Mark Long of Harrells, NC, Regina Reep and Elijah Sorenson loaded up their 26 foot boat on Saturday morning with aspirations of catching a big King Mackerel. They were fishing the Jolly Mon King Classic King Mackerel tournament, one of the largest King Mackerel tournaments on the East Coast, and they were one of 205 teams competing for the exact same prize. However, they ended up alone atop the leader board because at 1:15pm, a big King Mackerel bit their line and skill and good fortune landed that fish in their boat; a very impressive 41.65 pound King Mackerel to be exact. On board fishing with Captain and boat owner Mark Long were Regina Reep and Elijah Sorensen. Mark reported that the team had bounced around to several different places during the morning but had nothing but sharks and Spanish mackerel to show for their efforts. They decided to try the Jungle, an area of live bottom located 21 miles southwest of Shallotte inlet. The team had set lines and commenced back into the routine of catching sharks and Spanish mackerel when a small tap on the rod caught the attention of Elijah Sorensen. He picked up the reel and began feeding line, hoping that whatever had struck at the bait would come back. Seconds later the line came tight and what started as a very subtle bite turned into a high speed getaway attempt. The big King Mackerel had eaten a pink skirted Menhaden fished on top and now that it knew it was hooked, it did its thing and spooled off 300 yards of line in a matter of seconds. Mark remarked on how cool Elijah was in the midst of the smoking run while he and Regina scrambled in the back of the boat to clear lines and give chase to the fish. Elijah began collecting line and once the team was back on top of the fish, it was just a matter of minutes before the big, shiny shape took form under the water’s surface. The big King has spent most of its energy on the initial run and after slowly pumping the King to the surface, Mark took a shot at the King with the gaff; but he missed. Mark admitted he was very nervous. Not only was this the biggest King Mackerel he had ever put on his boat, it was the Jolly Mon King Classic, and both he and Regina were a nervous wreck. It was then that Mark realized he had mistaken the plastic tubing that is used to protect the gaff hook as the actual hook itself, and thus had only tickled the back of the big King. A turn of the handle put the hook on the gaff down and the next strike hit home. The trio hauled the fish aboard and commenced to release all the built up tension. Several other boats were fishing the Jungle area when all this was going on and heard the commotion and soon after saw the team pack up and head to the scales. Upon arrival to the Ocean Isle Fishing Center at 3pm, Mark and crew were all grins and for good reason. Their day had ended by scaling a 41.65 pound King Mackerel, and although they still had to wait out the rest of day’s weigh-in as well as the following day, a 40 pounder in the Jolly Mon is usually a sure thing. Congratulations to Mark Long, Regina Reep and Elijah Sorensen for winning the 21st annual Jolly Mon King Classic.
The fishing conditions for the Jolly Mon were good but certainly not ideal. A cold front passed on Friday morning which fortunately led to very nice sea conditions on Saturday and fair conditions on Sunday. The weather is always the biggest obstacle to fishing, and participants were very fortunate to have good fishing weather. The Kings were and continue to be very scattered. The winning fish came from 65 feet of water while 2nd, 3rd and 4th came from 110 feet of water and several other top 10 fish came from as shallow as 50 feet of water. It truly was a crapshoot as participants scattered out across the ocean looking for the biggest King. The Jolly Mon also featured prizes for cobia, mahi and Spanish mackerel. The cobia are obviously still around in good numbers as many boats weighed cobia, and for those boats that fished offshore in the 100+ foot depths, they also had mahi. The boats that stayed in the 50-65 foot depths found the bigger Spanish mackerel. A very consistent report from participants was that the hottest bites in the tournament were from atlantic sharpnose sharks in the 50-65 foot depths and amberjack in the 80-100+ foot depths. Too bad they were not eligible tournament species.
Thanks again to all those local area businesses that support the Jolly Mon and of course all of the area fishermen and their families that make the Jolly Mon an annual tradition.
- Capt. Brant McMullan