Fishing Tourney Mackerel
Among Carolina saltwater sport fishermen, the king mackerel is probably the most popular species. Even though over-fished for the last two decades, they are surely the most abundant fighting fish available to inshore (within 20 miles) anglers, other than their smaller relatives, the Spanish mackerel.
Any boat that is seaworthy enough to deal with the bar water of an inlet has a fair shot at catching a big ‘smoker’ king, as the warm water temperatures bring them in to feed, sometimes just beyond the breakers.
On a reasonably calm day, it is not unusual to see a few brave souls in tiny john-boats as far offshore as the 5-mile Boxcars area looking for these fighters.
In the shadows of the larger pleasure craft and charter boats trolling nearby, they anchor up and put live pogies on their light lines in hopes of hooking one of the streaking silver speed demons.
Then, once the king is on, with his scorching runs threatening to empty the line from the reel, its adrenaline and wits versus speed and endurance, as the doubled rod quivers from the strain.
Now that bigger and better kings are cruising the shores, king-fishing tourneys offering big-money prizes are shifting into high gear.
In the fall of the year, some very lucrative jackpots (ranging from a few thousand to more than $50,000) will be passed out nearly every weekend to those anglers with the best combination of preparation, skill and just maybe a touch of good luck.
Preparation and practice is needed for landing Mackerel
Just in case you don’t feel that lucky, it might behoove you to put more emphasis on the parts of the equation that you can control. Being prepared and practicing your techniques might be the path to success in king fishing.
As in past years, much of the money will ultimately go to those corporate-sponsored professional fishermen in their high-dollar, 60 mph racing hulls. There’s good reason for that because these guys make a science of their sport. They work at fine-honing their methods. The bottom line is they work hard to win.
Often enough, though, the big money goes to recreational anglers who don’t have anywhere near the resources of the sponsored teams. Why do they win? For the same reason as the pros. It all boils down to preparation and practice.
It also helps to compare notes with and observe other king fishermen. Even if they are not professionals, most will share some secrets with you when they’re not out fishing a tournament.
But if you’re fishing beside someone who’s obviously got an edge, keep your eyes open. Maybe you’ll see something that will help you get a leg up.
There are certain things that must be done if you want to have a chance to compete. None are secrets, just the result of trial-and-error and asking others.
Tie extra rigs: Trying to tie rigs in a rough ocean is tough enough. Tying them while other boats load up on hungry kings is especially dreadful.
Get live bait: If you absolutely can’t find menhaden, or buy them, catch a few live pinfish at your dock before you leave.
Monitor the baitwell: Appoint one person to monitor the baitwell during your trip. A clogged water intake can wipe out those pogies within minutes. Dead menhaden don’t attract much of anything.
Short strikes: If a fish short-strikes, quickly turn off your clicker, throw the reel into free-spool, and let the bait sink. As often as not, the fish will come back for more. Keep your thumb on the spool to avoid backlash and be ready to put the reel back in gear when he re-hooks himself. Practice this enough and you’ll increase your catch by at least 25 percent.
Experience counts: Have an experienced gaff-person for any big fish. Beating up a big king with a gaff is criminal and can be grounds for disqualification.
Don’t skimp on ice: On a hot summer day, you’d be surprised how quickly a king can decompose. If he does, he’s worthless. So keep lots of ice on hand.
It’s the company you keep: Fish with a crew of good-natured people who can handle not winning. Relax. If you’ve prepared well, and it’s your time to shine, maybe you’ll win. If not, then better luck next time.