Most years the first kings caught from N.C. fishing piers are decked at one of the Oak Island piers and that has happened again this year.
Randy Robbins doesn't have a boat, but that didn't keep him from catching a king mackerel during April. Robbins, of James Island, S.C., was fishing at Oak Island Pier in Oak Island on Saturday, April 30, when he caught the first N.C. pier king of the 2016 season. The king weighed 30.2 pounds and earned Robbins an Outstanding Catch Citation from the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries.
"King fishermen had been on the pier all day hoping to catch the first king of the year," said Tommy Thomes, operator of Oak Island Pier. "As it got later in the afternoon they began leaving, but he stuck it out. He had been watching a tide line creep closer to the pier all afternoon and knew that often kings would be feeding along the tide line. He said he was going to fish until he caught a king, or dark."
Robbins was rewarded with a king strike late in the afternoon. The tide line was still several hundred yards off the pier when a silver flash streaked out from the pier. Robbins' anchor rod dipped deeply and his fighting reel began screaming. There had been a short cobia caught and released earlier in the day, but Robbins had seen a silver flash and was sure his hard running fish would be a king.
After about 30 minutes that included a couple of runs and a lot of tug-of-war, Robbins led the tiring king to the waiting gaff. It weighed 30.2 pounds and word spread through the Oak Island pier king fishing ranks like wildfire. Robbins landed his king around 7:00 P.M. and most of the island's king fishermen knew it before dark.
The next morning, Sunday, May 1, the ends of both Oak Island Piers were filled with hopeful king mackerel fishermen. The wind was a bit strong early, but settled out by mid morning.
Two kings were landed from the piers on Sunday. Jamie Balock scored with a 38.15 pounder from Ocean Crest Pier and 15-year-old James Lutz decked a 29.8-pound king at Oak Island Pier. Balock's king hit early Sunday afternoon, but Lutz had to wait several more hours as another tide line approached Oak Island Pier.
Monday was a teacher work day for Brunswick County Schools and kids were out, so Lutz was on Oak Island Pier bright and early. His diligence was rewarded as a king grabbed his live bluefish bait. After a short battle, Lutz led his second king in as many days to the pier to be gaffed. This king weighed 35.4 pounds and earned Lutz the citation he barely missed the previous afternoon.
Tuesday morning, the king bite fired off at Ocean Crest Pier. John Mason got bit first and landed a huge 38.2-pound smoker king. Several hours later, it was Charles Miller's turn and he added a 25.11-pound king to the growing tally. The bite isn't red hot yet, but the numbers are steadily growing.
The Oak Island piers are regionally famous for being the first N.C. piers to produce kings most years and that these early runs are primarily large king mackerel. Most fishermen think of the fall as the prime time for catching kings from piers, but the king mackerel records for these piers, plus the record for the former Long Beach Pier, were all caught during the spring run and they are all 50 pound class kings.
Boat fishermen also caught some large kings over the weekend by trolling between the beach and the nearshore artificial reefs. The largest of these was a 47.60 pound brute caught by Charles Callahan of Laurinburg and weighed at the Ocean Isle Fishing Center. Callahan caught it close to the beach on a swimming lure while trolling smaller lures for Spanish mackerel.
There isn't any question the pier king bite has begun at the Oak Island piers and, once again, the majority of these fish are large, healthy kings. The time duration of this run is always a mystery. Some years it is mere days and other years it lasts a month or longer. It's happening now and Oak Island Pier and Ocean Crest Pier in Oak Island are the places to be. A tip for those wanting to test their luck with this fishing is to arrive early to secure a position at the railing. King fishing from these piers is popular anyway and when the word spreads the spring bite is on, sometimes space runs out.