Those super-fast, super-aggressive masters of Alabama’s inshore Gulf waters are back to make life good for anglers.
It only took a few minutes to motor my center console fishing boat through Perdido Pass and enter the waters of the Gulf. The sun was warm, the waves low, and the world was a nice place to be on this June morning. I hooked up a cigar minnow. This one was frozen, but alive and wriggling would have been even better. I lobbed the bait behind my boat. With the motor in gear, I eased away from the channel and moved slowly westward parallel to the beach.
My low-speed journey only lasted about five minutes before my rod tip jerked harshly toward the Gulf’s surface. The reel’s drag began that sweet song that I love to hear every June. The kings were back on the Alabama coast, and I had a good one on the end of my line.
The first run of a hooked king mackerel must be experienced to truly understand why normally sane people go a little bit crazy when kings come back home to the northern Gulf coast. It seems these long, silver fish are part missile when they first feel the sting and pressure of a hook.
That high-speed run will stop. Then the work of getting the king back to the boat begins. Sometimes, especially if the king is a really big smoker, that first run never stops, and the angler is left with an empty reel and a broken heart.
This hooked king on my line made a good first run, but I managed to stop him and then began to let the pressure of the reel bring him in. After a seven-minute fight, a fine 15-pound silver streak was brought to the boat. I worked the treble stinger hook carefully from its jaw before releasing the tired warrior and allowing it to swim free.
If hard, high-speed fights are what you want, kings are your game. This year looks to be one of the most promising years for king mackerel fishing in a long time, and June is a great month to make some fishing memories.
Where to Find Kings in June
Captain Dennis Treigle, who has fished the northern Gulf for over 25 years, says that June kings can be found from right off the beaches to as far out in the Gulf as anglers want to go. As soon as the water temperatures reach the magic 70 degree mark, kings will be back.
Captain Dennis operates FMF Charters, which fishes in both Alabama and Florida waters. “This time of year, it’s still early season,” he tells us. “Anglers can find some really big kings, and this year looks like we’ll have plenty of kings, too.”
A specific go-to area for small-boat anglers to look for big kings is water in the 90-foot depth. For some reason, big kings tend to be found at that depth, and if bottom structure that attracts and holds bait can be found—the state’s tanks and pyramids are very good places—then kings won’t be far away. The Trysler Grounds natural bottom area is also a traditionally strong place to find kings in June.
Captain Clay Blankenship of Angler Management Charters advises anglers who want to stay fairly close to shore in June to exit the Perdido Pass, and then head west along the shoreline. He says, “I’d start out at the Four Seasons Pier (a private pier behind a condo unit on the beach) and fish from 100 yards to a mile out. I’d use live bait—pogies and finger mullet—and I’d pull them slowly. Put the reel in very light drag, and then increase the drag after the king makes its first run. I’d work slowly down the beach toward the Gulf Shores State Park Pier. Be sure and stay well clear of the pier.”
Speaking of the State Park Pier, Gulf Coast anglers are reminded that a boat is not necessary to get into some hot early-season king mackerel fishing. The fine Gulf Shores State Park Fishing Pier offers very good king mackerel fishing opportunities, and each year, hundreds of kings are caught from the end and middle parts of the pier.
Fishing the pier, especially during a hot king mackerel run, is an educational experience, and new-to-the-game anglers will want to observe how the fishing is done on the pier. It can be shoulder to shoulder at times with lots of lines in the water and several fish hooked up at the same time. Done properly, pier fishing for kings is loads of fun and very productive.
How to Catch Them
According to Captain Treigle, live bait is the best bet for June kings. Although it’s very possible to pull dusters and minnows or other traditional artificial lures such as spoons on planers trolling off the beaches and over reefs to catch kings, the best results by far come from live bait.
“For kings in the early season, I try to use live bait,” Captain Dennis says. “Ruby lips, vermillion snapper, and live cigar minnows are all good. I prefer seven-strand wire leader when using live bait. Twenty-pound wire is good. Dead cigs work well when the kings are actively feeding.”
The best live-baiting technique seems to involve slow trolling a live bait or two behind the boat and keeping a sharp eye out for schools of bait that are being pestered by kings.
Captain Dennis adds, “We’ll look for schools of bait being worked—the bait scattering and jumping to avoid bigger fish below—and if kings are skying in the area, it’s well worth working the area with spinning gear. When the kings are attacking the bait, dead cigar minnows are very effective.”
The biggest mistake most anglers make when chasing June kings involves their equipment. “It’s simple fishing,” Captain Dennis admits. “A twenty-pound rig—both line and steel leader—is usually plenty for kings. Kings don’t require super-heavy line and rigging.”
The key to successful king mackerel fishing once they are located is to hook the fish properly, and then to let the fish run and then patiently work it back to the boat. Kings are strong fish and lightning fast, but once their first couple of runs are made, they tend to come back to the boat where they can be either gaffed or released. Anglers should not be in a hurry to set the hook on a strike. Let the king take the bait and then let it make that smoking run or two.
Important Guide Contact Information
Captain Dennis Treigle
Captain Clay Blankenship