Go fishin' with

Captain Butch Foster

Cap'n Butch is a Pilot contributor and a full-time, professional charter boat captain and fisherman.

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King Mackerel on the East coast is one of the more sought after fish that swims in the seas. There is usually not a weekend that goes by in the summertime when there isn’t a King Mackerel Tournament being held along the coast of North and South Carolina.

So, with that being said, let’s see if I can share a few tricks that might help you catch more King Mackerel!


Let’s start with bait. It is a subject that if you ask ten people you will most likely get the thumbs up by most for live bait. I will have to agree, especially near shore! Also, the larger King Mackerel seem to prefer live bait. Now that isn’t written in stone, just seems that way to me.


Live pogys is the preferred bait for King Mackerel in my area. You can find these sometimes by watching the Pelicans diving on them when feeding. A Pelican will dive hard on Pogys , If you see a Pelican dive and kinda’ “flop,” most likely it’s small minnows. Also, at times Pogys can be very skittish and you will have to cut your engines off and wait for them to surface.


Usually when they are like this, you will just see a single “flip” on the surface. Be ready with your cast net and cast on that flip immediately. You will need a good net that sinks fast and I would suggest no smaller than 8 foot and I like a 5/8 mesh. Just remember this: a 6-foot is better than a 10-foot if you can get it to open fully. But, if you can get a 10-foot to open fully, you will be the man!


I have found though that if I am going offshore, most of the time frozen cigar minnows will do just as good, and this can sometimes add a lot of fishing time when the Pogys are hard to find! The cigar minnow is a natural bait on offshore structures where King Mackerel like to gather, which is the reason they work so good most of the time.

There are two different approaches to pulling the two different baits that I feel need to be addressed here. Doing this will improve your catching by making your baits more attractive to the Kings.


Live baits need to be trolled as slow as you can or drifted when the situation lets you, on a “Live Bait Rig”. The trick here is to not “stress” your live baits by pulling them so fast that they can’t keep up with the boat. Pulling so fast that you are jerking them makes them look un-natural, plus it tires your pogys out and this eventually kills them. Not good!


The frozen cigar minnow can be made almost irresistible by pulling him on a lead head type set up. My favorite is the “PIRATE PLUG” made by South Chatham Tackle Co. I feel it can’t be beat!


If you are interested in tying and/or rigging your own, you can go to my “Fishing Report” page on and see videos on how to tie all the above rigs.

One of the first and most important steps to catching King Mackerel is in getting quality baits and making them look as natural and appealing to the fish as possible.


So, next time you are fishing next to you buddy and he is “smoking the Kings” and you aren’t getting a bite, look at your bait. That could be the difference!

Captain Butch Foster.

But I'm pretty sure those are NOT Kings he's holding.


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