Summer fishing wouldn’t be complete without Spanish mackerel on the menu. From the middle of May through Labor Day, Spanish call the nearshore waters along the coast home, and for anglers in South Carolina’s Grand Strand, the tide lines extending from two major inlets create a fish-in-the-barrel situation where a 15-fish limit is almost a piece of cake.
On the north end of the Grand Strand in North Myrtle Beach, David Cutler of Lowcountry Fishing Charters expects the first run of Spanish to arrive around rocky bottoms 5 to 7 miles off the beach in early May, then just off the beach when June arrives.
“Our Spanish migrates closer to the beach following the bait when the water warms up and along the tide lines,” said Cutler (843-222-7433). “The tide lines sweep up the bait and give the Spanish a place to hide, giving them camouflage and an easy opportunity to feed.”
Tide lines are places where two currents or water bodies meet in the ocean, creating lines of that separate waters of different colors and/or temperatures. They carry floating debris and foam and harbor large concentrations of baitfish. Glass minnows and other small baitfish will either get swept up into the tide line or will be attracted to it to hide from predators.
Pelagic fish look at tide lines as a buffet due to the massive quantities of bait associated with them, and Spanish mackerel are one of the most-popular predators to step up to the table since they are generally within a few miles of the beach.
Tide lines are easy to find in most cases, especially where Little River Inlet and Murrells Inlet dump water into the ocean. Tide lines will extend from the inlets into the ocean and are easily identified by a color change and often a foam line. Trolling is the best way to get fish to cooperate.
Cutler will leave Little River Inlet and run right to the tide line, then starts trolling a four-rod setup with brightly colored Clark Spoons in tow between planers and trolling weights.
“I pull two small (Nos. 0 or 00) planers and two 1- to 2-ounce trolling weights to get four spoons 2 to 4 feet down below the surface,” Cutler said.
Spanish are feasting on small minnows, and the bright-colored Clark spoons are perfect for mimicking small minnows trying to evade predators. Cutler will use more than just a traditional silver Clark spoon.
“I like the small Clark spoons with the pink or chartreuse stickers on the back. The flashy and bright colors will get their attention quick,” Cutler said.
While a long leader is preferred to get the lures away from the hardware, Cutler tries to get away with shorter leaders: 8-footers first, but as long as 20 feet if fish don’t cooperate. He prefers 30-pound mono or fluorocarbon leaders that are less visible in the water and produce more bites than heavier line.
Cutler said the best bites occur twice a day.
“First thing in the morning, when the sun peaks over the horizon and just after lunch when the tide turns are when the best action occurs for Spanish,” Cutler said.