John's Journal...

Catching Summer King Mackerel with Captain Mike Parker in Destin, Florida

Plugging for Kings

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Captain Mike Parker of the charter boat, the “Silver King,” headquartered in Destin, Florida, enjoys fishing for mackerel.

When you fish for king mackerel, collecting the often-unpredictable live bait may present a problem. "If we can't get live bait for our anglers, I use plugs (artificial lures) to catch kings," Parker remarked. Parker likes the Yozuri 5 1/4-inch CrClick to enlargeystal Minnow - particularly in blue and silver with broken lines on it. "I use a 3-foot wire leader when I'm fishing this plug," Parker explained. "I'll either troll it straight behind the boat or on a downrigger 30-, 40- or 50-feet deep. But live bait usually works better than plugs do."

Anglers call really-big king mackerel smokers for two reasons. When the mackerel strip drag off the reel at a fast pace, the water on the line often will make the reel look as though it's smoking.  Also, to make a king mackerel delicious-tasting, anglers often cut them cross-ways into steaks, and then slow smoke the steaks. Because the king mackerel has an oily-type flesh, the meat won't dry-out when smoked, although many saltwater fish will. However, before you can smoke a king, you have to boat it. You may have difficulClick to enlargety gaffing this round-sided fish and getting it in the boat. You won't have as much trouble with flat-sided fish like snapper, grouper or amberjack. "When a mackerel comes alongside the boat, you need to get the boat moving at approximately the same speed," Parker emphasized. "As the fish comes close to the side of the boat, reach across the fish with the gaff pointing down. Once the head of the mackerel passes in front of the gaff, use one hard stroke, and gaff using a hand-over-hand action to pull the gaff and the fish into the boat."Click to enlarge

As the king mackerel hits the deck, stay away from the fish's head and its razor-sharp teeth.  Many years ago when my brother Archie and I fished from a pier, Archie caught a nice king mackerel. He brought the fish over the rail and onto the deck of the pier. Although very proud of his oldest son for catching the king, my dad said as soon as the mackerel hit the deck, "Archie, don't put your hands into the king's mouth. He'll bite you." In his teenage, days Archie didn't always pay attention to what our dad told him. Just as Pop looked away, he heard a blood-curdling scream. Looking back at Archie, he saw Archie's index finger and thumb inside the mackerel's mouth. After that one mack attack, my brother never again reached for a lure inside a live king mackerel's mouth. He became an advocate of billying a mackerel with a short baseball bat and letting the mackerel sit on the deck until rigid before reaching for the hook in the mackerel's mouth with a pair of needle-nosed pliers.

To learn more about king mackerel fishing around Destin, Florida, and/or to book a trip with Mike Parker, write to Parker at 827 Kell-Aire Ct, Destin, FL, 32541; call him at (850) 837-2028; or, visit the website at

Tomorrow: The Mack’s Comeback

Check back each day this week for more about "Catching Summer King Mackerel with Captain Mike Parker in Destin, Florida"

Day 1: Feeding-Frenzied Kings
Day 2: Fly Lining for Mackerel
Day 3: Bump-and-Go Trolling
Day 4: Plugging for Kings
Day 5: The Mack’s Comeback


Entry 464, Day 4