What to Catch


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Date updated: September 2013

Season: Summer months

Socio-economic Importance: 

Ecological Importance:  Mackerel spend most of the year in deeper water away from coastal areas but move inshore during the mid and late summer months. Schools of mackerel are known to make extensive annual migrations in search of appropriate zooplankton and other prey species to feed on. Many species of mackerel can be found worldwide however in the KEIFCA district two stocks of Scromber scrombus are seen with the North Sea stock growing larger than the channel stock seen in the south of the district. Adult mackerel feed on various pelagic crustaceans and small fish including herring, sprat and sandeel while they themselves are predated on by larger pelagic fish species, marine mammals and birds.

Minimum sizes:


Legal Minimum Size: 30cm (20cm South of 51° Lattitude)

Average Breeding Size: 34cm

Where and when to catch them:

Mackerel move inshore as early as May and move away as autumn approaches. They can be found almost anywhere there is deep clear water and our piers/breakwaters are crowded venues when the shoals move in.

What tackle to use:

Traditionally, a set of feathers cast from a beach rod with a fixed spool reel is used from the beach, but a multiplier will provide better winching power when winding up a ‘full-house’ from a pier or harbour wall.

For more fun use a lighter rod and a small spinner, or even a fly-fishing outfit, or a strip of mackerel fished beneath a float.

Light bottom fishing from a Pier with ‘Three long traces up the line’ baited with strips of Mackerel simulating a Sand Eel can be productive and they give a fantastic bite.

What bait is best to use:

Mackerel feathers account for most.  When fishing from a pier, only use a string of 3-4 feathers which will be easier to wind in from height if you get a full-house.

Best conditions for catching them:

A few calm days will allow the whitebait to form shoals, and mackerel will move in trapping the shoals against the beach or harbour wall.  Watch for gulls swooping down and the large mackerel shoals boiling on the surface.
In rougher conditions it’s a case of casting and hoping to encounter smaller shoals moving deeper down.

Do some research on the amount of weed at the venue you plan to fish.  This could become restrictive in July and part way through August in some places.


Mackerel have a very specialised skin that can be damaged just by holding them.  Once damaged, the skin starts to break down and the fish will die.  Any mackerel that need to be returned should be shaken from the hook without handling the fish, and once you have caught what you need it’s best to stop fishing for them