Reluctantly, we headed back in. But not before picking up a couple of Rooks' best tips for targeting big king mackerel.
Feed 'Em Plastic
The caliber and quantity of fish we experienced at Hatteras convinced me to try casting some artificial topwater lures. They worked very well. I found the fish receptive to both Sebile's Bonga Jerk Minnow and Magic Swimmer. Although we hooked quite a few fish while slow-trolling live baits and just putting the lures back in the spread, we also hooked quite a few by casting after hooking a fish on a live bait. For light-tackle enthusiasts, casting's a great way to break up the day and something I'd highly recommend.
When most anglers think of Hatteras Village, they probably think of grander marlin and giant bluefin tuna. But the friendly, all-American village also boasts some of the best king mackerel fishing I've ever seen. Give it a shot. Chances are, you'll be hooked like me - and I can't wait to return.
Outer Banks, North Carolina
Late-season smoker kings on the Outer Banks offer anglers a variety of tackle options. The norm is 12- to 30-pound conventional live-bait rigs, but when the fish are schooling don't be afraid to pull out light spinning rods armed with large swimming lures; big kings will hit them with a vengeance.
Rods: Medium to medium-heavy 7-foot conventional or spinning rods with light tips that allow forgiveness on the treble hooks when a big fish slams a jumbo menhaden.
Reels: Conventional or spinning reels with 250-plus yards of capacity, to withstand long runs from smoker kings, some as big as 50 pounds.
Lines: 12- to 30-pound monofilament or braided line.
Leader: 4 or 5 feet of 50-pound fluorocarbon leader, topped off with a 36-inch section of 45- or 60-pound braided wire attached via a small ball-bearing swivel.
Baits: Jumbo live menhaden or snapper bluefish armed with two No. 4 or No. 6 Mustad 2x bronze trebles.
Artificials: Large swimming baits like Sebile's Magic Swimmer (top); Heddon's Super Spook (middle); or Sebile's Bonga Jerk Minnow (bottom). Colors should mimic baitfish like menhaden, herring or mackerel.
Rooks' first trick is one I've adapted to my own fishing when live-baiting wahoo, kingfish and other toothy critters in the Florida Keys. He prefers a double treble-hook rig similar to those used by pros on the kingfish circuit. It's not IGFA legal, but fishing a heavy charter season requires being a little innovative. Rooks and his crew like to pre-rig their leaders and pin them to a large piece of hard foam insulation. Rather than working with hard wire like most die-hard kingfishermen, he prefers a 36-inch length of noncoated braided wire with a No. 4 or No. 6 2x-strong treble hook knotted to one end with a figure-eight knot. If the baits are large, Rooks or Edwards then attaches the lead treble in the same manner, in line with the wire leader material via another figure-eight knot. This allows the rigs to be as flexible as possible with the varying lengths of baits the crew might use. The flexible braided wire is easy to work with and gives them disposal to dozens of rigs at a time on charters. They'll finish the terminal end off with a small ball-bearing swivel that attaches to a 5-foot length of 50-pound fluorocarbon.
Outer Banks, North Carolina
What: Big, late-season king mackerel.
When: October through December; mid-November is prime time.
Where: Hatteras Village on the Outer Banks. This quaint little fishing village features great accommodations at locally owned resorts like the Hatteras Marlin Motel (866-986-2141; www.hatterasmarlin.com), within easy walking distance of the Hatteras Harbor Marina (800-676-4939; www.hatterasharbor.com). Any serious blue-water angler wouldn't want to miss this destination.
Who: Capt. Dan Rooks aboard the Tuna Duck, a 50-foot custom Carolina boat built by Capt. Buddy Canady in Manteo, North Carolina. The single-screw boat is comfortable even in rough sea conditions and has a great platform for up to six anglers. For more information, call 772-219-9592 or visit www.tunaduck.com.