Spanish mackerel biting just beyond surf off Carolina beaches


Trolling Clarkspoons is the key to hooking up

Saltwater anglers are having no trouble catching a variety of fish along the Carolina coastlines, and that’s especially true for folks fishing a mile or two off the beaches. Bluefish are plentiful, but the Spanish mackerel are really stealing the show.

Carlton Thompkins of Capt. Froggy’s Hunting and Fishing Guide Service (252-661-7222), said a handful of Clarkspoons is all it takes to get your fish box full of tasty Spanish mackerel.

“This time of year, they are just a mile or two off the beach, and we’ll troll 4 rods at a time. We use the small Clarkspoons in the standard silver color. We use fairly stiff rods, 3000-series spinning reels, and 30 pound test monofilament. And we troll at anywhere between 5 and 7 miles per hour,” he said.

Once you get about a mile or two off the beach, Thompkins said to look for diving birds, fish hitting the surface, or color changes in the water. All those are signs that schools of Spanish mackerel is present.

Even when signs are not present, the fish are still there

But on some days, Thompkins said those signs aren’t present at all. That makes finding the fish a little tougher. But they are still there, he said. On those days, the fish are often scattered about instead of in tight schools. And anglers need to realize these fish will still bite when the opportunity presents itself.

“Some days, the fish are scattered here and there. You’ll pick one up, then have a lull, then pick another one up. But on other days, you can’t keep a rod in the water because they are biting so fast,” he said.

Whether they are biting sparsely or like mad, Thompkins said anglers should always circle back anytime they hook up with a fish or two.

“You’ll almost always catch another one or two when you circle back through the same spot you caught one. Sometimes you can circle back two or three more times and you’ll pick up another fish or two on each pass,” he said.

His basic setup is one rod off each side of the boat, and two off the back. The two side rods have trolling weights a good distance from the lures. The two rods off the back have planers.

Bluefish will hit as well, and some other species also often surprise anglers. These include small king mackerel and even dolphin.

“It’s certainly not common enough to target them. But this time of year, dolphin will come in to within a mile or two of the beach, and they’ll hit the Clarkspoons. It’s one of the rare treats anglers will run across while fishing this way,” said Thompkins.

Click here for more fishing tips for Spanish mackerel.


About Brian Cope 2783 Articles
Brian Cope is the editor of Carolina Sportsman. He has won numerous awards for his writing, photography, and videography. He is a retired Air Force combat communications technician, and has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina. You can reach him at