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Spanish mackerel turn up nearly every August and September along the midrange lumps and ridges off the New Jersey and Delaware Coast, but jetty jocks should also prepare for a pelagic encounter off those inlet rocks.
By Jim Hutchinson, Jr.
Patrons aboard the party boat Jamaica have encountered a few Spanish mackerel on recent trips for blues, bonito and mackerel. The crew has been laying out the chum with anglers catching fish on jigs and teasers in particular, sometimes on bait. Photo courtesy of the 125' Jamaica.

Ocean temperatures this past weekend reached their highest points of the year with 80 degrees marked at several New Jersey and Delaware coastal stations including Atlantic City on Saturday, August 19.

While that’s not exactly ideal for back bay drifters who’ve found fluke on the move towards deeper waters, or the hardcore striper addicts hoping for an early season kickoff with bait now stacking up in lagoons and canals, it could prove opportune for inshore light tackle anglers looking for coastal migratory pelagics.

In addition to the practically inedible false albacore and more tasty Atlantic bonito, Spanish mackerel encounters are also on the rise throughout the region with catches reported from boats like the Big Jamaica out of Brielle south to Cape May aboard the Cape Queen.

“The inshore ridges are seeing schools of Spanish mackerel trouncing small spreader bars and they’re also being caught by casting the smaller Deadly Dick metals,” advised Joe Mitchell of Lacey Marine in Forked River last week in The Fisherman’s report section, while down along the southern part of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland Eric Burnley recommended trolling 0 Drone spoons for both bluefish and Spanish mackerel.

Managed jointly by the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils, Spanish mackerel migrate over large distances along inshore waters every summer, returning south towards warmer Florida waters where they’ll spend their winters. Comparatively abundant from Florida to Chesapeake Bay, Spanish mackerel have been found as far north as Monhegan Island, ME but are rarely caught above Cape Cod.

NOAA Fisheries characterizes these sleek and powerful speedsters as members of a large family that also includes tunas and other mackerels. Known for explosive hits and spectacular aerial displays, the average size of the fish is 2 to 3 pounds with a maximum length of around 36 inches. The current IGFA World Record of 13 pounds was caught 30 years ago this fall at Ocracoke Inlet, North Carolina by Robert Cranton; Shillington, PA’s Eric Ludwig hit the Delaware state record in 2000 with a 6-pound, 4-ounce fish he caught at the Light Ship that taped out at 26-1/2 inches, while the New Jersey state record of 9 pounds, 12 ounces was caught off Cape May in 1990 by Donald Kohler and is also a 16-pound line class record from the IGFA.

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