"I'll be on Hilton Head next week and would like to charter you to do a little fishing", said Doyle Evans in his thick
Oklahoma drawl. Doyle and I had become friends years before, but had never pulled off a fishing trip together. "How 'bout some fast action, big fish on light tackle?" I asked. "Let's do it", Doyle said. The next day we departed on a beautiful morning, sunshine and calm seas lay before us as we headed for a nearshore reef. We made a quick stop to throw the cast net on some menhaden, filled the live bait well and resumed skimming across a glassy ocean with a gentle swell.
One of summer's top targets for the Hilton Head charter fishing fleet and recreational anglers alike is the Spanish mackerel. These roaming marauders of the local waters are sleek streamlined predators that forage on the bait schools around the sandbars and reefs alike. Beautiful fish, they have an olive green back that fades to irridescent silver sides with round golden spots that run along the body. Like all mackerel it has a forked tail that screams speed and is armed with a mouth full of teeth making it a very efficient predator.
Which is precisely why we were using light wire leaders on our rigs this day. Traditionally Spanish are caught trolling, usually with a long leader and a small spoon such as the Clarkspoon, some weight or a small planer in front of the leader. Flocks of seagulls and terns diving on the baitfish or the results of the carnage of the mackerel school beneath them make location easier. The spoons are then trolled around the fringe of the school as not to spook them, today we were doing it different.
We dropped the anchor alongside the reef and deployed the chum bag. The water was clear and the bait schools were soon evident behind the boat as they came to the chum bag. I put a live menhaden on a small treble that had another "stinger" treble a few inches behind it. Doyle dropped it ten feet behind the boat and the show started! A half dozen Spanish blitzed the livey and the light Shakespeare Ugly Stik 12 lb rod bent double as the drag sang on the reel. After several scorching runs a nice 5 lb Spanish hit the deck. Doyle was grinning, "Like fishing in an aquarium" he remarked.
And it was, we repeated this scenario over and over, sometimes dropping the bait right beside the boat, the high speed Spanish coming from every direction to attack the hapless bait.
It was a remarkable day…with a remarkable friend and now a great memory. But it's July and the time is now….
Shelter Cove Marina
Hilton Head, SC US
32º 10' 52.03" (32.18112) Longitude:
80º 43' 49.84" (-80.73051)
Download a GPX or KML file of all fishing spots within 25 miles of Hilton Head, SC US:
ling, spanish, spanish mackerel