King mackerel making themselves available at Grand Strand ports

Anglers aboard the World Cat out of Ocean Isle Fishing Center show off king mackerel caught on a trip Tuesday.
Anglers aboard the World Cat out of Ocean Isle Fishing Center show off king mackerel caught on a trip Tuesday. Courtesy of OIFC.com

Over the last week, king mackerel have made a strong showing on bottom spots in about 45-65 feet of water, accessible from all Grand Strand ports.

Having kings available as a staple species to target from late spring through autumn is important to local charter captains. Numerous crews had a ball this week as the kings moved into the area for the season.

Limits of three per person per day with a 24-inch minimum size to the fork of the tail have been common, and the method has been simple.

Catching live bait such as menhaden hasn’t been necessary, as slow-trolling dead cigar minnows have easily enticed bites from the ravenous kings, on the tail end of their northward migration.

“We’ve been doing a smack down on them at Belky Bear,” Capt. Jeff Maples of Reel Salty Charters in Murrells Inlet said of a Tuesday trip. “Between me and (Capt. J) Baisch (of Fishful Thinking Charters) there were schools jumping. There were times when there were 5-6 (kings) in the air at the same time. It was wild.”

Maples’ crew came in with 11 kings, from just over the 24-inch minimum size to 16 pounds, and lost numerous fish.

Maples slow-trolled the cigar minnows on a 1-ounce Mission Fishin’ jig head with a treble hook.

“If you troll it at the right speed, it will run about 3-4 feet below the surface,” Maples said.

The fishing was similar on the north end, also on Tuesday, for Capt. Chris Dew and first mate Paul Eagle and crew aboard the World Cat out of Ocean Isle Fishing Center in Ocean Isle Beach, N.C.

Fishing the Charcoal, a live-bottom area about 18 miles southeast of the OIFC in 65 feet of water, Dew put his customers on the fish.

“We limited on kings, in an hour and 45 minutes – we caught all the kings we could keep,” Eagle said. “We used cigar minnows and they hit it about as soon as it hit the water. We call them the spring kings. They’re the teenage kings, not the big ones. But they’re the best to eat.”

Beach Kings

King mackerel, including a few smokers, have been found along Grand Strand beaches, too.

A 33-pounder, caught Sunday off Apache Pier, was king of the week followed closely by a 30-pounder landed from the Cherry Grove Pier on Tuesday.

“There are pogeys (menhaden) on the beach – it’s starting to happen,” Eagle said. “It’s getting geared up to be a good summer.”

The king activity on the beach bodes well for the 2016 Spring King Mackerel Tournament, which is being held Saturday and Sunday on the Cherry Grove, Apache, Springmaid and Myrtle Beach State Park piers.

S.C. Governor’s Cup

The 2016 South Carolina Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series is underway with the first of five tournaments – the Carolina Billfish Classic.

The first of three fishing days in the tournament, staged out of Toler’s Cove Marina in Mt. Pleasant, was on Thursday, with the final fishing day on Saturday.

The second tournament in the series is the 49th annual Georgetown Blue Marlin Tournament, scheduled for Georgetown Landing Marina May 25-28.

High School Bass Championship

Anglers from Conway and Carolina Forest high schools recently competed in the South Carolina High School Fishing State Championship sponsored by B.A.S.S. against 18 other schools.

Carolina Forest’s Jackson Denny and Bowman Davis finished seventh in the two-man team rankings, with an aggregate of 11.80 pounds including a big fish of 3.84 pounds. Denny and Bowman were the only anglers competing from Carolina Forest.

Conway had three angler duos competing and all three weighed in fish. Conway’s three teams combined to finish eighth in the school standings.

Gregg Holshouser: wholshouser@sc.rr.com