Mackerel Fishing in the UK: Fish Spotlight Series

Fish Species Spotlight Series How to Catch Mackerel in the UK

Welcome back to our Spotlight Series, where we dive into the fascinating world of fish species found across the UK. So far, we've explored various freshwater inhabitants like zander, gudgeon, chub, pike, bream, tench, and roach. Today, we're making a splash in the saltwater realm with a focus on the vibrant and speedy mackerel.

Mackerel are not only a delight to catch but also play a significant role in the marine ecosystem and local fisheries. Known for their striking appearance and incredible swimming abilities, mackerel are a favourite among anglers and seafood enthusiasts alike. In this post, we'll cover everything you need to know about mackerel—from their distinctive looks and preferred habitats to their behaviours and the best tips for catching them. Plus, we'll share a fun fact to impress your fishing buddies. So, let's cast our lines into the world of mackerel and discover what makes this fish a true marvel of the sea!

Mackerel Fish Caught in the UK What they look like

Appearance: What Do Mackerel Look Like?

Mackerel are known for their streamlined, torpedo-shaped bodies that allow them to swim swiftly through the water. They typically have a bluish-green back with a distinctive pattern of wavy, dark stripes running down the sides, and silvery-white underbellies. Their bodies are elongated and narrow, particularly near the caudal peduncle, the area just before the tail fin, which helps them achieve high speeds in the water​. Mackerel can range in size from 8 to 24 inches in length and weigh between 1 and 7.5 pounds.

Habitat: Best Place to Catch Mackerel in the UK

Mackerel are found in both temperate and tropical seas around the world. In the UK, the Atlantic mackerel (Scomber scombrus) is the most common species. These fish are highly migratory, spending the spring and summer closer to shore and moving further offshore during the fall and winter. They prefer water temperatures above 8°C (46°F) and can be found at depths ranging from the surface down to about 200 meters (656 feet).

Mackerel Behaviour

Mackerel are fast swimmers and are known for their schooling behaviour, which offers protection against predators. They must keep in constant motion to maintain oxygen flow over their gills. Unlike some other fish, Atlantic mackerel do not typically leap out of the water unless evading predators. They are active predators, feeding on a variety of smaller fish, crustaceans, and plankton. During feeding, they often form large, coordinated schools that can trap and consume large quantities of prey​.

Fishing for mackerel in the UK and their behaviour

Best Tips for Catching Mackerel

Fishing for mackerel can be a rewarding experience. Here are a few tips:

  1. Mackerel Season in the UK: The best time to catch mackerel is during their inshore migration in the spring and summer months. Look for them near the shore, piers, or harbours.
  2. Gear and Bait: Use lightweight spinning rods and reels with mackerel feathers or small shiny lures. Sabiki rigs, which consist of several small hooks adorned with feathers or shiny materials, can be particularly effective. Adding small strips of fish or squid to the hooks can enhance the bait's appeal​.
  3. Techniques: Cast your rig and allow it to sink before retrieving it in a jerky, stop-start motion to mimic the movement of small prey fish. Mackerel often strike as the bait rises and falls in the water column.

For more on freshwater fish in the UK, check out our other spotlight series posts on Zander, Gudgeon, Chub, Pike, bream, Tench, and Roach. Each post dives deep into the appearance, habitat, behaviour, and tips for catching these fascinating species. Happy fishing!

Fun Fact

Did you know that mackerel are among the fastest swimmers in the ocean, reaching speeds of up to 5.5 meters per second? This incredible speed helps them evade predators and catch their own prey more efficiently​.

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