Editor’s Note: Alabama’s Gulf Coast homes numbers of king mackerel, and charter boats are trolling near shore on 4- or 6-hour trips and often producing a limit of king mackerel for each angler almost any day throughout the late spring and summer. Anglers on the Gulf State Park Pier have caught upwards of 70 king mackerel in a day, usually weighing from 12 to 20 pounds, with an occasional 30 or 40 pounder. This year, monster king mackerel have been caught from the Trysler Grounds, which is just offshore from Alabama’s Gulf Coast and easy to reach and return to shore on a 6-hour trip. Two state records have been set fishing these waters this spring. The latest record was caught on May 13, 2012, by 20-year-old Matt Borden of Trussville, Ala. and weighed 69 pounds, 10 ounces, beating the old record of 68 pounds, 3 ounces, caught on March 28, 2012. “What’s Biting” has asked Captain Nick Leiterman, captain of the “Fish On” charter boat out of Zeke’s Landing Marina in Orange Beach, to tell us the story of the catch.
According to Captain Leiterman, “We had a 6-hour trip, and we went out about 20 miles to the Trysler Grounds, a natural bottom, where we fished for vermilion snapper, triggerfish, lane snapper and a variety of reef fish. I’ve been fishing this area for about 25 years and have learned that the big king mackerel are generally in this area in late spring. But I wasn’t expecting my party to catch a new state record here, although I’ve caught a large number of 20- to 50-pound king mackerel here in the past. The big kings start showing-up in late February and are usually gone by the end of May. I think perhaps they spawn in this area and feed on the vermilion snapper and white porgy (white snapper). We usually put-out a drift line with no weight and a big live bait. Last Sunday, we were using a white porgy for bait that weighed about 1/2-pound and let the fish free swim behind the boat on a circle hook, attached to 3 feet of 50-pound-test wire leader attached to a barrel swivel. Then, up the line from the barrel swivel, we had 30-pound-test line on a S9500 Penn spinning reel, with a Tsunami spinning rod.
“When the big king took the bait, Borden grabbed the rod as the king dove for the bottom first and then came to the surface. The fish tried to dump us as it pulled all 200 yards of the line off the reel two or three different times, during the 20-minute fight. The way the fish took the bait and fought, I thought that Borden had hooked-up to a big wahoo. However, once we got the fish close to the boat, we could see that Borden, who had planned to head to U.S. Navy boot camp the following day, had-on a huge king mackerel. First mate Jimmy Phillips announced, ‘That’s going to be a new state-record king.’ Phillips was well-qualified to make that kind of judgment call, because he was on the ‘Fish Trap’ back in March when the state record of 68 pounds and 3 ou
nces was caught. ‘That fish will weigh 70 pounds,’ Phillips said when he saw the fish, only misjudging the fish by 6 ounces. This mackerel was 60-inches long and had a girth of 26-1/2-inches. When Borden finally got the king up close-enough for Phillips to gaff him, Phillips jerked the big king into the boat. We put as much of the king mackerel as we could get into ice box and all started high-fiving each other.
“The big king mackerel generally are gone from the Trysler Grounds in May, but this area has had such a warm spring, that apparently some of them are still there. The big state record king wasn’t the end of the trip. We also had a good catch of vermilion snapper, white snapper, triggerfish and caught a bull shark that weighed about 140 pounds. We caught a few red snapper and released them, although we tried to use baits that the red snapper usually wouldn’t eat. Red snapper season starts in about a week, and the fishing should be unreal. In mid-May, I went to some artificial reefs and using live pinfish and spinning tackle to fish high in the water, we caught and threw-back 10- to 15-pound red snapper. I spotted a couple of snapper that would have weighed 20 pounds or more. When you catch the snapper high in the water column like we were doing, you can catch and release red snapper much-more successfully with fewer fish being killed than when you catch them on the bottom in really-deep water. We were trying to catch keeper amberjacks. When red snapper season arrives the first of Jun
e, on a 6-hour trip, I expect half the snapper to be in the 10- to 20-pound range. To catch a larger number of big snapper, take an 8- to 10-hour trip. The ‘Fish On’ will take 6 people, and we’re docked at Zeke’s landing Marina in Orange Beach.”
You can call Captain Nick Leiterman at 251-200-6376, call Zeke’s Landing Marina at 251-981-4044, or visit Zeke’s website at www.zekeslanding.com
. For more information on fishing guides and charter boats, lodging accommodations, restaurants and entertainment on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, call Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism at 800-745-SAND (7263), or visit www.orangebeach.com
. The Orange Beach Fishing Association will be glad to find you and your family a captain and a boat that fits your needs.
Ted Suttle’s Smoked King Mackerel Dip
This delicious mackerel dip recipe comes to us from the Gulf State Park Pier.
8 cups broken-up smoked king mackerel
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3-cup sour cream
8 ounces of jalapeno
2 green onions
1 bundle of celery
1/2-teaspoon cayenne pepper
Put all ingredients in a food processor and enjoy! (Note: Suttle puts mustard and blackened seasoning on skinless king mackerel fillets and smokes then in a Smokehouse Little Chief smoker for about 3 hours with hickory chips. Spray the grill with Pam to keep the fillets from sticking).