Beginning at the end of September, kings showed up thick along the North Carolina/South Carolina border, clobbering the huge schools of baitfish pooled up just off the beach.
Capt. David Cutler and Capt. Jim Bowen of Lowcountry Fishing Charters keep feeding these hungry beasts just what they want, and lots of it.
"Just last weekend, (Jim) went through 70 rigs on a trip and couldn't keep a bait in the water for more than a few minutes," said Cutler (843-222-7433). "The fish are eating everything they can get in their mouth."
According to Cutler, kings were just off the beach just before the cool weather arrived last weekend, but that just shifted the schools around somewhat.
"The cool water has pushed them off a little bit in 50 to 65 feet of water to places like the Shark Hole and the 65-foot hole," he said.
Anglers should expect to encounter schooling fish between 15 and 23 pounds, typical to the fall run. With all of the live menhaden and mullet found along the beachfront and in the Little River estuary, the easy choice is still live bait. But, the schooling fish will rarely turn down dead cigar minnow either. Cutler fishes naked rigs with the exception of a few glass beads placed just above the live bait hook.
"A few glass beads make a difference day-in and day-out," he said. "We catch more on a naked, beaded rig than any other rig we've got."
Cutler targets the schooling kings between the middle of the water column and the water's surface, but the lower half of the water column can produce hefty rewards and dire risks.
"If you can stand weeding through all of the sharks, you can get a real big one of the downrigger," he said.
Routinely, king mackerel make their monumental inshore run from September through November, but the past few years have frustrated king mackerel anglers to their limits. It appears the frustration is over, at least for the time being, and it's over just a short boat ride from Little River. But don't miss the chance; these speed demons won't hang around indefinitely as the journey through fall conditions continues.