Study of 5 mackerel by William Shackleton

Study of 5 mackerel by William Shackleton

Mackerel have a sparkle.  A very special way of catching the light.  The flash of iridescent metallic blues and greens that no photograph ever seems to capture.  A live mackerel is a work of art.  One of the great joys of my youth was catching mackerel, seeing them flash and glisten in the water, feeling the kick as they take the bait, watching them flicker and sparkle as you reel them in.

Such easy fish to catch, they will bite anything put in front of them.  A hook decorated with a feather or a triangle of shiny plastic will attract them.  When they are running you can catch them by the bucket-load.  You have to make a conscious decision to stop casting your line, because there is a limit to how many you can eat and give away.

The mackerel run in the height of summer, so for me mackerel are the harbinger of the summer.  Long warm nights, salad days, holidays, beaches, messing about in boats.  All the good stuff.

They are perfect for the barbecue, and there is no fish to rival a truly fresh mackerel.  A smear of Dijon mustard, ten minutes on the BBQ and you have a meal fit for a king.   Some green salad, good crusty bread and a nice sharp white wine to cut the oil, a Vinho Verde or a Pinot Grigio, nothing too sophisticated.

White Water; by John Montague

The light, tarred skin
of the currach rides
and receives the current,
rolls and responds to
the harsh sea swell.

Inside the wooden ribs
a slithering frenzy; a sheen
of black-barred silver-
green and flailing mackerel:
the iridescent hoop
of a gasping sea trout.

As a fish gleams most
fiercely before it dies,
so the scales of the sea-hag
shine with a hectic
putrescent glitter:

luminous, bleached—
white water—
that light in the narrows
before a storm breaks.