September Pier and Surf Fishing

Pier and Surf Fishing 

By Jiggin’ Jerry

Pier Fishing for King Mackerel

Joey Crawford, Kevin Kaylor and Randy Robbins 

Trolley Rigging and  Accessories

It’s always fun to pier fish, but when fishing for just anything doesn’t fulfill the appetite any longer and you would like to set your sights on a more intensive game fish, king mackerel can be one of the best. The Carolinas have a number of piers that can allow you just that opportunity.

Locally, here at Folly Beach, locals and tourists have tested their skills trying to catch that fast, toothy, aggressive predator – the kingfish. While trying to catch one, chances are you could catch a Spanish mackerel, a tarpon or a number of other roaming game fish, but don’t just grab a fishing rod and run out to the nearest pier with the intention of catching one of these saltwater predators. It is a little more gear-intensive than that, and you will need a trolley rig set up to fish comfortably and successfully for kings off of a pier.

The trolley rig consists of two fishing rods. One rod is used as an anchor rod or trolley rod, while the other rod is a fighting rod. You will need a release clip, a stinger rig for your bait, and a sand anchor weight for your anchor rod. The anchor rod is usually a longer rod from 10 to 12 feet. Beach rods have become popular for this task with a large bait cast reel or a spin cast reel and between 20- to 30-lb test monofilament fishing line. The fighting rod is usually a shorter rod about 6 to 7 feet in length. A number of anglers like to use a trolling rod for this task.

There are a number of fishing reels that have been used for the fighting rod. My best suggestion is to use a reel that is in good working order and can hold at least 400 to 600 yards of quality monofilament with 30- to 50-lb test. I would also recommend that the reel has a fast gear ratio because the king mackerel is a very fast game fish, and in many cases the fish will charge the pier at a high rate of speed. If you cannot catch up and reel in your slack line and head that fish off before it gets to the pier, it will most likely swim through the pilings and tangle your line, probably resulting in the loss of the fish.

In addition to the two fishing rods needed for catching kings, you will also likely need a third rod. This fishing rod will be your bait rod, and you will be hunting a few beach-going species. One of the top baits to fish for will be 8- to 10-inch blue fish. Whiting, spot, large croaker and large menhaden will also be good bait for the job. All these bait fish are intended to be fished alive and well. Let me help explain how this works.

First, take your anchor rod and tie your sand anchor weight to the fishing line.  Then, cast that rod off the pier as far as you possibly can. Once the weight hits bottom, tighten your anchor line until you feel the anchor weight set, which means the anchor weight is not dragging. Once you have completed that task, take your fight line and tie it to your stinger rig, which is usually made up of a hard wire stainless steel leader, approximately 2 ½ to 3-feet long, with two (average store-bought stinger rig), three or sometimes even four hooks approximately 3 to 4 inches apart at the bottom of the rig. These hooks are intended to be threaded along the back of the bait fish. Usually, the first hook will be through the nose, the second hook will be just before the dorsal fin, the third hook would be placed behind the dorsal fin, and the fourth hook would be used as a dangler or what they call a trailer (or it is sometimes placed in the tail of the bait fish).

At this point, lower your anchor rod line to the railing of the pier, attach your release clip to the anchor rod line, and then take the release clip itself and clip it to the swivel at the top of your stinger rig. Next, raise your anchor rod as high as possible and put it into its holder, then set your fighting rod on free spool and lower your bait down the anchor line until your bait fish has entered the water to the desired depth. Usually, your release clip will hover above the water about 12 inches. After accomplishing this, set your drag and engage your clicker accordingly in anticipation of a fierce strike.

If you are successful, a king mackerel or some other interested game fish will spot your bait swimming in a circle at the top of the water. The game fish will then strike your stinger rig. Once it has struck the stinger rig and the fish has started to swim off at a high rate of speed, the rig will disconnect from the anchor line, your drag system and clicker should engage sounding off, and then the fight begins!

There is not much more to explain when it comes to a trolley rig. There are a number of anglers who have designed their own release clips, anchor weights, and rod holders; and most serious enthusiasts make their own stinger rigs. The only other question I can imagine might concern when to fish for king mackerel. What I can tell you is that once the temperature of the water around these piers reaches 70 degrees or higher through the summer months and sometimes into our Lowcountry’s fall, the king mackerel will be on the move. So, if the weather is favorable, the water temperatures are in the slot, and you feel frisky, set out for a daily adventure. You never know – you might find yourself a king. Until next time, good luck out there and have fun fishing!