For the past 10 days, anglers cruising along the beachfront of South Carolina’s northern coastline have been noticing a different crowd of visitors hanging on the outside edge of the breakers. The season’s first mullet has kicked off, a sure-fire sign of the beginning of the fall fishing season, and ready to get started were king mackerel. 

Capt. Steve Roff of Barrier Island Guide Service recently observed the first procession of mullet off the beaches within sight of Georgetown’s jetties and the king mackerel that were following them.

“The mullet run is kicking up hard right now,” said Roff (843-446-7337). “There are some tarpon and bull reds in there, but it is the king mackerel that are making a spectacle slashing through the schools of bait. It looks like one of the ‘Wild Kingdom’ television episodes.”

According to Roff, the majority of the kings he is catching are of the larger variety, exceeding 25 pounds, but the most-exciting part is how close the kings are to the breakers.

“The kings are packing up on the beach right now, getting in there really good. It is not every day that we catch king mackerel in 8 to 10 feet of water,” he says.

While most fishermen slow-troll live bait for kings, Roff prefers to anchor down and free-line live mullet and menhaden along the mullet highway.

“The kings are following the schools of mullet down the beach, and we like to set up right along that passageway. Anchoring allows us to blend in better with the surroundings, without all of the excess engine noise. It also gives us a better chance to catch tarpon and the bull reds feeding in the same place,” he said.

While the action can be at any time of day, Roff likes certain stages of the tide.

“The key is to fish during rising water when it is typically the clearest,” he said, explaining that the greater distance these hungry predators can see, the better chance they will notice the solitary baits swimming around in circles without the protection of their school buddies.

Roff believes the kings will be around for quite a while, feeding on the parade of mullet.

“Right after this nor’easter passes by this week, the mullet should be pouring down the coast, and the fishing should be spectacular in the coming weeks,” he said.