spanish mackerel

WaterLine file photo

Keep ‘em cold, or you might as well eat cat food.

With so many closures, try targeting some Spanish mackerel. They run all over the Harbor and Gulf waters. Cleaner, clearer waters produce better mack action. You can cast to striking fish with jigs or heavy spoons if you find concentrations, but often the fish will be scattered.

Here’s a sure way to locate scattered mackerel: Rig 30-pound conventional gear with spoons and planers. Match the hatch on spoon sizes. I use No. 1 and No. 2 diving planers. Try 50-pound fluorocarbon leaders about 12 feet long. Add good snap swivels to both ends of planers. Ball bearings prevent spun-up lines. Troll active areas, bird activity and striking fish. Set your speed about 5 to 6 knots.

If you want fish dinner, mackerel fishing is your best bet. The trick is to carry a lot of ice. As you begin to catch fish, add clean salt water to your cooler of ice. This creates a brine that will chill your dinner immediately. Never let fish sit around and get warm.

Mackerel are best eaten fresh. That means the same day or maybe the day after catching it, not letting it sit a week in your fridge. You can find as many recipes for mackerel as Forrest Gump’s friend Bubba had for shrimp. They’re good fried, broiled, grilled, barbecued or as sushi. I’ll say this one more time: The trick is fresh fish, kept ice cold.

Tarpon are active and the folks who understand natural presentation are catching silver kings. Be patient and allow your baits to naturally float into the fish’s view. If you have lively baits and they are hungry, it works. Stalking is crucial to getting bites. Some folks will be chasing fish all over with their maybe-legal “jigs.” They are not who you want to emulate if you are a sportsman.

Offshore action is cranking. Some mahi are even showing up. Capt. Rick Warren had a nice one trolling last week in 80 feet. He tells me he’s still catching king mackerel in deeper water too. Enjoy red grouper while you can; expect more restrictions soon! Gags open June 1, with red snapper shortly after on the 11th. We only have a month for red snapper, so don’t dilly-dally if you want some.

These are deeper-water fish, so long trips into the Gulf are necessary. Be safe; don’t push your luck for a fish. Evening thunderstorms are coming with this extremely hot weather. They can sneak up on you and become violent quickly. Don’t get caught. It’s dangerous and can scare your guests from coming back.

If you’re paying attention, you’re probably hearing a lot about our algae problems. A lot of folks seem surprised by this “new” issue. It’s not new. I can’t understand how they have ignored it for decades!

Our problems are not going to fix themselves anymore. We have pushed things too far. Everyone needs to look for ways we can reduce the nutrient loads that encourage the algae. You probably can’t do a lot, but that’s OK — every little bit helps. It’s a cumulative problem, and the solution will cumulative as well.

Why does the problem seem new? We finally hit the wall. Our nutrient output is hitting new highs as our population continues to grow, and the damage is compounded by the destruction of our natural wetlands. We altered Mother Nature’s ability to filter runoff before it impacts downstream waters. We destroyed the natural flows digging the ICW. Seawalls don’t filter like mangroves. It all contributes to our problems.

Finally, the slimy dead algae is getting noticed. We usually have southeast winds this time of year, but frequent west winds have plagued downtown Englewood. As local water temperature reached into the 70s, the green alga that attaches itself to our attached seagrasses died, turned black and floated with winds and tides. This has been happening every year, but few realized it.

It’s gross and it stinks. The only good thing is with it ending up on the beaches, people are noticing and complaining. If enough people care, maybe we can do something.

We also have the rolling moss red algae dying off, but it remains on the bottom longer. It also has a repulsive odor. If you motor over patches of it, you’ll see it blow up into your prop wash.

Don’t think we are the only ones with these algae problems. It’s worldwide. America has been so driven by new development money that we failed to grasp the need to consider the runoff and waste problems created. Of course we won’t stop development, but we must consider its real impacts. The infrastructure needs to be in place before we build, and we need to make the new construction pay for it..

Chesapeake Bay has been dealing with similar problems. They kept cramming in more people without considering their sewage and runoff impacts, and so they have dealt with serious pollution problems. After decades of expensive hard work, folks there are seeing improvements.

We must grasp the importance of our runoff and sewage increasing nutrients which are feeding these blooms. Please consider sustainable growth, not just how fast we can cover every square inch of ground with asphalt, concrete or green lawns. I’m praying that we learn and deal with pollution before it trashes our waters completely.

Capt. Van Hubbard is a highly respected outdoor writer and fishing guide. He has been a professional USCG-licensed year-round guide since 1976, and has been fishing the Southwest Florida coast since 1981. Contact him at 941-468-4017 or

Capt. Van Hubbard is a highly respected outdoor writer and fishing guide. He has been a professional USCG-licensed year-round guide since 1976, and has been fishing the Southwest Florida coast since 1981. Contact him at 941-468-4017 or


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