The Smoker King: This Month, Cast a Line for King Mackerel.

Article and photo by Miles Altman, Bayrunner Fishing Charters

There’s no sweeter sound to an angler’s ears than the scream of a reel’s drag, especially the scorching punishment dealt by a summer favorite: the king mackerel. A “smoker” king, one that weighs between 20 and 60 pounds, will strip a hundred yards of line off the reel in the blink of an eye.   

These silver torpedoes are built for speed and are made of pure muscle, presenting challenges that are unique when it comes to tackle. Slow or “bump” trolling is one technique for mackerel fishing. Live bait, such as menhaden, are pulled behind the boat very slowly, most of the time just bumping the engine in and out of gear so as not to drag too hard. This method works well for covering more territory.

One of my favorite techniques is to anchor near a structure and chum hard. This method presents an added challenge when catching the big kings — having enough line on the reel to withstand the initial run or two of the big kings. More than once, I have been “spooled” by big kings, especially using light tackle, losing all the line and the fish before we could get the anchor up and chase the fish.

Recently, I ran across Canyon spinning reels and was intrigued by the amazing line capacity and drag. The Salt 4000 holds 450 yards of 30-pound braid and sports 39 pounds of drag!

Perfect for kings, I thought, and set off to the reef to test them out. Conditions were perfect, and calm seas and a lively ocean greeted us as we anchored near the structure. The chum hadn’t been out too long before the rod bucked wildly and the smooth drag of the Canyon started singing and kept singing. At that point, we would have been frantically trying to bring the anchor in and we still had half a spool of line left! The drag was smooth as silk.

We ended the day with nine big kings and never once came close to being spooled. A subsequent trip with some of my favorite anglers — Cooper, Ryan and Chris — produced the nice “smoker” in the picture.

That fish made five or six searing runs, and the Canyon reel performed flawlessly.  I highly recommend Canyon reels, which are made in New Jersey, if you enjoy big fish on light tackle.

This summer on Hilton Head Island, the king bite is on!

Capt. Miles Altman of Bayrunner Fishing Charters has more than 42 years experience fishing the waters surrounding Hilton Head Island. The Finatic boat, which can accommodate up to 12 passengers, features a special three-hour shark/dolphin eco-tour trip. Contact Miles at (843) 290-6955 to book an unforgettable inshore or offshore charter fishing trip, departing from Shelter Cove Marina.