Spanish Mackerel Fishing Outer Banks Nags Head, NC

What are Spanish Mackerel

Spanish mackerel are also known as spotted cybium, bay mackerel, spotted mackerel, Spaniard, and simply mackerel. They are surface-level fish that stay mainly in the shallows. Usually mistaken for juvenile king mackerel, the Spanish mackerel is smaller. Spanish mackerel can reach up to 37” inches and weigh as much as 12 pounds over their lifetime. They have greenish backs with silvery bellies and sides. Their distinct yellow-gold spots are different from the king mackerel. The dorsal fin is also jet black, where the king mackerels are gray. Also, along their backs, they have a difference in their lateral lines when compared to king mackerel. In Nags Head, North Carolina at the right time of year the Spanish Mackerel bite can be unreal!

time of year to catch spanish mackerel In Nags Head

In North Carolina, Spanish Mackerel have a really good spring topwater bite window typically in late April and into late May. However, they can be found pretty much anytime during the warmer months. 

how to catch spanish mackerel in Nags Head, NC

Most of the time Spanish Mackerels are caught by trolling, they also respond well to small flashy lures cast and retrieved quickly and of course live bait.  While they generally feed on smaller baitfish, they can be aggressive and fearless when feeding frenzies and occasionally will hit larger lures intended for larger game fish. Clarkspoons are a long time go-to for trolling for Spanish macks. Small planer boards and trolling sinkers can be used to get Clarkspoons, and other lures like Mackerel Trees and Mackerel Dusters to different depths below the surface.  At times Spanish can be spooky and long fluorocarbon leaders are a good idea to use. Macks generally eat smaller live baits, but many are caught accidentally each year off of baits intended for Cobia and Tarpon and other inshore fish.

Legal Size & Bag limit of Spanish mackerel in North carolina

COASTAL WATERS ARE (Internal and 0-3 miles out)

In the state of North Carolina, currently, the minimum size of a Spanish Mackerel to be harvested is 12″ full length and the bag limit per person, per day is 15.

Local regulations can be found by Clicking Here as well.



Spanish Mackerel, are are a great tasting inshore fish to catch in Nags Head, North Carolina! You’ll find them in good numbers at the right times of year.


If you want the inshore trip of a lifetime and the chance to fill the freezer, book today!

Book Your Outer Banks Spanish mackerel Trip Today!

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