One of the most awesome sights on the ocean is a free-jumping king mackerel, often referred to as a “skyrocket.”
These shiny silver missiles easily reach heights of fifteen to twenty feet above the water. Often, they will skyrocket on live or trolled bait, eating around even the most clever double-hook rigs or treble hooks, and leaving anglers shaking their heads in amazement.
June’s warmer waters call to the kings, as they are teaming with menhaden you can see right off the beach. Spanish mackerel, the kings’ smaller cousins, also run the coast in large schools, and are one of the king’s favorite meals. These schools of Spanish close to shore draw the Smokers — king mackerel thirty pounds and up — much to the delight of fishermen with smaller boats.
When not “skyrocketing” on the bait, the strike of the king can be bone jarring.
What follows next are long, searing runs that test the best of tackle. I recommend medium to heavy gear with 30-50 pound braid, with at least a couple of hundred yards. Even then, be prepared to hoist the anchor and give chase!
Still, seasoned anglers grapple with striking the right balance of tackle heavy enough for the fight but light enough to fool this wily creature. Kings have excellent eyesight, and the lighter the leader, the better your chances. Occasionally, however, I have lost a monster king (50 pounds+) when it cut through my light wire like butter.
Smaller kings called “snakes,” are typically fifteen pounds or less.
They are usually found offshore in larger schools. Here, “bump” trolling is a favored method. Live baits are pulled slowly across the fishing grounds. The motor taken out of gear from time to time. This alleviates too much pressure on the live menhaden or small fish. Kings can also be caught trolling top-water baits or down deep using planers or heavy leads.
No matter how you go about it, the hunt for these silver torpedoes is hard to beat for a tackle-busting good time!
Article and photo by Captain Miles Altman, Bay Runner Fishing Charters
Capt. Miles Altman of Bayrunner Fishing Charters has more than 42 years of experience fishing. Don’t miss the Finatic boat, which features a special 3-hour shark/dolphin ecotour trip. Contact Miles at (843) 290-6955 to book an unforgettable inshore or offshore charter fishing trip, departing from Shelter Cove Marina.