The season wraps up for many anglers who target king mackerel in October, shortly after all of the tournaments along the coast of the Carolinas, but for diehards, the tail end of the season can be the best time to pick up a trophy.
November and early December are prime times for really big kings, according to angler Jared Floyd of Horry County, S.C. His go-to places are off the coast of Georgetown, S.C.
“When the water cools off, the smaller, schooling kings move out, and all of the big ones are here,” Floyd said. “Our total numbers will be off some, but we bring many fish from 35 to 50 pounds to the boat, with a few over 50 on occasion.”
For the past 15 years, Floyd has fished competitively for king mackerel from the Carolinas to the Gulf of Mexico.
“In the Carolinas, October is considered the pinnacle of the king mackerel season; big numbers of fish are here, and they are anywhere from the beachfront out to 65 feet of water,” he said.
But as water temperatures drop into the lower 60s, anglers have to learn how to hone their skills and head to the right water to find a good bite. Floyd said kings are conditioned to a preferred temperature range and will migrate offshore or south to find it.
In November, the preferred water temperatures, mid-60s, will be found in 65-foot depths off Georgetown.
“I look for ledges and places abundant with growth that holds bait,” Floyd said. “The great thing about kings is that they are like ducks. If you find a good place for them one year, they will typically come right back to the same places in subsequent years under the same conditions.”
Live bait is always the best option for kings, but anglers expecting to catch a livewell full of menhaden along the beach and in the estuaries will be at a loss in November. Instead, Floyd will visit a nearby wreck or artificial reef on his way out and jig up as many live baits as possible.
“Live bait is my preferred bait any time I am king mackerel fishing,” he said.
King mackerel are one of the most-popular nearshore fish available along the east coast. Everybody with boat big enough to handle nearshore swells will typically troll live or dead bait at some point of the year to connect with one of these fish, which are well-known to test a reel to its limits. While the inshore speckled trout bite is firing off, diehard king mackerel anglers can break out their heavy gear and score with their largest catches of the year in the waters off Georgetown.