Time is right to target big kings out of Sabine

Big king mackerel like this one can be caught within a few miles off the Sabine

By the time we make it to the Fourth of July, you can bet your boat, motor and trailer that fishing on the lakes and along the coast is going to be red hot. With water temperatures in the 80s, crappie are all over brush piles on Rayburn and T-Bend, bass are great on topwaters early and late, and at Sabine Lake, trout and reds are finally getting a break from all the fresh water coming down the Neches and Sabine rivers.

But there is one fish that you might want to target right about now, and that’s the king mackerel. We have some of the best fishing for kings on the entire Gulf Coast. Within a few miles off the Sabine jetties, there are some huge kings, many of which are feeding on big schools of menhaden, aka pogies. In fact, several years ago, the winning king in the CCA STAR tourney was caught about 12 miles off Sabine.

The average size of a king mackerel is anywhere from 10 to 20 pounds, but they get a lot heavier than that. The state record weighed 79 pounds and was 58.50 inches long. It was caught Aug. 20, 2006. The current leader in the king mackerel division of the STAR weighs 62.13 pounds. Second place weighs 51.9 and third is 42.11. Kings have been known to weigh more than 90 pounds. The world record weighed 93 pounds.

King mackerel are among the most sought-after gamefish throughout their range, from North Carolina to Texas. They are long and silver, and crazy fast. Known throughout the sportfishing world for their blistering runs, the king mackerel matches its distant relative, the wahoo, in speed.

A king mackerel is a true player when it comes to offshore fishing. They are faster than greased lightning and are capable of melting line off a reel. They are voracious feeders, and will hit just about anything that won’t eat them first. You can catch them on topwater plugs, trolling lures, live baits and even on fly fishing gear.

Kings can be found feeding around schools of baitfish, around rigs, along weed lines and behind shrimp boats.

The most exciting way to catch these tackle wreckers is with a topwater lure, and one of the best is a Super Spook (right) in silver or blue/chrome. Kings are well known for shooting out of the water like a missile when they charge a topwater plug. When it comes to world-class topwater action, kings rule. Imagine a lure that was originally built to catch largemouth bass getting ripped by a 30-pound streak of silver full of razor sharp teeth.

Other well-known lures for taking kings include silver spoons, feather jigs, lipless cranks and deep diving lures. A Rapala Saltwater Magnum (left) is very popular for trolling deep. The 7 to 9 inch models are best. They will run 18 to 25 feet deep. A Bomber Super Pogy (bottom) is a good lipless trolling or casting lure. It’s 3-1/2 inches long with loud high-pitched rattles and a tight wobble. This is one of my favorites for casting around anchored shrimpers that are culling the nights catch. C&H King Buster jigs come rigged on a wire leader trailing a skirted jig with a single treble hook. This is a good jig/live bait rig. It can also be rigged with a dead bait like a ballyhoo or cigar minnow for trolling.

With a mouth full of glistening teeth, it’s a given that wire leaders are a must when targeting kings. You can either rig them yourself, or buy pre-rigged leaders with a black barrel swivel on one end, and a snap swivel, for quick change-out of lures, on the other end. They are available in 6- to 18-inch lengths. Always go with a single-strand Titanium leader in black.

If you’re dead set on catching big kings, fish in the 30 to 50 pound class, go after them with live baits. Small hardtails (above), aka blue runners, in the 5 to 8 inch length are deadly. So are fresh caught pogies. Blue runners can be caught on Sabiki jigs fished around rigs. Pogies are caught in open water with a fast-sinking cast net. Live pinfish and croakers are also very good. Live baits can be free-lined, fished on downriggers or bump trolled behind the boat.

Two of the best months to target king mackerel out of Sabine and on over to Galveston are July and August.


Robert Sloan can be reached by e-mail at sloan288 [at] aol [dot] com.