Hudson column: Silver Kings rule summer

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The intense heat of midsummer is a depressing reality for most fisherman in the Piedmont of North Carolina.
The bass are lethargic. The stripers are deep. The water feels more like a hot tub than a lake. Maybe it’s time to go pay your respects to the King.
We are not talking about Elvis, either. The Silver King is, in my opinion, the greatest gamefish that ever swam in fresh or saltwater. Tarpon, known as the Silver King because they shine like silver in the sunlight when they come to the surface, possess everything required to give an adventurous angler the experience of a lifetime.
You want jumps? Tarpon usually spend a great deal of time in the air trying desperately to throw the hook during a fight.
Size? If you’re fishing for tarpon in North Carolina or South Carolina then you likely won’t find one under 100 pounds.
Stamina? You’re in for 30 minutes or more of a back-breaking, forearm-straining battle when you hook one of these impressive creatures.
There are two places within a reasonable drive of Salisbury where you can reliably find tarpon this time of year.
The closest is Bull’s Bay in South Carolina, between Georgetown and Isle of Palms. The other spot is Pamlico Sound, inside the Outer Banks.
The two places fish very differently due to the fact that Bull’s Bay has a very large amount of current and Pamlico Sound has virtually none.
For that reason, fishermen in Bull’s Bay anchor up near sandbars located at the mouth of the Bay and put two or three baits out behind the boat, down current, in areas where tarpon are known to congregate.
In Pamlico Sound, you can anchor up and deploy rods all around the boat in every direction, increasing your chances for a hook-up, because there is no current to mess up your baits.
If you go with an experienced tarpon expert, such as Capt. George Beckwith of New Bern or Capt. J.R. Waits of Isle of Palms, S.C., you can expect a couple of shots at tarpon.
There are some days where five or six shots are not uncommon at both locations. The rest of the time you’ll be catching sharks and stingrays. The sharks are fun. The stingrays are a pain in the butt.
Those wishing to chase tarpon in their own boat better know how to throw a cast net because you are going to need live bait in the form of large mullet, croakers or menhaden.
Live bait gets most of the action in South Carolina, but super-fresh dead baits fished on heavy Carolina rigs is the normal routine for Pamlico Sound.
Honestly, hooking a tarpon is very difficult as both Beckwith and Waits will attest.
Tarpon have very hard plates around their mouths which makes hook sets very difficult.
In fact, just jumping a tarpon is considered a success in this fishing game. Even if they break off after one jump you have seen more action that you will have seen in a lifetime of bass fishing.
And if you keep them on the line all the way to the boat? Chances are the smile will never be wiped off your face.
Glenn Hudson is a freelance fishing writer based in Salisbury. Contact him at