One of the surest signs of summer along the South Carolina coast is when droves of Spanish mackerel arrive off the beaches. Guide John Koonce of Shoal Bandit Charters said the little mackerel have flocked to Charleston Harbor and can be caught casting or trolling diamond jigs and Clark Spoons.
“One day they will be stacked up along the north jetty, and the next they will be across the harbor on the south jetty,” said Koonce (843-425-2939). “One of the best ways I use for locating them is by trolling up and down the jetties and watching for signs of them feeding on baitfish.”
Koonce said Spanish are feeding on small glass minnows, one of the many baitfish species migrating into coastal waters. He has two different approaches: troll until he finds them, then cast to them, or simply troll until he starts catching them and concentrate on trolling that area.
“There’s so much bait in the water now, they really tend to scatter all over the jetties,” Koonce said. “I just put out a couple of rods and troll at about 5 knots. At times, you’ll troll up on a big school of bait, and the Spanish are just tearing into them. That’s when we drift up next to the school, reel in the trolling rods and start casting to them.”
Koonce trolls with medium tackle, 10-pound test, and he will rig a ½- to ¾-ounce egg sinker about 2 feet out in front of the bait. He prefers to troll diamond jigs and Clark Spoons. He’ll cast a diamond jig to Spanish, making as fast a retrieve as possible.
“I sometimes wonder how these fish can hit a bait so hard that’s moving that fast and never get the hook,” he said. “I’ve tried rigging stingers and trailer hooks, but it seems like when they’re hungry they will stay on, and when you’re getting reaction bites, just expect about half of the fish to come loose.”
Koonce said he has also had success catching bigger Spanish mackerel using a small menhaden under a popping cork that he casts into a school.
“We did that a couple days ago, and a 25-pound King came tearing through and hit the bait,” Koonce said. “Nobody seemed to mind.”