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The summer months in the UK will see many anglers take to the coastline to target mackerel that will head into our shores. Mackerel being a migratory fish will find their way to UK shores in early to mid-summer as they seek warmer water. They feed actively on prey fish such as sandeel, herring and sprats, and then migrate to warmer seas in the autumn months to spawn.

mackerel fishing

So what’s so fun about mackerel fishing? Mackerel fishing offers affordable sport fishing and is a great way to introduce newcomers to the sport as they prove quite an easy fish to catch! In this article, we will be going over the fishing setups required to target these saltwater torpedos.

Where can I find mackerel?

As previously mentioned mackerel drive prey fish to the surface of the water as well as pushing them in towards harbours, estuaries and other various shorelines. This reduces the amount of water that baitfish have to escape and theoretically allow mackerel to corner their prey, making for easy pickings.


Break waters and harbours are ideal areas for locating mackerel.

If you’re fishing from the shore targeting harbours, estuaries and breakwaters are a good starting point. Alternatively, if you have access to a boat, look for herring and black-headed gulls flocking around the surface of open water, this is a good indication that baitfish are being pushed up to the surface of the water by predatory fish.

Top tip: Try and fish during a rising tide. Baitfish follow their food source in towards the coast as the tide rises.

How to fish for mackerel

The two most commonly used methods for catching mackerel are spinning and jigging. Both of these methods are very effective. Jigging mackerel feathers allows you to catch multiple mackerel at the same time, whilst spinning tactics only allows you to target one fish per cast. Below, we take a closer look at each method.

How to fish mackerel feathers

It’s quite common to see anglers cast to the horizon when they’re fishing for mackerel. Quite often though, the mackerel are usually quite close to the shore as they drive baitfish up against harbour walls or into harbours.

We recommend casting close in and gradually increase your distance on each cast to see where the fish are located.

Fishing mackerel feathers couldn’t be simpler. Cast your feathers out. Allow them to sink to the bottom and then by holding your rod high, wind in until the feathers are a few feet off the sea bed. Then by jigging the rod in an upward and downward motion while retrieving your feathers, will see your feathers flutter through the water columns like fleeing baitfish.


Be prepared when using this method, mackerel are a schooling fish and it is very common to hook more than 1 fish at any one time, making it a very fun method to fish.

When it comes to fishing tackle, there is no finesse involved in the fishing gear required. We need a rod that can deal with bringing in multiple fish at the same time as well as hauling fish up the shore or harbour walls.

We recommend using a 10-12ft rod with a fairly heavy casting weight to deal with the rigours of feather fishing. Reel wise, we need a 60 sized saltwater fixed spool reel. This provides the cranking power required to deal with the multiple catches that you will inevitably encounter.

Top Tip: When using a feather rig setup you should match your setup to the number of feathers you are using. If you’re using a lighter rod and reel setup with a 2oz casting weight for example, try and opt for 3 feathers max. If you’re using a set up with a heavier casting weight then you can increase the number of feathers you are using.

You should only use the number of feathers your gear can handle.

Mackerel feather rig

This is one of the most commonly used rigs when targeting mackerel. The rig consists of a rig body that is made up of a 40 – 50lb mainline. From this, there are a string of feathers that are connected to the main rig body itself. At either end of the rig, there is a pre-tied loop for connecting your mainline and your lead.

mackerel feather

A mackerel feather is a simple, yet highly effective lure.

To connect the swivel or lead, simply thread the loop through the eyelet of the swivel or lead and then feed the loop over the full swivel or lead and pull down, this will create a lasso effect and allows you to change leads or rigs quickly and easily while still providing a strong connection. We recommend using a snap link on your mainline so you can change rigs quickly and efficiently.

snap link

Use a snap link on your main line so you can change rigs quickly and efficiently.

Click here to view our full range of mackerel feathers!

How to catch mackerel with lures

Spinning for mackerel is a great way to catch these torpedo-shaped sport fish and a very simple way to fish for them too. If you prefer fishing a lighter or smaller setup then we recommend spinning for mackerel over chucking feather rigs all day as some people might find this hard to do if they’re not used to a heavy-based sea fishing setup.

mackerel spinner

The Dexters Wedge is a classic and affordable mackerel spinner option.

To catch mackerel with lures, cast the lure out and count it down to the desired depth – bear in mind, mackerel will very rarely be close to the sea bed and will be actively hunting the upper layers of the water. Ensuring your lure works in these mid-layers will reflect on your success. Retrieval speeds are a personal preference, but we would recommend mixing it up to see if something works better on a specific day. This can be done by altering speed retrieve rates, pausing on the retrieve etc.

Best mackerel lures

Click here to view our full range of lures!

We recommend lures that are silver or blue/silver in colour as these represent a good imitation of a mackerel’s diet.


Mackerel fishing rod setup

Below we have highlighted a few various affordable setups that can be used for lure and feather fishing tactics. We give you a breakdown of each of the setups and why we recommend them.


Shakespeare Firebird Mackerel Combo


A great entry-level or affordable option, the Shakespeare Firebird Beach/Pier rod comes in two sizes and casting weights. The 10ft model with a 2-4oz casting weight is an ideal setup for a 3 mackerel feather setup and the 12ft 4-8oz set up is ideal for a 3 plus mackerel feather setup.

This setup comes with a 60 size fixed spool reel that is already loaded with 20lb monofilament. Meaning you’re already to fish as soon as you leave the store.

Click here to view our full range of rods!


Penn Pursuit 4000

A Penn 4000 sized reel will accommodate a 9-10ft spinning rod just fine. It gives you the capacity for heavier breaking strain lines and the smaller sized reel will balance the outfit nicely while keeping it comfortable to fish with all day.


Penn Pursuit 5000

The larger size reel is perfect for feather rigs, the bigger reel provides increased line capacity as well as providing extreme cranking power for bringing in multiple catches at any one time. The 5000 sizes will accommodate 11 foot plus rods nicely. The Penn range of reels are designed for saltwater use and will eliminate any saltwater corrosion that a freshwater fixed spool reel may suffer from. If you are unsure if a reel is resistant to saltwater corrosion, we recommend calling us before purchasing.

Click here to view our full range of reels!


Mackerel fishing is a great way to introduce kids or newcomers to the sport. This is a great hobby during the summer holidays that will get the heart pumping and the laughs flowing. The overall setups are affordable and easy to assemble so why not give it a try! You will definitely enjoy the experience.