Capt. Rennie Clark of Carolina Beach’s Tournament Trail Charters reports that some Spanish mackerel in the 2- to 3-pound range are hanging around some rocks in about 30 to 40 feet of water off Carolina Beach, feeding on schools of passing baitfish and providing anglers with some great action.

“We are fortunate to have an early run of larger Spanish mackerel off our beach,” Clark said. “The larger Spanish typically arrive in April and stay until about now. With the odd, colder weather, they arrived late and hopefully will stay a little longer this year. However, the water is warming very quickly and they could leave pretty soon.”

Clark (910-465-8943) said more Spanish are arriving every day, and there will be no shortage of keeper fish, but the new arrivals are smaller fish. 

Clark caught fish around several rocks off Kure Beach on a recent trip, using a spread that included two mackerel “tree rigs” behind planers and several Clark Spoons. Clark said the Spanish seem to go back and forth between which lures they like the best, so when he sees what the day’s preference is, he adjust his spread to take advantage of it.

“The mackerel tree rigs are really effective for catching Spanish mackerel,” Clark said. “They will also catch bluefish and bonito when they are around.”

Mackerel tree rigs have several droppers of brightly colored rubber tubing with gold hooks. The tubing pieces are the lures and the fish like them. They also have a Clark Spoon at the end to help keep the rig straight in the water. With the multiple lures, there are times multiple fish are caught. 

Clark trolls the mackerel tree rigs behind small planers to get them down in the water column. He knows the depths of the rocks he likes to fish and begins with the rigs pulling just above them.

“I also always watch the fish finder for schools of bait,” Clark said. “The structure is a go to place that holds bait and that attracts larger fish. The Spanish and others are there to feed on the bait, and it moves around the structure. Once I find where it is on that particular day, I concentrate on that area, and the fishing gets better. Some days it can get downright hectic once we locate the bait.”

Clark isn’t sure how much longer the larger Spanish will be around this spring, but there will be plenty of smaller ones all summer; some larger ones will return when the water begins to cool in the fall.