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Articles :

King Mackerel Fishing at its Finest
By: Captain Ray Kelly

This past October, I had the pleasure of filming the OUTERBANKS KING MACKEREL FESTIVAL held at Pirate's Cove in Manteo, North Carolina. This is a tournament that angler's should not miss. The area is a fabulous boating community unto itself. There are 17 Charter Boats, a great ship's store, an excellent restaurant and single family homes, townhouses and condominiums, making it "an angler's dream", according to Heather Maxwell of Pirate's Cove. The OUTERBANKS KING MACKEREL FESTIVAL was a fishing tournament I won't forget. The tournament, was sanctioned by the Southern Kingfish Association and was sponsored by Pirate's Cove among numerous others.

We were scheduled to film on board 'The Country Girl', a 57' Sportfishing Charter boat owned and operated by Capt. Allan Foreman. My cameraman, Dwayne Hunt and I were excited about shooting the tournament for a future segment on our television show, ADVENTURES IN FISHING WITH CAPT. RAY KELLY.

The Captain's Meeting was not that crowded because Pirate's Cove is close to Oregon Inlet, and most of the boats were fishing out of Hatteras (where most of the King Mackerel were being caught). The forecast had been good during the week, but it was supposed to get nasty later in the day on Friday. God only knew what the weather would be like by Saturday. Marine Forecasts can be pretty reliable but you never know for sure.

We left the dock at 6:30 AM on Friday. The anglers were all introduced and seemed like a nice enough group. Capt. Allan explained that his plans were to start fishing about 15 miles off shore by using frozen ballyhoo as bait. As always, we hoped that the Captain would put his anglers onto some fish, and then that the anglers would be able to catch those fish.

It only took about 30 minutes to get our first hook-up. One of our party took the rod and fought the fish briefly before losing it. Fifteen minutes later, there was another hook-up, and another angler took his turn on the rod. This time the angler got the fish to the boat, only to find that it was a three foot sand shark. The shark was landed and Capt. Allan told his mate, David Graham to release it. You can eat sand shark. In fact, there is a big commercial market for it even though not too many gamefishing boats target the species. After a few more sharks were caught, Capt. Allan received word from his father-in-law, Capt. Buddy Cannady, that he had caught a few King Mackerel about a mile away. We quickly headed in that direction.

The baits were put back in the water and were hit immediately by King Mackerel. The first fish was small -- about 8 lbs. The second was bigger at about 10 lbs. You could see the excitement building in the other anglers. It was still early, and for our part, we were getting plenty of tape which, after all, was why we were there. The crew still had plenty of time to catch the winning fish. The only problem was that the weather was quickly getting worse. The initial three foot seas were now four-five footers.

Capt. Allan had his mate set up another downrigger to go after the bigger kings running deeper. There was a good hit on the right rod and John Stinson exclaimed that it was a good fish as he took the rod. He fought the it like a pro, staying nice and calm. John is a regular on the Country Girl. He is an avid angler and a nice guy who comes down from Virginia to charter the boat 4-6 times a year. John got the fish to the boat and the mate gaffed it -- the biggest King Mackerel of the day.

By about 3:30 PM, seas were up to 8-10 feet, but 'Country Girl' was going through them like a knife through butter. I am usually afraid when the weather gets bad. Winning the tournament is not everything and you hear stories of some captains taking chances in bad weather. Safety should always be the most important factor, and I have to say that I had complete faith in knowing that Capt. Allan would do what's best. However, even the most experienced anglers can get seasick in extremely rough seas, and a few did on this trip (but I won't mention any names!). We eventually headed in and I must say that I was glad to be back on dry ground. You just can't understand what it is like to be in 10 foot seas, fifteen miles out in the ocean, unless you've experienced it!

Upon arriving back at the dock, we were met by many people waiting to see the fish that were caught in the event. There was also a photographer there to record the occasion. The catch was unloaded and I asked the anglers to pose with their fish. You could tell they were all proud. It had been a great day of fishing. The 'Country Girl' is a great charter boat, and Capt. Allan is a great charter captain -- a true professional with a sense of humor (and that's nice to see).

The fish were weighed in and John's fish was the biggest brought in at Pirate's Cove. It weighed 15.4 pounds. Later however, a 30 pounder took the lead.

On the next day, most boats chose not to fish because the weather had turned quite bad. However, some boats did venture out, and, sure enough, the winning fish was caught on board one of them, the 'Gone Again'. The King weighed 35.4 pounds.

The awards barbeque was held that evening at Pirate's Cove. It was a real 'southern' barbeque, with shredded pork, hush puppies, iced-tea, soda and beer. A good time was had by all. Tournament Director Barry Martin made us all feel very welcome. The tournament was well organized and hopefully Starlight Productions will be back again next year, filming another show for ADVENTURES IN FISHING WITH CAPT. RAY KELLY.

Capt. Allan can be reached at 1-800-743-8898 or give us a call at (516) 929-6711 and we will arrange your fishing vacation for you.

Visit Capt. Ray at his website or drop him a line at


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