Sunday, 17 August 2014

Home made mackerel lures and traps

I've often seen folk fishing for mackerel by the coast and fancied having a go myself. I finally managed an abortive attempt whilst staying in Pembrokeshire in Wales. I tried with my two lads in tow, but the spot we had available was steep and rather precarious looking so I erred on the side of safety and tried to fish from a distance. The double whammy was also the copious amount of what I believe was bladderwrack seaweed which snagged every single lure I had. 

We did an impromptu beach clean to make up for the mackerel lures ending up as rubbish but I was determined to try again in the future and the next time would see me using home made lures. I'm heading to Brixham on holiday so I've no excuse not to try again...Good job I've made some lures then isn't it?

I had a good idea of how I would make them but I wasn't sure of measurements and dimensions. I was gifted some hooks suitable for mackerel and decided to just double check my ideas with Youtube being my friend. I found this video by Paul Adams to be of a very high standard, as was the follow up too and I was rather pleased that I was on the right lines but this video helped with things like the position of the hook and finishing off.

I had initally invisaged  making several cheap as chips tin foil lures but I was desperate to make at least one more bushcrafty version. I had some thin gold metal off a bottle of Spanish red wine which I was going to use to whip the foil to the hook, but I found some nice white mute swan? Egret? feathers at the RSPB's Minsmere reserve and would secure them with lime cordage and possibly a little pine resin glue. So to practice on some tin foil ones first.

I was thinking of making standalone lures and attaching them with a seperate length of line to form a complete rig but Paul shows how to make the whipping and line from one length. The followup suggested using a uniknot to fasten it, I was going to use a blood but who am I to argue?


Straight away I found the foil easy to mark, score and cut but I felt that it was a tad flimsy and folded it. My first attempt at a lure wasn't bad and I was particularly pleased with the way the whipping went (I know how to whip but I'd never tried with fishing line before) but as I pulled the line into the actual whipping it caught the foil and damaged it a little. I secured the whipping with superglue and had to stick the damaged length to the shank of the hook to secure it. I still decided to press on and make a complete tin foil rig for the practice anyway.

Paul's video shows four lures attached but I was going to make my setups with two because I'd read that whilst mackerel are torpedo shaped killing machines, their skin doesn't respond well to being handled and if by any chance I fished near a shoal there's the chance that I could end up with more than I need with no way of returning them to a life of more than a few days back in the briney. They are supposed to be greedy so I feel confident but just in case I may well make a four lure rig in case I don't score!


With the flimsiness issue of tin foil I had a root through our Christmas stuff in the attic and found some silver foil ribbon which was similar to the holographic stuff Paul used in his video. My next lures were ribbon, secured with gold wine bottle wire and just fishing line (featured above) and the bushcrafty one which is a lime cordage whipped white feather. I'd love to catch a fish with the bushcrafty lure but my gut feeling is to use the ribbon one.


I've converted a washing machine tablet box into a small tackle box by super gluing the lid frame to the main body, poking a hot metal skewer through the top of each side and used paracord to make a strap using a double overhand to secure it inside the box, and some cobra weave in the centre to make it more comfortable. 

As well as the hope of catching mackerel I'll be armed with other stuff to maximise the stay there and keep the kids interested. For crabbing I use a plastic bottle trap (a water bottle with the top cut off and inserted in 'upside down'). I've cut the pouring  spout out and widened the neck to allow crabs in and the string wrapped around the bottom is to give them a grip. The net, which  I believe is for landing fish from a pier, has been adapted with a little bait box to catch the smaller fish that lurk by the harbour wall-Pollack mainly. 


The traditional crab line has been relegated but it's still useful for lowering the bottle trap in. And all stowed in a touristy crab bucket. A bucket's a bucket! As you can see from the top right hand side picture, it's not all crabbing. Cooked in garlic and butter with extra salt (you salt water to stop the flavour being drawn out if you boiled them so I assumed the same for butter). They tasted a lot sweeter than the ones in the shops. I've done a bottle fish trap how to that can be seen here.

Having arrived on holiday my wife and I bumped into a fisherman whilst on an early morning amble, he'd taken a bucketful of mackerel and showed us a spot (Berry Head) where the fish were queuing up to be caught. He was right.

I caught this one on my first proper cast, or second if you count the miscue that saw the lures travel about ten feet. Whilst I wanted to catch one on a bushcrafty feather and lime cordage set I for a foil lure set which my eldest son also used to land one. 


Despite my kids wanting to continue I called it at two. As I said earlier I specifically made up two lure sets so that I didn't catch too many, and whilst I was tempted I resisted the urge to chuck the seal a fish as it was a tad frivolous to my mind...there were others who did. This seal is a regular at Berry Head and we also saw him steal a fish off a line. Is he being lazy or clever? I hope that the mackerel stocks are healthy because I saw the regulars pulling eye watering amounts out the sea and the catch top right was typical of what I saw. Add to this trawlers that can scoop a whole shoal. We left the skin and a bit of the brown meat out for the badgers that frequent the garden, and saved the remaining heads and bones for crabbing so no real waste.


So a couple of nice sized fish, the smoker loaded with two good  dessert spoons of oak chips from The Jerky Shack.


All the filets had Schawartz Seasonall on plus three others had extra added. From the top left hand side: Seasonall only, garlic, ground pepper and lemon juice. In the smoker for 15 minutes or so with two well filled burners.


A chance to sit back with a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and admire the view whilst the smoker smoked. The results were superb, I got my whole family trying it and they were a hit. The fish was supple and moist with subtle smokiness, the opposite of a lot of shop purchased smoked mackerel.


  1. This is great to read on a damp November morning, i think you worked out for yourself the most important things about mackerel fishing, when to stop fishing and how to enjoy eating them. I am glad you found the videos useful and that you used what you had or could salvage for lures. I always find fishing really deepens my experience of a place and second to that is reading about it so thanks. I caught my first mackerel trolling rigs behind a canoe between Hope Cove and Burgh Island and i can still remember that vividly. Happy times

    1. Thanks Paul, you helped make the fishing experience a success for all the family. Have a gold star :)

  2. Love the homemade mackerel lures.

  3. Thanks Ben. It was a really satisfying project and promotes the learning side of Youtube too.