Kings are Gulf’s family fishing ambassador
By Jim Cox
For most of us, the first offshore fish that ever really made a reel ‘scream’ was probably a king mackerel. Those long, blistering runs of kings always produce adrenaline for everyone on the boat and a nice bounty for the fish box.
I look at king mackerel, kind of like a Gulf of Mexico family fishing ambassador. They are here to help wherever they can. They can be caught near-shore, offshore, while trolling or bottom fishing. They are also super kid fishing friendly and can even help with a sight-seeing tour of our beautiful coastline.
I have written about our local charter boats offering four-hour near shore trips. These are great for families with young kids who want to go fishing but maybe aren’t quite ready for a full-day adventure. These four-hour trips will most likely consist of trolling within sight of the beach.
These trips not only offer the fishing experience of targeting king mackerel but these charters also provide a chance to see our beaches from the ‘outside.’ Everyone knows what the beach looks like from the beach, but it is an entirely new perspective the first time you see the beach, condos and Perdido Pass from the Gulf. You don’t even need to enjoy fishing to appreciate the scenery.
Kings and kids are a perfect match. King mackerel with their long body shape, represent a chance for young anglers to catch their first ‘big fish.’ Sometimes, the fish are even taller than the kids, which always makes for a great picture. Usually caught on a cigar minnow and thin wire leader when trolling, kings usually hook themselves, allowing for kids to be handed the rod and then, just having to “reel, reel, reel!” That has to be the most uttered, three-word, repetitive phrase in all of fishing!
Kings also stay relatively close to surface which makes for an easier fight for young kids as opposed to trying to horse a red snapper up from a depth of one hundred feet of water. Plus, when a king strips off one or two hundred yards of line, it is just a different type of fishing action than most kids have ever experienced.
King mackerel will also make most-welcomed appearances when you are targeting other species of fish. While bottom fishing for any reef fish, charter boats will have a ‘drift line’ tossed out behind the boat without a weight on it. The bait just drifts in the current, waiting for a strike from a nearby, cruising king mackerel.
When that bite occurs, it leads to chaos, the fun kind of chaos on a boat. The rod starts bending and the clicker is going off while the rod is still in the rod holder. Everyone stares at the rod until someone finally grabs it (perhaps with some vocal encouragement from the captain and deckhand) to fight the fish. This happens on almost every drift line bite and leads to laughs on the ride in and back at the dock.
Sometimes king mackerel will join your party but in unannounced fashion when bottom fishing. If you ever find yourself getting cut off numerous times, it may be king mackerel trying to invite themselves onto the boat. Kings will often hang around the same structure that holds snapper. A mono leader is no match for the teeth on a hungry king mackerel. Swapping your mono leader for a wire leader will result in less lost tackle, and you’ll immediately notice the different feel of a king on your line than that of a Snapper.
King mackerel, of course, aren’t just for kids. Grown men chase them all over the Gulf with big prize money on the line. Charter boats count on them as part of their daily catch, no matter who is onboard and when a big one hits, it’s not just the reel that starts screaming like a child.
Jim Cox is an avid inshore, offshore, and big game fisherman. He has twice qualified for the prestigious IGFA Offshore Championships in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. He is the past president of the Mobile Big Game Fishing Club and the host and master of ceremonies for the Blue Marlin Grand Championship.