Summer is here, and with it comes our summer visitors both on land and in the ocean. One of the most popular summer visitor is the Spanish mackerel. It is a very popular local fish and excellent on the table.
Spanish mackerel have greenish back and sliver bellies, and along their sides, golden spots. Its dorsal fin is black, and it has sharp teeth for eating small baitfish, like silversides and anchovies. Spanish can grow to 37 inches and 12 pounds, but most are in the 1- to 3 pound range.
They can be caught in a variety of methods, which has led to their popularity with fisherman. Most Spanish are caught tolling on boats along the beaches out of Hatteras Inlet and Oregon Inlet. Anglers use small spoons, like Clark Spoons, or other spoons that imitate small baitfish. They can be caught from the surf, as well. The surf hot spots are Cape Point on Hatteras Island and around the inlets. Anglers use 9-foot surf rods to cast small minnow imitations, like stingsilvers. After the cast, the stingsilver is rapidly retrieved to mimic a fleeing minnow. One of the most fun ways to catch Spanish is from the end of the piers. Warm, clear water is important for a successful pier outing. Local pier fishermen favor a 7-foot fast-action spinning rod and reel, spooled with 10-pound line. The longtime favorite lure is a Jerk Jigger, and the many variations that now exist. The action of sharply moving your rod tip down while reeling will make the lure dart from side-to-side.
For more information on Spanish fishing, check out local tackle shops and piers. Tackle shops are a valuable resource for information on Spanish and other species. They can help you get rigged up whether you are in a boat, sand or pier.
They are rarely seen on the menu in restaurants on the Outer Banks, but Spanish mackerel are wonderful to eat. Mackerels are also one of the richest sources for Omega-3 fatty acids. These are the polyunsaturated fatty acids with huge health benefits. They are easily filleted and lend themselves to many cooking methods. They can be grilled, broiled, fried or smoked. Spanish are perfect for fish tacos.
Here is a quick and easy fish taco recipe:
You can broiled or fry your Spanish. The fixings you will need are thinly-sliced cabbage, fresh salsa, cilantro, grated Jack cheese, sliced avocado or guacamole and soft corn trtillas.
Cook the fish with your preferred method, and then warm up the tortillas. Assemble your fish taco using whatever topping you like, and then finish up with a touch of fresh lime juice, hot sauce and Mexican crema.
North Carolina requires a Coastal Recreational Fishing License for freshwater and saltwater fishing. Most charter boats have blanket fishing licenses that cover all of their anglers, but check in advance to be sure. Annual or 10-day licenses are available at www.ncwildlife.org, at many local tackle shops (see the list online) or by calling (888) 248-6834 (Monday through Friday 8 a.m.-5 p.m.).
Size, bag limits
To see the most recent size and bag limits go to http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/. On the right side, under Hot Topics, click on “Recreational Size and Creel Limits.”
Tackle shops and marinas are super resources for information. They have the current scoop and are more than happy to help you get rigged up or plan a charter fishing trip.
Get outside and enjoy the fishing, and remember that the supply is not endless — so only harvest what you need.