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Atlantic Mackerel, Scomber scombrus

Irish Record Fish: 4 lbs 2 ozs 1.87 kilos
Caught: Ballycotton 1979
Boat Specimen: 2.0 lbs 980 grams
Shore Specimen: 1.5 lbs 761 grams
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Introduction: The Atlantic Mackerel is present in deeper waters all year but more commonly associated with its summer visits once the water temperature reaches 11-14 celcius.  It can reach 3 kilos (7 lbs) ) in weight but anything > 450 grams (1 lb) is good and anything > 1 kilo (2 lbs) is excellent.  The largest fish, known locally around Dublin as "jumbos", tend to arrive later in the year, in September and October and will hang around taking baits legered for other fish well in December and even January.  Why these larger specimens seem capable of doing this, often travelling in small groups or pairs, is not known. Mackerel can often be overlooked as sport in themselves perhaps becasue they make such excellent baits and their outstanding ability to commit suicide six at a time on jigged feathers.  It is a shame that these facts hide what a fabulous fish the Mackerel is and the sport it is on light tackle.  Do you remember the excitement of your first ever Mackerel? 

Boat tactics: Mackerel will fall to bare silver hooks never mind feathers never mind the more exotic creations that the tackle companies now offer anglers.  I have seen highly effective home make feathers made from thread, bits of cut up beach ball (!), silver foil and plastic bags.  I know one guy who swears to the effectiveness of the ring pulls from empty beer cans... although you can't always trust him!  Most small spinners and lures will take Mackerel and they have no problem in feeding on mackerel strips.  If you do want some sport you have to bring the rig back to coarse angling levels - 4 lbs (2 kg) line, a float and a hook... 

Shore tactics: As early as April, or by my book around Easter, depending on the weather and the Mackerel can move inshore, but a period of bad weather and they can vanish and not return for months!  An incoming tide on the evening is the best option especially after warm weather and if there is sprat or sandeels in the water, all the better.  Only kill as many as you need. If you handle them at all, even with deliberately wetted hands, you have likely killed them. The oil is removed from their skin and they "burn" when returned to the water.  If you want to return Mackerel unharmed, then just flip them off the hook. To this end it helps to use barbless hooks, or to crush the barb flat with a pliers prior to fishing. Make sure to store them out of the sun.