Spanish mackerel are thick right now, so it’s time for a quick reminder of mack basics. Although they’ll take shrimp or live baitfish, lures are generally more efficient. It’s a good idea to replace treble hooks with stout single hooks. Mackerel have lots of very sharp teeth, and there’s always a risk of injury when you’re unhooking them. A single hook is much easier to remove than a treble. When you’re catching and releasing, a single hook also does less damage to the fish. A spoon with an off-center wobble is probably the best possible mack lure. Reel it straight in, with no pauses or twitches. Faster is usually better — mackerel are very attuned to chasing high-speed prey. Try to match the spoon to the baitfish. Right now, that means a smaller spoon inshore because the macks are chasing glass minnows and small whitebait. If you discover the macks are after bigger Spanish sardines, switch to a bigger spoon. You may be tempted to use wire leader to keep the fish from cutting you off, but this will reduce your bites and sometimes all but shut them down. Better to use 60- or 80-pound monofilament. Once you decide you’re going to keep a mackerel, the first thing to do is get it on ice. Mackerel spoil quickly, and the flesh gets soft and pungent if the fish are left at ambient air temperature. Mackerel are very easy to clean for the table. Simply cut the fillets off each side. With the fillet facing skin down, cut just above and just below the bloodline all the way down to the skin. Then grab the strip of dark meat and tear it free. That will rid the fillet of both the pinbones and the fishy taste. Spanish mackerel freeze poorly and are best eaten the day they’re caught (one day later at the most). Best recipe ever: Smear the fillet with mayonnaise, sprinkle with salt, pepper and Old Bay, then broil until lightly browned.
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