Alabama’s Target-Rich Mackerel Waters
The War Zone
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 www.outdooralabama.com/fishing/saltwater/tides-weather/.
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 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.
Alabama’s artificial reef-building zones resemble
underwater war zones. In 1970, Alabama called on its
legislative delegation to purchase six mothballed “Liberty”
ships to sink as artificial reefs in the Gulf of Mexico.
These ships attracted large numbers of baitfish as well
as bottom feeders and big king mackerel. Herbert Malone,
the executive director of the Alabama Gulf Coast Convention
and Visitors Bureau, invited my son John and myself
to fish one time on the “Liberty” ships
for king mackerel with him. We pulled up, anchored down
and fished with live pinfish on spinning tackle –
7-foot rods with big saltwater reels and 20-pound-test
monofilament line. At the ends of our lines, we each
tied a 60-pound-test barrel swivel. On the other end
of the swivel, we each attached 2 to 3 feet of single-strand
wire leader and an Eagle Claw No. 2 hook. Coming off
the shank of the hook, we fastened a 5-inch piece of
the same wire leader to a No.
2 treble hook that we allowed to swing free. We didn’t
place the hooks in the pinfish. We immediately began
to catch king mackerel with this tackle, primarily fish
weighing between 15- to 18-pounds each. We hoped to
tie into some “smoker” kings, so named because
as a mackerel strips drag off a reel at a fast pace,
the water on the line will make the reel look as though
it’s smoking. Anglers also call king mackerel
smokers because they’ll have delicious-tasting
kings to eat, if they cut the kings cross-ways into
steaks and slow-smoke them. Not only will you find sunken
decommissioned “Liberty” ships on the Gulf
Coast bottom but also more than 100-demilitarized WWII,
Korean and Vietnam war tanks as well. Deployed in 1994
in the Reef-Ex Program, these many tanks today form
a grid of artificial reefs on the gulf's bottom.
For more information on the Alabama Gulf Coast Convention
and Visitors Bureau, visit www.gulfshores.com,
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 www.gulffishing.net.
Tomorrow: All Types of Reef