IT’S MACKEREL time on many coastlines! Despite below-par catches from beaches in recent years in many areas, they are relatively abundant around the whole of the British Isles.
It’s now, in these warmer months, when they can be found in colossal shoals, pursuing bait fish such as sandeels.
Being a true shoal fish, individuals have zero time to be fussy over a potential meal, which makes mackerel very easy to catch. But here are some mackerel fishing tips to follow…
Spinning and float fishing are successful mackerel tactics, but a string of feathers beats all methods and is exciting stuff, especially with a full set of six lively fish on the line at once – it’ll certainly put a pleasing bend in your rod.
Powerhouse beachcasting rods aren’t essential for the odd feathering session; a stepped up 12 ft carp rod is perfect. I use a 3.25 lb test curve model and couple it with a pit reel loaded with 12 lb monofilament with some stronger line to act as a shock absorber.
A 3 oz distance carp lead is more than adequate for reaching mackerel shoals, which can sometimes swim within a few yards of the shore as they wreak havoc on their prey.
One of the prime mackerel locations in the country is Chesil Beach, in Dorset. This linear shingle storm beach stretches from Portland to West Bay.
It’s a hugely popular fishing spot, but with over 18 miles of beach available, you’ll always find an area from which to fish.Angler’s Mail magazine contributor Matt Sparkes went there to give you this great advice…
1. Mackerel are our country’s most prolific and recognisable fish. They are found along the whole coastline of the UK, where colossal shoals mean bumper hauls are a possibility, with a full string of fish on nearly every cast – especially on a rising tide. The most effective way of catching mackerel is to use a string of feathers. These basic lures are retrieved through the water, mimicking small bait fish, such as sandeels, which is the staple diet of mackerel. Any colour seems to work, from plain white through to vivid day-glo orange. Fancier brands score well, too, with strips of glittery tinsel and silver reflector strips designed to glint and flash through the water.
2. Chesil Beach is part of the Jurassic Coast, in Dorset, and stretches from Portland to West Bay, making it around 18 miles long and probably THE most prolific mackerel venue in the country. Made entirely of pebbles (18 billion apparently!), Chesil is a steeply shelving beach that continues below sea level, offering a decent depth of water just yards from the shore – perfect for dense shoals of bait fish and mackerel and ideal for pleasure anglers that can still catch fish regularly without the need for regular extreme casting. In the summer, visiting anglers flock to Chesil, but don’t fret, with so much beach there’s always plenty of room to join in with the action, even if it sometimes involves a trek along the shingle.
3. This is what the summer mackerel are after – sandeels. They love ’em, and shoal up in their tens of thousands in pursuit of these little fish. With a decent depth of water just yards from the shore, mackerel shoals can pursue sandeels within an easy 60-80 yard cast, making them catchable with carp gear.
These sandeels actually beach themselves in their desperation to evade being engulfed by a myriad of hungry mouths. Mackerel feathers mimic these prey fish, and all colours and designs work well. When mackerel are really in abundance you can even catch them on a bare hook!
4. Although extreme casting isn’t always essential at Chesil Beach, occasionally they’ll be just out of range of an easy lob with a medium-size reel. For this reason I opt for a Big Pit reel, which is the ultimate casting tool favoured by carp anglers fishing large lakes.
For line, 12-14 lb mono is fine, but a shockleader is essential to prevent it snapping on the cast. Distance-style carp leads of around 3 oz should reach the mackerel shoals easily, attached to the end of the string of feathers. A finger stool protects your index finger from repeated casting, and a priest dispatches mackerel destined for the table or for winter pike baits quickly without any prolonged suffering.
5. A decent cast with a stepped-up carp rod is perfectly adequate for a spot of mackerel feathering, especially when the shoals are just that little bit too far out to be reached with regular spinning gear. I prefer to use a 3.25 lb test curve model for my feathering, finding it thumps out 3 oz leads with ease, and also has the backbone to crank in a full set of six hard-scrapping mackerel!
6. Mackerel feathering couldn’t be easier. You simply attach a pre-tied string of feathers (costing around £2 to £4) to your shockleader, add a lead at the end and you’re set to go.
Cast out and tighten up a second or two after the lead hits the water, then begin the retrieve immediately, simply by pulling the rod back in one continuous sweeping motion while keeping it at waist height. You then bring the rod forward again while reeling in the slack line quickly and repeat. You’ll know when you’ve hit a shoal of mackerel – everything suddenly goes solid and then it’s simply a question of pumping them in. A full string of mackerel will certainly give you a decent scrap, especially when they near the shallows and all try swimming off in different directions!
7. Salt left on your gear will quickly corrode any metal components and can ruin favourite reels in no time at all. Remember to give your reel a thorough rinse as soon as you get home, paying particular attention to the bale arm and roller. Rods will need a rinse off, too, as rings will soon succumb to the damaging effects of sea salt.
Don’t forget that coarse fishing gear can be used for BASS, WRASSE, AND OTHER SEA FISH.