Last weekend, my buddy was casting a fly frantically into a school of false albacore off Stuart Beach when I noticed that he was casting nothing more than a leader. His chartreuse streamer had been cut clean off.
“Mack attack,” I said, slightly annoyed that we would lose this shot at a school of frothing “albies,” but excited that one of the most dependable, hard-fighting and delicious species is back in town for the foreseeable future.
The run stretches out from Jacksonville Beach south to Stuart through the fall. But Spanish mackerel migrate along both the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, wintering in the waters from roughly Stuart southward along the Atlantic, and in Florida Bay in the Gulf. The area known as “Peck’s Lake” between Hobe Sound and Stuart, off the Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge, and Florida Bay are to my knowledge the best Spanish mackerel fisheries on earth. Cero mackerel and king mackerel are also in the mix, especially in and around Peck’s Lake.
For fly and light-tackle anglers, the species offers drag-singing action and a guaranteed fresh fish dinner that you won’t soon forget. Kept cold and cooked fresh, you don’t need to do much more than coat the fillets in olive oil, dash with paprika and dill, splash on some lemon juice and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. It will melt in your mouth. If the fillets have been in the fridge for a couple of days fry them up.
From Sebastian southward, the fish are often targetable right from the beach, but later in the season the bigger fish are caught offshore. It’s all-ages fun but I can’t think of a better fish to get kids hooked on fishing and out in the bay. You can easily hire a guide out of the Stuart area or from anywhere in the upper Keys, including Key Largo and Islamorada