One of summer’s top targets for the Hilton Head charter fishing fleet and recreational anglers alike is the Spanish mackerel.
These roaming marauders of the local waters are sleek, streamlined predators that forage on the bait schools around the sandbars and reefs. With an olive green back that fades to iridescent silver sides and round golden spots that run along the body, it’s a beautiful fish. Like all mackerel, it has a forked tail that screams speed, and it’s armed with a mouth full of teeth, making it a very efficient predator.
“I’ll be on Hilton Head next week and would like to charter you to do a little fishing,” drawled Doyle Evans from Oklahoma. Doyle and I had become friends years before, but had never pulled off a fishing trip together.
“How ‘bout some fast action, big fish on light tackle?” I asked.
“Let’s do it,” he replied.
We departed on a fine morning, sunshine and calm seas before us as we headed for a nearshore reef. We made a quick stop to throw the cast net on some menhaden, filled the live bait well and resumed skimming across a glassy ocean with a gentle swell, precisely why we were using light wire leaders on our rigs this day.
Traditionally, Spanish are caught trolling, usually with a long leader and a small spoon such as the Clarkspoon, some weight or a small planer in front of the leader. Flocks of seagulls and terns divebombing on the baitfish and the carnage wreaked on them from the mackerel schools below makes location easier. The spoons are then trolled around the fringe of the school so as not to spook them, but today we were changing it up a little.
We dropped the anchor alongside the reef and deployed the chum bag.
The water was clear and the bait schools were soon evident behind the boat as they swam up. I put a live menhaden on a small treble that had another “stinger” treble a few inches behind it. Doyle dropped it ten feet behind the boat and the show started. A half dozen Spanish blitzed the livey. The light Shakespeare Ugly Stik 12 lb rod bent double as the drag sang on the reel. After several scorching runs, a nice 5 lb Spanish hit the deck.
“Like fishing in an aquarium!” exclaimed Doyle, grinning widely.
And it was.
We repeated this scenario again and again. Sometimes we dropped the bait right beside the boat. The high-speed Spanish came from every direction, on the attack. It was a remarkable day with an old friend, and now, a great memory.
By Captain Miles Altman, Bay Runner Fishing Charters
Capt. Miles Altman of Bayrunner Fishing Charters has more than 42 years of experience fishing the waters surrounding Hilton Head Island. Don’t miss the Finatic boat, which features a special 3-hour shark/dolphin eco-tour trip. Contact Miles at (843) 290-6955 to book an unforgettable inshore or offshore charter fishing trip, departing from Shelter Cove Marina.