Swimming in the sea at Bexhill last Monday at about 5pm, I saw a fascinating sight. It was extraordinary, the water became alive and a flock of seagulls was following the jumping and bubbling. I assumed it was the gulls that had created the disturbance, but I was told that in fact the large, changing and seemingly alive shadow was “the mackerel running”, meaning a huge school of the fish was catching sprats and driving them inshore ahead of them.
It happened very suddenly and was a wonderful spectacle, lasting for at least an hour, before the bubbling shadow and the bird group continued their way past Glynde Gap. Apparently, it happens once a year along the coast. How lucky for all of us present, though I was glad to have got out of the water before they all arrived. Several little boats appeared, no doubt fishermen trying their luck and we got a fresh mackerel for dinner, caught with just the bare hands of a skilled fisherman.
According to the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority, mackerel spend most of the year in deeper water but move inshore during the mid and late summer months searching for food. Adult mackerel feed on crustaceans and small fish including herring, sprat and sandeel while they themselves are hunted by larger fish species, marine mammals and birds.
Photo: Heidi Foster