John's Journal...

Alabama’s Target-Rich Mackerel Waters

Places to Catch King Mackerel

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Anglers on the Gulf Coast will find a target-rich environment there for hunting big kingfish. The State of Alabama has the largest artificial reef-building program in the nation, and many of these reefs have big king mackerel swarming over them. The Department of Conservation's Marine Resources Division has charted hundreds of public reefs with Loran coordinates and DGPS coordinates at You also can pull down maps of the area at this site. For each public reef you pinpoint on the map, three to 10 unmarked and unnamed reefs may exist within the designated reef-building area. The state permits individuals to carry reef material out to the reef-building zone and deploy that material without having to tell anyone the exact location. When you’re fishing for king mackerel, keep your depth finder on, and search for hidden reefs as you go back and forth to the reefs you plan to fish. Artificial reefs attract baitfish that will draw in big Click to enlargeking mackerel. Generally the bigger reefs will attract the larger mackerel. However, anglers may locate big-king honey holes on the many small reefs that most fishermen will overlook.

Anyone hoping to locate kingfish on the Gulf Coast won’t have far to look because of the amount of structure in the water and the area's plentiful king mackerel. However, they will have a hard task pinpointing where the biggest kings live. Many anglers will bet on the big reefs like the battleships, the tanks, the bridge rubble and other well-known public reefs. Probably some fishermen can't resist the lure of the gas-and-oil rigs just out of the mouth of Mobile Bay near Fort Morgan. These big structures will attract many baitfish and king mackerel. If you believe you must catch numbers of kings to discover that one big mackerel, then you may want to concentrate your fishing on these sites. Click to enlarge

Try the slow-trolling tactic – often used in deeper water to take bigger kings. When you fish using this trolling strategy, have your motor running as slowly as possible. Put the motor in gear, and then take it out of gear as you attempt to move the boat slowly across the region you want to fish. When utilizing this fishing technique for really-big kings, put out two fly lines and two downrigger lines. Rig the baits the same way as for fly-pole fishing. Leave 10 to 15 feet of line coming from the downrigger ball clipped to the bait. You want the bait well behind the downrigger. Then when the king mackerel attacks the bait on the downrigger, the line will pop out of the clothes-pin-like clip that holds it close to the ball on the downrigger, which enables the angler to fight the king mackerel in open water uninhibited by the downrigger ball. The hit-and-run anglers also will have numerous targets. Small isolated reefs that you locate out in the permit zone Click to enlargethat aren't on any charts or maps may home fewer kingfish on them. But, if you fish enough of these smaller reefs, you may surprise a really big king on a reef that receives less fishing pressure. Regardless of which tactic you choose, you never can fish all the reefs in the permit zones. But if you like to catch king mackerel, you'll catch them in the target-rich waters.

For more information on the Alabama Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau, visit, or call 800-745-SAND.

To learn more about fishing the Gulf Coast, contact the Orange Beach Fishing Association at 251-981-2300, or visit

Tomorrow: Kings of the Night

Check back each day this week for more about "Alabama’s Target-Rich Mackerel Waters"

Day 1: The War Zone
Day 2: All Types of Reef Materials
Day 3: Places to Catch King Mackerel
Day 4: Kings of the Night
Day 5: Fish the Platforms at Night


Entry 354, Day 3