How to Catch Mackerel: 4 Mackerel Fishing Tips [2022 Update]

Updated on September 19, 2022 by

With summer around the corner, mackerel fishing will be a great pastime for fishing enthusiasts. Even if you’re a beginner, there’s no need to worry. Although it can be a little tricky, mackerel fishing is still quite similar to fishing for other saltwater species.  

There are many methods for fishing mackerels, but my personal favorite is using mackerel feather rigs. With the correct bait and a few tricks, you can catch some delicious fish in no time.   

So, if you’re interested in learning some mackerel fishing tips, stay with us till the end.

Mackerel Fish jumping out of the water

If you’re just starting out with catching mackerel, you should learn about the different methods of mackerel fishing. Here are the most popular methods with some of their pros and cons.

1. Mackerel Feather Rigs 

By far, the best method for catching mackerel is the feather method. Most expert anglers use this method for mackerel fishing. The first step is to get yourself a mackerel feather rig. This consists of a bait hook rig with a white feather skirt. These can generally be purchased in a pack of 4-5 hooks, which simulate a school of baitfish. Attach a sinker on the end.

All you need to do is cast your mackerel feathers into the target zone and let them sink down. Then jig the feathers up and down as you retrieve to mimic a baitfish swimming through the water. Because you have so many hooks in the water at once, you can often hook multiple fish, so prepare for a fight.

You will also need to size your rod and reel based on the number of feathers in the water.

This method is easy and quite effective for catching a big group of fish. It relies on the effectiveness of the feather rig in attracting mackerel.


  • Mimics mackerel’s natural food source
  • Works without any bait 
  • Great for catching a big shoal of fish 


  • Difficult to get done from piers and other areas with height  
  • Not a good method for snaggy regions 
How to Catch Mackerel: 4 Mackerel Fishing Tips [2022 Update] 2
Mackerel Feather Rig, Source: Active Angling

2. Float Fishing with Bait  
Beginner Saltwater Fishing Tips [2...
Beginner Saltwater Fishing Tips [2022 Update]

Next, is the float fishing method. This is another popular method that you can use to catch mackerel. Plenty of anglers love this method because it is a fun experience.  

The float fishing method involves using a float with some attractive bait. You don’t need a lot of gear for this method, so if you’re out for a quick fishing session, this method will be perfect. However, this method can allow you to catch a single fish at a time. If you want to catch a lot of fish with this method, you need a few things. 

Here is the equipment list required for the float method:  

  • Solid float
  • Bead
  • Multi-hook rig
  • Weight
  • Lead clip

All you need to do to catch a good number of fish is to set up the rig first and place a bead beneath the float. Try to position your bait so it sits around 8 feet under the surface.

Mackerel strikes hard and fast, so keep a close eye on your float and strike when it gets pulled under the water.

The best bait to use for mackerel are:

  • garfish
  • scad
  • sand eels
  • squid
  • launce
  • mackerel belly strips

This is a great method for targeting Spanish mackerel within a wide area. 


  • Float is quite easy and fun to use  
  • It covers huge fishing zones  
  • Depth adjustment is possible  
  • Suitable for fishing on rough ground  


  • It cannot work without a solid bait  
  • Usually targets single fish unless an additional rig is used 

3. Spinning with Lures 

Spinning is also a cool method to catch mackerel. This method involves using a lure with a spinning reel and rod combo. This is much more active than the other methods and requires more casting and retrieving.

The best lures for catching mackerel are spoons, bucktail jigs, and jerkbait.

Mackerel can grow large in size and are powerful fish, so make sure your tackle is heavy enough for the job. Use a strong leader so the mackerel don’t bite through the line with their sharp teeth.

I have succeeded in looking for bait balls and casting a lure around the outsides. These bait balls are often formed by mackerel chasing the bait, and are eager for anything that looks like a fish fleeing from their trap.


  • Works without a bait  
  • Involves very light gear 
  • Includes a variety of by-catches  


  • Hectic method of fishing  
  • Time-consuming 

4. Fly Fishing for Mackerel  

Last but not least, we have the fly-fishing method, which is a less popular method among beginners, but experts love this method. This is a successful method during good weather days, especially in shallow water. 

If you’re planning to go fishing on a bright and sunny day in a shallow water area, try this method, and you won’t be disappointed! 


  • Works with minimum tackle  
  • An exciting activity for newbies  
  • A great method to try in shallow water conditions  


  • It cannot work when the fish are far away 
  • Low success in poor weather conditions 
fly fishing for mackerel

Guide to Catch Mackerel  

Now that you’re familiar with some of the common methods of fishing mackerel, let’s have a quick look at some of the points you need to follow to catch them properly: 

Best Season for Mackerel Fishing  

Summer is undoubtedly the best season for mackerel fishing. Usually, mackerel are found in seasons when the water temperature is very high.  

Peak summer and autumn are ideal for fishing mackerel since the water temperature remains high during these times. Mackerel also spawn between April to May.

There is plenty of food for mackerel during these seasons so that you can find shoals of fish in a single region. 

Fishing for mackerel becomes extremely hard during the colder seasons. Mackerel tend to disappear during the winter and fall seasons of the year. 

What is the Best Time of Day for Mackerel Fishing?  

The most ideal time for mackerel fishing is during dawn or dusk, but you can try fishing during the nighttime. 

During these times, launces, sand eel, and various other small fishes are abundant. Shoals of hungry mackerel gather during early dawn or dusk to feed on these small fishes. You can try lure fishing for mackerel during this time to catch a large number.  

During the night, you can use a glow stick to attract mackerel to the fishing rigs. Small shreds of mackerel can work as the best bait at night. 

What is the Best Bait for Mackerel Fishing

The best baits for mackerel fishing include multi-hook feathers, plain bait fish, or mackerel belly strips. 

Although most people opt for bright lures like spinners or spoons, nothing beats the efficacy of feather strings. Most fishermen think colorful feathers and straw rigs attract Spanish mackerel the most. 

If you’re new to mackerel fishing, a good tip is to use the mackerel lures beneath the feather rig to make the bait look attractive. Spanish mackerel swarms more around this kind of rig than a plain one. This is why we recommend going for shiny objects as much as possible.  

Try using mackerel strips, squid shreds to grab the attention of a large number of hungry shoals. Other baits include sand eels, sabiki rigs, and some small baitfish. In other words, anything that tastes real works as the best mackerel lure.  

What is the Best Place to Fish for Mackerel?

You can catch plenty of king mackerel around piers and deep water areas. With the right fishing methods, you can also find mackerel in a shallow water column. 
The outer banks of North Carolina, the sea bed in Massachusetts, etc., serve as some of the best sites for fishing Atlantic mackerel. You can try rough ground fishing or boat fishing around these areas in the mackerel season. With the best mackerel lures and fishing tackle, you can have great fun catching lots of exciting fish. 

What is the best rod and reel for mackerel?

The best rod for mackerel is a 10 to 20 lb spinning rod with a 5000 spinning reel that is suited for saltwater, such as a Shimano Saragosa. Spanish mackerel can grow up to 80 lb, and I never want to lose a big fish due to too light gear. I also use 6 inches of wire trace to avoid losing a fish from their teeth.

Final Words 

Catching mackerel can be tricky, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the methods, tools, and appropriate fishing season. We hope our detailed discussion on mackerel fishing tips could be of some assistance to you. With the right techniques we suggest, you can be a pro at mackerel fishing in no time! 

Photo of author

Captain Russ Egan

Captain Russ is an avid fisherman. He has fished all over the world for more than two decades, primarily for saltwater game fish but also for local trophy fish. Russ writes reviews for all of his fishing gear to help others achieve their own fishing goals. His favorite reel is a Shimano Curado Baitcaster. His dream is to catch a Black Marlin.