There’s little doubt that 13-year-old T.J. Farrington of High Point will remember the first king mackerel of his pier-fishing career – because it was a real smoker. Farrington decked a 42-pound, 10-ounce king on the Oak Island Pier last week, the biggest from the pier this year and the biggest in several years.

Farrington was fishing the pier with his great-aunt, Roberta Grove, and along with several other fishermen, they were hiding under the shelter at the end of the pier during an afternoon rainstorm. That’s when a rod bent over and a reel’s clicker began screaming as something ate the live bluefish bait and headed for the horizon.

At the urging of Ron Brewer, another fisherman, Farrington ran to grab the rod. The king didn’t run like one of the sharks that fishermen were regularly catching off the end of the Oak Island Pier, It kept on running until he could see the reel’s spool. He finally slowed the fish and began gaining back line. After a 25-minute battle, he had gotten back 400 yards of line and led the king to within 100 yards of the pier.

Thn, Farrington said, “It took off again. I got that line back, and it made another run, but this run was shorter and I could tell it was getting tired. Finally, I got it back to the pier, and it ran under the pier and wrapped around a piling.

“I got real worried that the line could get cut on a barnacle or something, but it came back out, and when it did, ‘Brew’ was waiting and got the first gaff in it,” Farrington said. “Jamie (Lutz) and Steve (Dombrowski) got their gaffs in it right after that, and they began lifting it to the pier. I was about in shock and started breathing again when they lifted it across the rail and dropped it on the pier deck. This was my first king ever, and it was huge.”

Farrington, who began fishing at the pier with his great aunt in 2011, is spending the summer at the beach with her and has been fishing almost every day. He caught a citation whiting earlier in the summer and had been hoping to catch a king while fishing under the watchful eye of Grove, Brewer and others. This king easily bested the citation minimum of 30 pounds. 

“This is just great,” Grove said. “I’m so happy for him, and that’s a great fish. I’ve been king fishing on the pier for a while, and my largest king is 26 pounds. I’m not sure he realizes yet just how big a king that is, especially to be caught from a pier.”

“We were hoping he would catch a king before he had to head back to school, and to catch a king like this is really special,” Brewer said. “He deserved it, too. He handled the rod and fought it as well as any adult would have.”

A tradition among pier fishermen is having your shirt-tail cut off when you catch your first king mackerel. Grove and Brewer did the honors for Farrington, and he wears that shirt proudly.