Spanish on Fly

By: Terry Gibson

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Some species will attack a fly more readily than any other lure, especially when the water is calm and clear. And certain feeding styles make it harder to hook some species than others, especially on fly.

The Spanish mackerel is one of the most popular nearshore/inshore species in the Fishing Capital of the World, and a case in point. In such cases, it pays to know something about the makeup of your quarry.

This swift, tasty fish feed on things as small as millimeter-long fry to six-inch sardines. They are what bio-mechanics specialists call “ram feeders.” If you’ve ever bobbed for apples, you know that feeding with your mouth only in the water is hard. Because the density of water is about the same as that of the prey, the prey tends to be pushed away.

Ram-feeding predators rush forward, mouths open, to engulf the prey along with the water surrounding it. The forage item remains fixed in space, and the predator moves its jaws past the prey to capture it. The motion of the head may induce a bow wave in the fluid, which pushes the prey away from the jaws, but this can be avoided by allowing water to flow through the jaw.

Ram-feeding predators, especially those capable of great speeds, tend to have great vision—a trait shared by all the tuna and mackerel speciies. Most of them, Spanish mackerel especially, sport razor-sharp teeth.

With these fiish, it’s nice when you can get away with a short piece of wire leader. But more often than not, you need a piece of translucent fluorocarbon to get strikes, generally in the 40-pound-test range. You can go lighter, but you’ll loose a lot of flies. One trick is to back-tie a Clouser Minnow on a long shank hook. Setting the hook is another trick entirely. They will usually follow the fly a good distance and attack it head-on. If you can get any angle to the side, strip strike then.

You will need at least an intermediate-sinking line and often a fast-sinking line. The fly needs to move fast. Either strip the fly while the rod under your arm, or use long strips beginning at the bottom guide and ending with your arm kicked out straight behind you. Six- to 8-weight rods are perfect.

These are rich, oily fish that taste great fresh-fried, baked or grilled. The trick is to keep them covered in lots of ice until they hit the fridge or pan.

Top spots for Spanish mackerel include:

Pecks Lake Reef: off Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge, east of Stuart. The fish are present from November through late March.

Florida Bay: Leave from the northern Keys or from Flamingo in Everglades National Park. The bay is stacked full of these fish all winter and well into the spring.

The beaches north and south of the mouth of Tampa Bay and areas within the Bay itself hold hoirdes of mackerel. The fish show up in the fall once the water temps drop into the low 70s.

Sarasota: This fishery occurs mostly outside and around  area passes and really peaks in October and November.

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