John's Journal...

Alabama’s Target-Rich Mackerel Waters

Fish the Platforms at Night

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 Click to enlargefor 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 king 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.

Often during the summer months, around reefs, wrecks and oil platforms, the king mackerel will come in to feed at night. Many times, the king mackerel will be just under the surface, and you can catch them free-lining live bait or dead cigar minnows. Oftentimes, you can get the king so excited, they’ll rally (go on a feeding spree),Click to enlarge and you can catch numerous really-big kings using this tactic. If you have lights coming off your boat, those lights will draw baitfish to the boat and the baitfish draw the king mackerel, and that’s the reason they’ll go on a feeding spree. I believe that one of the reasons mackerel will hit a dead bait at night is because they don’t know that the dead bait hasn’t been killed by another king mackerel. King mackerel are slash feeders, and they’ll often go through a school of baitfish with their razor-sharp teeth open, slashing, cutting and injuring the bait. Then, the king mackerel will circle back around to feed on the bait. So it’s not uncommon for a king mackerel to see an injured or dead baitfish floating in the water. And, at night when they can’t see well, I think they can Click to enlargesmell the bait. Dosing your bait with menhaden oil can add to the appeal of the bait to the king. Many tournament anglers will fish in the Gulf of Mexico around offshore platforms. Most of the time, the anglers will troll live eels or live blue runners. If the kings are really rallying around the oil platforms, the anglers will even throw out a live bait or a dead bait on a drift line. Oil and gas platforms hold a tremendous amount of baitfish and usually hold good numbers of king mackerel. At night, the lights from the oil and gas platforms concentrate more bait and often more king mackerel. So, if you’re on a two-day trip, and you’re going to stay offshore overnight, don’t forget the possibilities of catching king mackerel after everyone else has gone to sleep because the kings will bite at night.

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

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 5