Up north in Massachusetts where the Pilgrims landed, the cornucopia was overflowing with items of bounty from the previous growing season and warm-weather fishing. Theirs was a celebration of what had been provided for the long winter ahead.
In the more temperate Palmetto State, our abundance of things natural flows nearly year round. We don't have to stock up like our forefathers did. When we gather at Thanksgiving, sportsmen can celebrate with yellowfin tuna, flounder, doves, deer, shrimp and oysters - resources that span the calendar.
A multitude of outdoor activities pull at South Carolina sportsmen this time of year. Duck season opens, there's the middle split of dove season and deer season is in high gear. On the water, winter spotted seatrout are obliging enough to leave anglers thinking they could win every inshore tournament that ever existed. And redfish? Well, let's just say even Sylvester the Cat could catch one this month.
Let's not forget king mackerel.
Yes, king mackerel. These silver rockets have essentially a warm-weather reputation, but their action this month will make anglers forget the leaves have changed.
Except for those in the know, many anglers have overlooked the ocean king bite. Instead, they've filed away the memories of this year's offshore trips and reluctantly have eaten the last package of dolphin fillets. "If I can't wear shorts, a t-shirt and flip-flops then I don't need to be fishing out there" is the standard line of thinking.
However, plenty is happening, and it starts right outside the beach with kings, usually not far from where you caught them when the weather was blistering.
"Generally speaking, the kings are closer inshore now," said Capt. Michael Wells of Intimidator Sportfishing Charters at Little River. "You can find them right off of the beach, usually within 5 miles of land for sure."
Wells said king mackerel are exploiting prey species that are vacating nearshore waters for points farther south.
"In a normal year, there's a smorgasbord inshore for kings," he said. "It's like Golden Corral steakhouse for them. The Spanish mackerel and schools of mullet and menhaden are pulling out to head south as the water cools. The kings are in there feeding on all of this in preparation for winter too."
To capitalize on this frenzy Wells rarely does anything different than when he's fishing for king mackerel in the warmer months.
"I still use a live-bait strategy," Wells said. "Finding live bait can get iffy this time of year. If the water temperature gets below 60 degrees, it's going to be hard to find a school of live bait.
"If I can get live bait, I run them on the standard live-bait rig. Mine consists of a No. 4 wire and either a No. 4 or No. 6 Eagle Claw 7774s or 7776s hook. The hook size and type is a personal preference. It's whatever you are most comfortable with.
"Some king fishermen like to run a nose hook and two stinger treble hooks dangling near the bait whereas others will run three treble hooks, one in the nose, one in the body and a stinger, theorizing that more total number of points increases your chances for a hookup."
Because procuring live bait might be impossible, Wells said king mackerel anglers that hit the water this month should have at least one box of cigar minnows as well as a bag of ballyhoo on board. If not, about the only excitement will be the boat ride.
"Dead cigar minnows or ballyhoo are the next best baits to me," Wells said. "Some people might want to troll artificial lures instead, but I have found that cigar minnows or ballyhoo work better. I slow troll them just like if I was using live bait."
There are other tactics that fall king mackerel anglers can employ, but Wells said he rarely does it. He'll sit at a spot if he knows fish are in the water at that particular place.
"I'll only anchor and play the waiting game if I know the fish have been holding in an area," Wells said. "This sort of fishing takes commitment, especially if you're going to be chumming.
"You have to supply a constant flow of scent in the water to get and keep the fish interested in the boat. It's a lot of work to sit on a grinder all day. You almost have to dedicate one person to do this job. If you're not willing to do this for a long period of time, you're just wasting your time to even start."
Wells whipped off a litany of places for anglers to start searching for fall king mackerel.
"These fish are going to be positioned in water from 15- to 60-feet deep," Wells said. "In a general sense, you can find them off of any inlet from the shipping channel of the Cape Fear River in North Carolina, past Little River down to Georgetown.
"You can find them at any of the artificial reefs or live-bottom areas. The Yaupon Reef (AR 425) in North Carolina, Little River Inshore and Offshore reefs, Myrtle Beach Rocks and the 390/390 and 410/510 live-bottom areas are all good spots.
"The weekend guys that have 19- to 23-foot boats can get to any of these areas in 2- to 3-foot seas. They may have to pick their days, some but there are plenty of days during the month they can get out there."
Wells recommended anglers keep a close eye on water conditions. He said once the water temperature is in the 50s, the kings will leave. Ideal temperatures are between 68 and 72 degrees, but he said anglers could find them in cooler water.
"If the water temperature is 3 or 4 degrees cooler than ideal but there is plenty of bait in the water," Wells said, "stick it out and see what happens."
Another factor he suggested anglers note is how much rain has fallen. Kings don't like muddy water, Wells said. If a pile of fresh water is spilling out along the beach from an inlet, he said anglers should go elsewhere.
Farther down the coast, another captain from Charleston echoes much of what Wells said but said he finds consistent fish a little farther offshore.
"Live bait is always an issue this month," said Captain Ivan Schultz of Captain Ivan's Sportfishing in Charleston. "We might be able to find some schools of mullet or menhaden but we'd have to be lucky. If not, we might be able to catch some live bait, such as small bluefish at an artificial reef.
"Where the kings are going to be depends on the water temperature and how fast it drops. If it's less than 65 degrees, they are gone in my experience. Early in the month, fish might be in 40 to 60 feet of water. Usually we can find fish, however, in water around 90-feet deep for sure. Out there, the water temperature will run about 66 to 67 degrees."
Schultz said, ideally, 68 to 69 degrees is perfect. A rule of thumb he follows when trying to predict where the right water temperature might be is the water warms 1 degree with every 10-foot drop in depth.
"Anglers are looking for live-bottom areas with the right water temperature," Schultz said. "If you're new to this type of fishing, buy a map, one made by Maps Unique is fine, and download the coordinates of the artificial reefs off the coast.
"Take a look at the water temperature in the Charleston Harbor, and predict where it might be ideal. Two good reefs are Y-73 off of Charleston and the Liberty Ship down off of Hilton Head."
Schultz will troll a live-bait rig if he can find the bait. He also uses a dead ballyhoo for trolling if live bait isn't an option.
"Since we're out there normally every day, I have a pretty good idea of where the fish are holding," Schultz said.
"Chumming can be effective and produce fast fishing action. You don't need a lot of time. You can have three fish on at once, and if you have four people on the boat, it doesn't take long to get your 12-fish limit.
"The chum pulls the fish to the boat. You have to keep it going to keep the fish interested. I'm using menhaden that's been bought and ground. On occasion, I mix some menhaden oil with the chum."
Schultz said anglers would know if they're in the right spot fairly quickly.
"If the fish are there, they'll find the chum, and usually pretty fast," he said. "If I'm not hooked up in 15 to 20 minutes, something is wrong, like the water temperature. I won't hesitate to move at that point."
The size range of king mackerel this month can be varied. Schultz said king mackerel sizes could range from "snakes" (juveniles in the teens range) to big fish, with some eclipsing 40 pounds. He also said sometimes gigantic redfish will invade a chum slick right with the kings. Because the kings will be found primarily beyond the 3-mile limit and in federal waters, anglers should be careful about taking reds onboard. It's illegal to harvest these redfish.
Schultz uses Penn International 16s spooled with 14- to 20-pound-test monofilament line, opting for the super-fast retrieve to get line back quickly. He also has some Shimano TLD 15s and 20s. His reels are mated to a 8-foot live-bait rods.
"I'm kind of old school when it comes to my rigging," Schultz said. "A lot of the rigs you hear about today pertain to tournament fishing where a team is attempting to catch the one or two big fish. I'm attempting to catch every fish, regardless of size.
"I use 60-pound seven-strain wire as an 8-foot-long leader. I'll use a single nose hook and two treble hooks as stingers.
"When I'm trolling, the stingers will lay right beside the bait, so there's no need to hook them into the bait. If we're drifting, then I hook them in the bait. Otherwise they'd dangle away from the bait and probably be worthless for any hookups."
Schultz, who has caught several kings over 60 pounds, can't find fault with November.
"This an excellent time of the year to fish," Schultz said. "It's by far my favorite."
The Pilgrims were dead on for celebrating bounty in November.