Mackerel Fishing in Nova Scotia


One of my favourite fish to catch and eat is the Atlantic mackerel. They are a small cousin of the great bluefin tuna. They are common along the coast of Nova Scotia and the best time to catch them is when they are “running” in the late summer and early fall, with August being the best month. We usually fish from a wharf, but many anglers catch them from boats as well. A lot of lobster and crab fishermen use mackerel for bait in their traps.

A licence is not required to fish mackerel. Most people that fish from shore use a spinning rod with mackerel feathers, Norwegian jigs, or any lure with a bit of colour or flash. I use a spinning rod from the wharf but prefer using a hand line or jig on a boat. I especially like the jig because it has five or six feathered hooks, and I can catch more than one fish at a time.

Mackerel aren’t that fussy and are easy to catch – well, most of the time. They are a great fish to catch for young anglers. My kids spent a lot of their summers down on the wharf fishing for mackerel – and catching crabs. A common name for small mackerel is “tinker”. I usually catch the tinkers 😉

Mackerel spoil quickly because of their oily flesh and do not freeze as well as other fish. Make sure you have a bucket of fresh salt water beside you to keep them in. There are many ways to cook them: pan fried, BBQ, baked, steamed, and my favourite, cold smoked! Another favourite of mine is soused mackerel, baked in vinegar – it’s so good!

A lot of people will fry their mackerel only outdoors because of the smell, not a bad smell, but a strong smell. Mackerel can be very oily, but are a very healthy choice because of these oils – omega-3 fatty acids. They are also very high in protein and contain high amounts of Vitamins D, B6 and B12. The most important thing to me is that they are so tasty!


There are a few coastal communities in Nova Scotia that have mackerel tournaments. Prizes are given out for the largest fish, smallest fish, most fish, etc. There is usually a beer garden, music, lots of seafood to eat, games for children – some even include a mackerel toss competition. It is a lot of fun and a great way of getting people together. We actually have a couple of trophies in our home.

Whether fishing from the wharf with my children, in a small row boat with my dad, or in a Cape Island boat with my husband and brother-in-law, I receive a great amount of joy mackerel fishing. Not only because I love eating the fish but because of the enjoyment of being outside, being on the open ocean and sharing time with family and friends.

Happy fishing!


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