Mackerel a true fish of summer

Think back to those formative fishing days as a teenager in North Devon and mackerel would feature high in those fishing memories. Caught on silvery spinners, strips of mackerel fished beneath bright crimson tipped floats or more commonly on strings of feathers launched from the rocks. I remember watching the shoals as they drove scattering silver whitebait from the water as the birds swooped to feast upon the fleeing fish.

I had begun to think that those days of plenty had been consigned to history books but sometimes nature bounces back. I had heard that mackerel were abundant in shoals not witnessed for decades with large shoals showing from Hartland to Porlock.

I headed down to Ilfracombe to enjoy a session after the mackerel and scrambled out onto the rocks amongst the foundations of the old pier. It was good to see the rocks and pier busy with anglers of all ages casting a variety of lures and feathers. News that mackerel were about had brought out the occasional angler in abundance. And whilst I’m not generally keen on fishing amongst crowds I resigned myself to this hustle and bustle of communal angling.

I had brought a spinning rod and a few metal lures to savour each fish taking a few home for tea whilst enjoying the thrill of catching. For the first twenty minutes or so I suspected that I had missed out on the recent abundance. But then I noted a few mackerel starting to show with the twisting and turning fish being swung ashore.

A sharp knock was transmitted through the line and I was in. The mackerel are miniature tuna and fight hard their bodies packed with muscle. As I watched them in the clear water I reflected upon the huge tuna I had seen caught last winter and questioned my sanity in seeking contact with a member of the mackerel family 500 times bigger than the fish at the end of my line.

As the tide flooded I was forced to leave my rocky platform with five mackerel, real jewels of the summer sea. The sun was setting as I put the rods into the car and lines of anglers were still casting from the rocks.

Whilst mackerel can sometimes encourage a less savoury aspect in those who litter or take more fish than required it also brings anglers  of all ages to the shoreline to enjoy those simple pleasures.

During July and August many Ilfracombe Charter boats take holidaymakers on short trips to catch mackerel an experience that can be the introduction to a more serious angling addiction.