It is that time of the year when the SW winds blow almost constantly making the ocean full of small whitecaps with the summer sun pressing down on us. There are some fish biting if you want to hop on a day charter and go offshore for a few miles. Fishing is a popular past time here in Brunswick County NC.
For those who are not aware, my dad and I fish on the S.K.A. (Southern Kingfish Association) Professional Kingfish Tour. We start in January in Key West, FL and make several stops up and down the east coast and Fourchon, LA with the Nationals in Biloxi, MS coming in November. The tour this year has about 65 boats that compete against each other down from about 105 boats two years ago.
A little over a week ago we had our 4th stop on the Pro Tour. We stopped for the weekend in St. Simons, GA. While we were doing the Pro tournament, they were have a local King Mackerel torunament. You can fish both tournaments if you like, you just have to pay extra to enter.
My 8 year old son has really become obsessed with fishing in the last year or so. I did not mention the possibility of him going to this tournament. I waited until the last day while watched the marine forecast really closely before asking if he wanted to go. The weather looked like it would be clear the day before we left so I decided it would be a great experience for him. He said “Yes!”. Up until this past weekend he had only been offshore fishing once and that was about 5 miles off the beach. This time…it was going to be different…..way diferent.
We get up on the tournament days around 4am since we have to be at the checkin dock by 6:30am. We checked out and went to catch some live Pogy’s to use for bait. After we loaded up, we headed offshore about 50 miles to find us a nice spot we had found on some charts and some past experience. The ocean was mostly calm with seas ranging from 1-3 ft with light winds and the temps hovering around 93 degrees. We did catch a few smaller kings weighing about of 12 lbs or so. This will not do you any good in a Pro tournament. To give you an idea, in the GA area or the NC area this time of year you usually need one at least in the mid to upper 20 lb range to even think about keeping the fish. Since the tournament is a 2 day event, you can only weigh your best fish each day to give a 2 day total weight. While fishing ran into a nice school of Mahi-Mahi. They started following the boat and started eating up our bait. Now…this is good for fun fishing but not what we want for tournament days. We caught a few Mahi-Mahi’s and threw them in the boat to eat later for dinner. My son, got a nice one on and fought it with all he had in him. He had never caught anything really over a pound or two. So when this 20 lb Mahi-Mahi started screaming 200 yards of line off the reel in about 45 seconds his eyes really lit up! We helped him hold the pole but he brought it in all on his own. Finally…we got him to the boat and stuck the gaff in him.
Later in the same day, we kept picking through the fish one by one. Finally we landed a King Mackerel that weighed right at 20 lbs and got him to the boat quickly. You have to get the fish in fast because if you don’t there is that chance that a large shark or barracuda could eat your fish. If you have a 40 plus pound King Mackerel on your line and it does get eaten or a bite taken out of it…..that could cost you losing the tournament which could pay up to $60,000 and more. There are serious stakes to be won. As the day ended, we had to be back at checkin by 5pm or you can not weigh your best fish. We got back, weighed in and went home to rest for the night.
The next day we began again at 4 am and got to the checkout boat at 6:30 am to head offshore. Again, we decided to make another 50 mile run to see if we could find the elusive “Big One” that we needed. The weather was better than the day before with seas being around 1-2 ft with very light wind. Most of the day was quiet until around lunch when we had a King sky on our live bait. It came out of the water about 8 feet before realizing we had him on the line. He peeled off about 100 yards of line in about 20 seconds flat then the line went limp. He bit through the line and he was gone. We were sick but there was nothing we could do.
About an hour later we finally had another good bite. Usually you can tell when you have a good fish on by how fast the line peels off and the sound of the “clicker” on the reel. Also, the larger fish head offshore to deeper water as soon as they realize they have a hook in their mouth. We got a good fish and we literally chased him down for about 25-30 minutes. You have to follow the fish as it is going offshore and reel the line in as fast as you can without allowing slack in the line. Finally…we got over him and put the gaff in his back. We pulled him in the boat and with a sigh of relief we were much happier. At the end of the day it was the biggest one we had on this trip. We headed back to the scales to see how we would do. We made it back to checkin with only about 2 minutes to spare. They stick to this rule! If you are 50 yards short of coming across the checkin line and time runs out…you can’t weigh your fish.
Our fish on the second day weighed in at 34.45 lbs. Pretty dang good for these waters. We ended up in 8th place for the local tournament out of about 125 boats. I am not sure where we ended up in the Pro’s but it was somewhere around 14th place out of about 60 boats. Right now, overall we are in 16th place out of 65 boats or so.
My son had the time of his life catching all these big fish and going out 50 miles. The next stop on the tour is right in our backyard. It will be in Little River, SC in October. Last year, we placed fourth and won a little bit of money. I can promise you…we spend more than we win as do most of the teams. If the economy keeps going the way it has, we may not be doing this again next year. Hopefully the weather will be nice and my son will get to join us again on our next quest for the “Big One”.