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After weeks of talking, it finally happened. The annual Cape Fear ship channel king mackerel bite occurred over the weekend, colliding with the more than 450 participants in the U.S Open King Mackerel tournament. Every year, it’s like flipping a light switch as the kings suddenly show up as if out of nowhere.
Historically, the largest fish show in the Cape Fear ship channel, but the facts are the kings inhabit almost all of the known fishing spots in 40-65 feet of water. This past weekend, thousands of king mackerel were caught at spots such as the Jungle, Shark Hole, 410/510, Myrtle Beach Rocks, Lighthouse Rocks, Yaupon Reef, Cabbage Patch and the Cape Fear ship channel.
I’ve made the comment before concerning fisheries management: how can you determine a species health when they show up and disappear as if out of thin air? One week you’d swear the stock was on the verge of collapse, and the next you wonder at the sheer abundance.
The winner of the U.S. Open this year was Larry Deal aboard the Mako Warrior. He and crew caught their 40-pound king Friday morning while fishing near the end of the Cape Fear ship channel. The tournament leader board was very impressive, as it nearly took a 30-pounder just to make the top 50.
Again, I fished a tournament out of Southport in early September where the winning fish was 29 pounds. Early October that fish wouldn’t have bought you a cup of coffee at the Scotchman Store.
The conditions were absolutely perfect for the weekend’s fishing, as winds were light and seas slight. Pogies were very plentiful along the Brunswick beaches, along with schools of mullet, bluefish and Spanish mackerel.
In other fishing, the grouper fishing continues good in the range of 60-80 feet. Many fishermen overlook this area and discount the live bottoms and small ledges they often fish over while trolling for kings. It simply takes a little extra effort to anchor over these spots and drop a live bait to the bottom to get hooked up with a hard-fighting and great eating gag grouper.
Farther offshore, some anglers are beginning to venture to the edge of the Gulf Stream, where they are encountering wahoo, blackfin tuna and sailfish. Wahoo will be on the increase through this month as schools of small tunas and bonitos migrate through these waters and make a favorite meal for oversize wahoo.
This coming weekend is the Rumble in the Jungle king mackerel tournament. The tournament is based out of Harbourgate Marina in North Myrtle Beach. The event takes place in conjunction with the Southern Kingfish Association’s Professional Kingfish Circuit, which will bring many of the country’s best king mackerel fishermen to our area. The fishing is guaranteed to be great, so attending the weigh-in Friday and Saturday afternoon should be worthwhile.
And Oct. 23-25 the Fall Brawl King Classic will be hosted from the Ocean Isle Fishing Center. All this great fishing and all these exciting events—whether you’re a fisherman or just a fan, it’s a great month.
See you on the water and, hopefully, at the weigh-in.
BRANT McMULLAN is a charter captain and fishing columnist for the Beacon. Reach him at email@example.com