Although there is never a “sure thing” when it comes to fishing, the annual mackerel migration along the Alabama Gulf Coast is about as close as you can get.
Spanish mackerel and their much larger cousins, king mackerel, start showing up off Alabama when the weather starts to warm in the spring.
Slow-trolling for Spanish and small kings, known as school or summer kings, is a great option during warm weather, which lasts from late March until October.
If you have some fishing experience and want to bring a seaworthy boat to fish the nearshore waters of the Gulf, the area within sight of Alabama’s sugar sand beaches are filled with mackerel.
The Gulf Shores-Orange Beach area boasts a number of tackle/bait shops that will be able to outfit any angler with a variety of options for mackerel fishing. They will help you choose the correct planers and spoons, as well as terminal tackle and leader material. For Spanish, most of the time, a 25-pound-test monofilament or fluorocarbon leader is all you’ll need. If you run into a few king mackerel, you may have to switch out to wire leader.
If you catch a decent-sized mackerel and you’re not sure what species it is, the easiest way to tell is to raise the dorsal (top) fin. If the flesh connecting the spines is gray, it’s a king. It’s a Spanish if that flesh is black near the long spine.
An abundance of king mackerel has allowed the daily limit to be raised to three per person per day with a 24-inch fork length minimum.
The daily creel limit for Spanish mackerel is 15 per person with no size limit. The only problem with that liberal creel limit is that mackerel are somewhat oily fish and don’t freeze well. The best thing to do is catch the fish and cook them as soon as possible. Many restaurants in the area have hook and cook specials, where they will cook your daily catch in a variety of delicious ways.
Plan a trip soon to the beautiful Alabama Gulf Coast and enjoy the great mackerel fishing.