With July on the horizon and mild June days sliding into the background, saltwater fishermen are still enjoying excellent runs of Spanish mackerel from the mouth of the Cape Fear River all the way to the South Carolina border.

“It seems like the best spots are outside the inlets,” said Kevin Sneed of Holden Beach’s Rigged & Ready Charters. “That’s where we’ve been finding the most fish. It’s best on outgoing tides, too. I think (baitfish) get flushed out of the inlets, and Spanish know it.”

Up and down the beach, from Lockwood Folly Inlet to Shallotte Inlet to Tubbs Inlet and Mad Inlet just east of Little River, S.C., boats chased after schools of Spanish, located by watching diving birds as they crashed into huge schools of menhaden. Sneed doesn’t like to fish right on the beach or in the inlets, but moves out just a bit whenever possible.

“I like to get a little further out because it allows me turning room, and I think you have a chance to find more fish because the water column is deeper, not like being on the beach where you might only have 6 feet under your boat,” said Sneed (910-448-3474), who likes 25- to 35-foot depths about 1½ miles off the shoreline and uses No. 1 planers or “birds” to pull his No. 0 Clark Spoons in gold, green and silver trolled on 12-foot leaders designed to troll them a dozen or so feet under the surface.

“Sometimes we even catch small kings this time of year,” Sneed said. “We landed a 22-pounder the other day.”

One key for Sneed, whose parties have regularly had 30-fish days, is trolling speed.

“You gotta go faster, at least 7 mph, to get Spanish to bite,” Sneed said. “If you go slower, bluefish will hit the lures — and you’ll start losing them.”