Hail to the kings! Grand Strand nearshore waters fill up

Nearshore structure off South Carolina’s Grand Strand holds plenty of baitfish and king mackerel in June.
Nearshore structure off South Carolina’s Grand Strand holds plenty of baitfish and king mackerel in June.

King mackerel are biting along nearshore structures

Summer kicks off with a bang along the South Carolina coastline this month. And taking advantage of the great fishing doesn’t mean fishing inshore or heading well offshore.

June is a fantastic month to visit the Grand Strand, where king mackerel are abundant and feeding heavily nearshore on the abundant bait schools.

The warm water and the baitfish bring the kings in close. By June, large schools of menhaden are trucking in by the thousands. The mullet are also around, giving these fish plenty of forage. From the breakers out, there is plenty of food for king mackerel and other big predator fishes to eat.

Tom Cushman of Captain Cush’s Calmwater Charters sets his sights on the nearshore bite this month.

“Kings are literally everywhere this time of year. We catch them from the beach all the way to the Gulf Stream,” said Cushman (843-997-5850). “But we typically find them concentrated on artificial reefs, ledges and livebottom in 35 to 100 feet of water.”

Baitfish are the key to king mackerel fishing

King mackerel migrate into Carolina waters during the spring as water temperatures rise, following the baitfish that congregate around nearshore structure. Kings will shift around and set up for the best opportunities to feed with the least amount of effort. They are eating mostly cigar minnows and menhaden. And Cushman tailors his offerings to match their diet.

“Nothing is as good as a live menhaden, bluefish or mullet with a treble hook in its back. But we will also slow-troll frozen cigar minnows or pull trolling spoons at higher speeds,” he said.

While kings can be found over a large area, they will be concentrated on schools of bait on livebottoms, ledges or artificial reefs. Cushman usually begins a trip at a reef, livebottom or just off the beach if he finds a pod of bait. From there, it’s a matter of following the kings.

“The perfect setup is the green water around the bait pods we see all over the nearshore region in June. Cobia, kings and even a sneaky sailfish will slide in to feed on these bait pods,” he said.

Kings can be caught at various depths, so baits are fished on flat lines and lines carried deeper on downriggers. Keeping a mixture of deep and shallow running lines will insure all of the territory is covered to maximize the bite potential.

Click here for a great king mackerel recipe.

Jeff Burleson
About Jeff Burleson 1364 Articles
Jeff Burleson is a native of Lumberton, N.C., who lives in Myrtle Beach, S.C. He graduated from N.C. State University with a degree in fisheries and wildlife sciences and is a certified biologist and professional forester for Southern Palmetto Environmental Consulting.