Hi Mr. Hott,
Spanish mackerel are a pelagic fish that have a large migratory run in the spring, which will be coming up soon, and another migratory run in the fall. When the water temperatures from winter start to stabilize in your area and steadily stay over 68°, the Spanish mackerel will start moving from south to north on both sides of the Florida peninsula.
The Spanish mackerel should be in full force when the Gulf of Mexico water temperature gets to around 72°. When the water temperature gets warmer than 78° the Spanish mackerel keep moving further north. In an average year, our water temperatures get to that 72° mark around the second week in March. Many anglers consider March 17 the kickoff for our Spanish mackerel and King mackerel run. The big schools will be here through April and then start moving further north around May. Over the last few years, we've had a good amount of Spanish mackerel take up residence in our area, including inside Tampa Bay year-round.
Another great method to determine when mackerel are arriving is by observing the scaled sardines and threadfin herring schools. These are migratory baitfish that the Spanish mackerel will follow up the coast in the spring. These baitfish also move when the water temperatures rise. Like the Spanish mackerel, we also have in the last few years had scaled sardines and threadfin herrings taking up residence in the deeper water of the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay.
The reverse happens as we enter into the fall from tepid summer waters. The Spanish mackerel will move back south as the water gets colder in the north. This usually occurs somewhere in October and into November in our area. They thin out at the beginning of December when the water temperatures get colder. When we have a long cold winter, the Spanish mackerel schools will arrive a little later. Or if we have a very hot extended summer they will arrive a little later.
A great way to get in on the action is to go to our forum and post the question: "Is anyone catching Spanish Mackerel?" You can do this in March and October. You will know immediately that they are here!
Thank you for sending in your question to The Online Fisherman.
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