerel or just Spanish are commonly caught here in Florida and here in Venice. For a real tongue twister; they can be found offshore, inshore and near shore. Spanish love clear water and their eyesight are very good. I rarely catch any with metal leaders although I am tempted to use them because of their sharp teeth. Leaders are a must but only mono ones of the 25 pound test class or higher should be used and they will still be cut like butter. This fish swims in large schools whose presence is often given away by excited birds overhead. The Spanish mackerel feeds on schooling bait fishes such as greenbacks or threadfins. Spanish mackerel is a surface-dwelling, near-shore species, which will migrate over long distances in large schools along the shore. As water temperatures in the south increase, it moves north, entering the Bay when temperatures exceed 63 degrees F. They live in the coastal waters of the western Atlantic Ocean, from the Gulf of Maine to the Yucatan Peninsula and are a schooling fish, preferring shallow coastal ocean waters, but they freely enter tidal estuaries. A description of a Spanish would be: color of back green, shading to silver on sides, golden yellow irregular spots above and below lateral line; front of dorsal fin black; lateral line curves gently to base of tail.
Armed with a handful of straws, a packet of #1 long shank Eagle Claw Hooks, 25 # test mono fishing line, a couple of 1 ounce egg weights, and barrel swivels; we are ready to make the ultimate lure of choice and my number one favorite: The Straw! Yep, you heard right and you will catch more fish with a straw than anything in your tackle box ever and you can take that to the bank! What’s more, which would you rather lose; that big dollar Gotcha or that 10 cent hook on the free straw? You add it up.
Cutting a piece of leader at 18 inches in length of the 25 # test line, tie it a # 1 long shank hook. Measure the straw and cut it at the length of the shank of the hook. Feed the leader line into the straw and pull the straw down over the shank of the hook. Tie the open end of this leader to the barrel swivel. Your lure is made! It is not ready to fish yet but it is made. Make up a couple of more because you will need them before the day is out. Think of the color assortments? I prefer white with a green stripe, much like the natural green backs around the City Pier at Sharky’s. Taking the 1 ounce egg sinker and running your line through it from your rod tip attach your line to a snap swivel. Now you can attach the barrel to the snap and we are ready to fish. Make sure that the barrel and snap swivel are black in color and not silver, gold, bronze or anything else or the Mac Attack will happen on your swivel and not on the straw.
Spanish mackerel are extremely speedy fish with excellent vision, and that steers you in the direction of reels with a high rate of retrieve, in excess of 6-to-1, in order to get your lure moving fast enough to draw a strike. As far as rods are concerned, surf-spinning or bait casting rods with a lively tip are a plus in my book. Beyond getting the right equipment, “you’ve got to be able to cast a country mile and reel as fast as you can.” That’s about all the technique that’s involved. Using the straws as a jerk bait or quick retrieve, bounce off the bottom; even trolling in tandem on an umbrella rig is great for catching King Fish; though whole straws are used in this method.
While fishing the pier here at Sharky’s or on the jetties, I concentrate on fishing the first few hours of the morning and last few hours of the evening for Spanish mackerel, which seem to bite better around piers during periods of relatively low light. Fishermen who are targeting Spanish mackerel from piers and often from jetties generally use only two or three methods: casting, live baiting or jigging. If the Macs aren’t on the bite for straws, I stick with a heavy casting plug called a “Gotcha.” It typically comes with a pair of treble hooks, usually gold hooks, and its sloped face is perfect for jerking in a side-to-side motion. You retrieve a Gotcha plug by snatching it with your rod tip. It imitates the action of a baitfish trying to get away from another fish. The darting action is awesome so watch out for those hooks when handling this beauty or you’ll see why they call it a Gotcha! I like working the Gotcha all the way back until it’s almost directly under the pier, among the pilings, because a large percentage of his hookups come close to the pier. “About 90 percent of my strikes are right by the pier, as opposed to the straws whose strikes are usually as the lure enters the water and begins its initial run.” Another way of scoring Macs is fishing live baits under a float and no more than four or five feet below the surface; close to the pier. A third method for taking Spanish mackerel is jigging a gold hook rig right up against the pier. A gold hook rig is a series of gold hooks on dropper loops that are jigged vertically close to pier pilings.
My tackle box is usually a real mess where if anybody where to look into it they would say, “how can you find any thing in that?” to which I would reply, Oh it’s my system, I get to it every once in awhile. What a crock, it’s a mess but it is full of gear and the gear it is full of is mainly Sea Striker lures and Gotcha’s along with lots of straws because even straws sometimes do not work and the fish just want the Gotcha. Win or lose arm yourself with both and be prepared! In the battle with the plug game I like the old 100 series Gotcha, the standard red & white one but that is not to say I do not have at least one Electric Chicken and one 151 in my box, if I can just find it?
All the methods work; I just like using straws an seeing the look on that guys face next to you when you have a double hook up and he says “what you using for bait?” and you answer with “STRAWS!”