Long Bay’s fall king mackerel run at peak

Summer Herring and her mother, Kara Herring, show off a big Long Bay king mackerel.

The fall run is on

Long Bay, between Cape Fear and the North Carolina/South Carolina state line, is home to two of the best king mackerel runs in the country. One is in the spring, and another in the fall. The fall run that is getting rolling. The fall run sometimes begins in September and lasts into November, but it centers on October.

This is a time when big kings roam from the ends of pier out to 80 feet of water. Kings, particularly those 40- to 50-pound tournament winners, might be caught anywhere in Long Bay. But they seem to prefer being within sight of the beaches between Shallotte Inlet and Frying Pan Shoals. This puts them within range of a multitude of fishermen. And both the kings and fishermen do their part to make fishing spectacular.

This abundance of kings isn’t a surprise. Schools of menhaden are just off the beaches, along with plenty of bluefish. Menhaden are the No. 1 forage fish for kings, and bluefish grab them by their sweet tooth. Kings are hungry and feeding, stocking up fat for the coming winter. The action is as good as it gets.

The run begins with kings moving close to the beach to feed on the huge schools of menhaden. As the water cools, some kings head south. But many slowly move offshore while feasting on a variety of baitfish. As long as the water is warm enough for baitfish, there will be kings.

Numerous artificial reefs are also good target locations

Dieter Cardwell of Clemmons, N.C., has led the Tide Line Fishing Team to two of wins in the prestigious U.S. Open King Mackerel Tournament, held the first weekend of October out of Southport. He said this is his favorite time and place to fish. He uses a rig made of 44-pound wire, with two No. 4 treble hooks as his standard rig and slow-trolls menhaden and bluefish. The lead hook is inserted side to side in the bait’s nasal opening, with the rear trailing hook tagged near the anus. If a baitfish is large, he adds a third hook between the two.

Cardwell said kings also often gather around nearshore artificial reefs and hardbottom areas. Yaupon Reef (AR 425), only 1 1/2 miles off Oak Island, is arguably the most-popular artificial reef in North Carolina waters. The Tom McGlammery Reef (AR 420) is another mile or so offshore, with the Jim Knight Reef (AR 430) several miles to the west and the WOFES several miles to the east.  The Cape Fear Sea Buoy is several miles offshore, and all have great reputations for producing October kings.

Click here to read about the hot Spanish mackerel bite around Cape Lookout.

Jerry Dilsaver
About Jerry Dilsaver 1169 Articles
Jerry Dilsaver of Oak Island, N.C., a full-time freelance writer, is a columnist for Carolina Sportsman. He is a former SKA National Champion and USAA Angler of the Year.

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