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King Mackerel Fishing From a Pier With Live Bait

By Bill Hitchcock
North Carolina Waterman

The King Mackerel is one of saltwater’s most sought after fish. Although most kings are pursued by boat; landlocked fishermen have an equal chance of catching a king as well. Just grab two rods and head to a pier.

Pardon the lack of frills, four dollar words and poetic “waxings”, We’re just gonna  jump right in and cover the basics of it all.

Here’s why two rods are needed to live bait for kings. One rod is used as your anchor line to which you slide your live bait rig down to the water.
The anchor rod is typically a 10-15 foot surf type rod, using 20 pound test to sling a 4-8 ounce anchor.
The bait rod (should that be king mackerel catching rod?) is a medium to heavy action, 5-6 foot with 4-9OT reel and using on average 30 pound test.

A 6-foot leader of 100 pound mono goes to a Carolina rig consisting of 90 pound seven strand wire (about two feet) and two to three #4 treble or circle hooks. The Carolina Rig, although basically the same for everyone can have slight variances or nuances to it.

Take your anchor rod and sling the anchor out and secure it to the bottom. Now comes a bit of interesting business that enables the anchor line and the bait line to attach to either.

This rig consists of a loop clip, a weight and clothes pen.  The loop clip, usually something like a shower curtain clip goes on your anchor line and the clothes pen attaches to the bait line.
Now all you have to do is lower your bait down to the water on the anchor line.

You can adjust the depth of your bait in the water by how far up the bait line you attach the clothes pen. Most fishermen keep the baits down about 3-4 feet, but it’s not uncommon to see baits on top or as far deep as 6 feet.  The force of a strike will release the bait line from the clothes pen.

Live baits of choice vary-but almost always consist of what is available from the pier your fishing from. Bluefish, spots, pinfish and even lizard fish are used as baits.
The ideal conditions for catching kings off of a North Carolina pier are most often the same as for boat fishermen. 68-72 degree water temperatures. March/April and October/November being the best months.
Moderate winds, light chop and no “mud” in the water are ideal. Rain isn’t really a factor but too much wind is.
Fish caught is not just limited to king mackerels. Large Hatteras bluefish, cobia, tarpon, large spanish mackerel, sharks, barracuda’s amberjack and jack crevalle of all been caught off of North Carolina piers by king mackerel fishermen using this method.

And speaking of “catching”, how the heck do you land a big fish once you get it to the pier? A grapnel is lowered by rope to gaff the fish and then hauled on deck. It looks very similar to the anchor weight, except bigger and heavier.

King fishing from a pier sounds simple to do and it’s definitely fun, then why aren’t more folks doing it?
“If you’re out to catch fish then you are wasting your time. You’re lucky if you catch one a year”, proclaimed one king mackerel pier fishermen.

Fishing from a stationary platform does have its disadvantages such as a lower frequency of strikes. But the advantages are far too many!! You can come and go as you please, no deep pocket boat or fuel expense and plenty of other fishing opportunities while you wait.

I would like to thank Roger Brown, J.O. Jones, Kevin Norris, Larry Coulson and James Marshburn; all long time king fishermen at the Bogue Inlet Pier. It was their input that was the source for this article. Basically they talked and I took notes and pictures.

I would also like to thank Mike Stanley, owner of Bogue Inlet Pier in Emerald Isle, NC. Not only was he instrumental in the making of this article, but has been a long time supporter of North Carolina Waterman. Please visit his pier in person or on the web at http://www.bogueinletpier.com

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