Mackerel Fishing Off of the Canaveral National Seashore

Last Updated on June 19, 2024 by Eric

Summer fishing off the Canaveral National Seashore is a treat for anglers, especially when it comes to catching mackerel. The warm waters and abundant baitfish make this area a prime spot for mackerel, particularly Spanish and King Mackerel. This article will provide you with all the necessary information about these species, how to catch them, and what makes the Canaveral National Seashore an excellent fishing destination.

About Canaveral National Seashore

The Canaveral National Seashore, located on the east coast of Florida, offers a unique fishing experience. Stretching over 24 miles of pristine shoreline, this area is known for its diverse marine life and excellent fishing opportunities. The seashore is relatively undeveloped, providing a more natural fishing environment compared to other crowded spots. The waters here are rich in nutrients, attracting a variety of fish species, with mackerel being one of the most sought-after during the summer months.

Species Overview: Spanish and King Mackerel

Spanish and King Mackerel are two of the most popular targets for anglers off the Canaveral National Seashore. Known for their speed and fight, these fish provide a thrilling experience for both novice and experienced fishermen.

Spanish Mackerel

Appearance: Spanish Mackerel are easily recognizable by their slender, torpedo-shaped bodies and vibrant, iridescent coloration. They have greenish backs, silvery sides, and a row of bronze or yellow spots running along their flanks. Their sharp teeth and forked tails make them efficient predators.

Size: Spanish Mackerel typically range from 12 to 24 inches in length and can weigh between 1 to 5 pounds, although larger specimens are not uncommon.

Behavior: These fish are fast swimmers and tend to travel in schools, often chasing baitfish near the surface. They are known for their aggressive feeding habits, making them a favorite among sport fishermen.

King Mackerel

Appearance: King Mackerel are larger cousins of the Spanish Mackerel, with similar streamlined bodies but without the distinct spots. They have a darker coloration, with bluish-green backs fading to silvery sides and a white belly.

Size: King Mackerel can grow significantly larger, with average sizes ranging from 10 to 20 pounds. However, it’s not unusual to encounter “smokers” (a nickname for the largest specimens) that exceed 50 pounds.

Behavior: Kings are also powerful swimmers and are often found in deeper waters compared to Spanish Mackerel. They are solitary hunters or swim in small groups, and their ferocious strikes and strong runs make them a thrilling catch.

Fishing Techniques for Mackerel

Tackle and Gear

For Spanish Mackerel:

  • Rod and Reel: A medium to light spinning rod paired with a 2500-4000 size reel is ideal.
  • Line: Use a 10-20 lb braided line with a 20-30 lb fluorocarbon leader to handle their sharp teeth.
  • Lures: Silver spoons, Gotcha plugs, and small jigs work well. Live bait like pilchards or threadfin herring can also be very effective.

For King Mackerel:

  • Rod and Reel: A medium to heavy spinning or conventional rod with a 4000-6000 size reel is recommended.
  • Line: 20-30 lb braided line with a 40-50 lb fluorocarbon or wire leader is necessary to prevent bite-offs.
  • Lures: Large diving plugs, spoons, and slow-trolled live bait such as blue runners, mullet, or menhaden are preferred.


Casting: When targeting Spanish Mackerel, casting small metal spoons or jigs near bait schools or diving birds is effective. These fish are often close to the surface and respond well to fast, erratic retrieves.

Trolling: For King Mackerel, slow trolling with live bait is a proven method. Use a downrigger or planer to get the bait deeper in the water column where kings tend to hunt. Trolling artificial lures like diving plugs can also yield good results.

Live Bait: Live bait fishing can be incredibly effective for both species. For Spanish Mackerel, free-lining live pilchards or threadfin herring near the surface can attract schools of fish. For King Mackerel, slow-trolling live bait at varying depths usually produces strikes.

Seasonal Tips and Considerations

Timing: Mackerel fishing off the Canaveral National Seashore is best during the early morning or late afternoon when these fish are most active. During the peak summer months, fish tend to move deeper during the heat of the day.

Weather: Pay attention to weather conditions. Mackerel prefer calm seas, and fishing can be tough during windy days or rough waters. However, overcast days can sometimes produce good action as fish feel more comfortable venturing closer to the surface.

Location: Spanish Mackerel are often found nearshore, around inlets, and close to the surf zone. King Mackerel are usually a bit farther out, around reefs, wrecks, and ledges. Both species can be found near schools of baitfish, so keep an eye out for diving birds and surface activity.

Water Temperature: Mackerel are sensitive to water temperature. They thrive in warmer waters, typically between 68-76°F for Spanish Mackerel and 68-82°F for King Mackerel. In the summer, you’ll find them in the warmer surface waters, but they may move deeper if temperatures get too high.

Conservation and Regulations

When fishing for mackerel, it’s important to follow local regulations to ensure sustainable practices. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) sets specific rules for size and bag limits to help maintain healthy fish populations.

Spanish Mackerel:

  • Minimum Size Limit: 12 inches fork length
  • Daily Bag Limit: 15 fish per person

King Mackerel:

  • Minimum Size Limit: 24 inches fork length
  • Daily Bag Limit: 2 fish per person

Before heading out, make sure to check for any updates or changes in regulations. The FWC provides detailed guidelines for Spanish Mackerel and King Mackerel to help anglers stay informed. Practicing catch and release for larger specimens, especially King Mackerel, can also contribute to the sustainability of the fishery.

Your Mackerel Fishing Adventure with Canaveral Kings

Fishing for mackerel off the Canaveral National Seashore in the summer is all about the catch. If you’re looking to hook into some serious mackerel action, Canaveral Kings is the way to go. Their local expertise and dedication to providing top-notch fishing trips make them the best choice for your next outing.

Canaveral Kings offers family-friendly fishing trips for all skill levels. With their extensive knowledge of the local waters and commitment to a great fishing experience, you’ll be in good hands. Book your trip today with Canaveral Kings and get ready to reel in some mackerel with the pros.