Fishermen in North Carolina and South Carolina generally look for baitfish, structure and water flow when fishing for Spanish mackerel. The primary places to find concentrations of the small mackerel are around inlets, in close proximity to wrecks and artificial reefs, and harassing schools of bait around natural structure.

Rennie Clark primarily fishes from North Carolina’s Carolina Beach Inlet, a shallow inlet with a lot of flow from creeks, marshes and the ICW, but he can head north to Masonboro Inlet, which is deeper and jettied on both sides. After the Inlets, Clark checks several shipwrecks and then around nearshore artificial reefs, including the Phillip Wolfe Reef (AR 378) and the Meares Harris Reef (AR 370), also known as the Liberty Ship. The precise locations and other details about artificial reefs can be found at www.portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/artificial-reefs-program, including a downloadable and printable reef guide.

Several nearshore hardbottom areas and rock outcroppings are in the area around Carolina Beach Inlet. High Rock is one of the most prominent and well known, approximately 5 miles south of the inlet, roughly off the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher. It rises to within 9 feet of the surface. Johns Creek Rock is roughly the same distance north of Carolina Beach Inlet, off Masonboro Island, and it also rises to near the surface.

Mike Eady fishes primarily from Murrells Inlet, which is jettied, concentrating  the tidal flow and setting up a good tide line in the ocean. Pawleys Inlet a few miles to the south only drains a small area, but there is enough bait flushing on falling tides to get fish’s attention.

The PA-09 artificial reef, which includes Paradise Reef, the H.P. Springs, Jr. Reef, Grand Strand Saltwater Anglers Reef, Winston Perry Reef and Bob Hanson Reef, is 3 miles from the south jetty at Murrells Inlet, with the PA-11 artificial reef, including the Pawley’s Island Reef and Tommy Pierce Reef, is approximately 5.5 miles offshore, down the beach off Pawleys Inlet. While the water is only about 10 feet deeper, the PA-10 artificial reef, which includes the 10-Mile Reef, Bruce Rush Reef and 11-Mile Reef begins 10 miles off the beach. Detailed information on these and other artificial reefs can be found at www.dnr.sc.gov/artificialreefs, including a downloadable and printable reef guide.  

There isn’t a lot of natural structure close to shore off Murrells Inlet, but a local favorite for early Spanish mackerel is a hardbottom area just offshore of PA-10 called Belkie Bear. There isn’t significant height to the structure at Belkie Bear, but there is something about this area that concentrates bait, and therefore mackerel, before they move inshore each spring.