Most saltwater anglers target large Spanish mackerel twice each year — from the last two weeks in April through the first two weeks in May and during late September and early October – and within a mile of shore.
Few people know the year’s hottest months, July and August, also are good times to find Spanish approaching and surpassing citation-size fish that reach six pounds and better. But they don’t fish with Captain Kevin Sneed of Holden Beach, owner of Rigged & Ready Charters (910-448-3474) and R&R Fishing Center (910-842-3474).
Oh, plenty of summer anglers fast-troll 00-size Clark Spoons at 6 to 7 knots on the surface from 300 yards to a half-mile parallel to the beaches and fill fish boxes with 1 to 2 pounders. But Sneed and Blake venture 10 to 14 miles dead south of Oak Island and slow-troll live baits at 1.75-mph to catch beautiful, multi-colored Spanish macks weighing 3 to 6 pounds and heavier.
“We fish live bottoms 40- to 55-foot deep,” Sneed said.
The Greensboro native’s 31-foot, Florida-built Competition center-console fishing platform has dozens of secret live-bottom marks in his Garmin GPS unit.
“I look for baitfish over the live bottoms,” he said. “You can almost count on Spanish mackerel coming to the surface to attack live baits.”
His standard bait spread includes four 7-foot-long light rods pulling what are basically big flounder baits, 4- to 5-inch-long finger mullets. He also has a lead-ball down-rigger that hauls frozen cigar minnows halfway to the bottom.
Sneed keeps an extra light rod ready to cast to Spaniards attacking surface baitfish at either side of his boat “because you can throw a bait a long way with those (light) rods.
“In July and August, we also have king mackerels and sometimes sailfish hit the baits,” he said. “If we get hooked up with a 30- or 40-pound king on a light rod that’s got only 200-yards of 20-pound-test Momoi Diamond monofilament, we have to chase that fish or he may ‘spool’ the reel.”
Typically, Sneed’s anglers fight Spanish weighing from 3 to 6 pounds, gigantic specimens when compared to inshore summer fish.
“I don't think many people know where to find big Spanish in summer that far off the beaches, except for a handful of local captains,” he said. “Most big ones are caught in the spring and during September and October. But as long as the water stays around 80 degrees, which can run into early October, we find them over live bottoms in 40 to 55 feet of water. The largest we’ve caught weighed 8 pounds.”
The daily per-angler limit is 14 fish and minimum-keeper size is 12 inches fork length. But anglers must be careful to not accidentally gaff and put small kings in the fish box. Kings must be at least 24-inches long with a per-angler daily limit of three.
Sneed, a nine-year pro guide, said he expects live bottoms in deep water to hold magnum Spaniards up and down the N.C. coast.