The Southport King Mackerel Tournament

Prepare for Angling Fun

Reel ‘em in and haul ‘em on! This is one battle of man versus fish that you won’t want to miss. The Carolina coast is home to some of the best fishing locations in the United States. It is famous for local favorites such as red drum, sheepshead, flounder, and speckled seatrout. Perhaps one of the most notorious of them all is the mighty King Mackerel. The Southport based U.S. Open King Mackerel Tournament is set to take place early October, and it’s always a fantastic spectacle event to watch.

A Well-Loved Tradition

The town of Southport, North Carolina is known for one of the most popular fishing tournaments on the East Coast. It attracts hundreds of fishermen from all over the Southeast annually.  Considered the “Grandaddy of King Mackerel Tournaments,” the U.S. Open started in 1979. It involves myriad boats racing out into the water hoping to land the biggest catch within the allotted time. Anglers put their fishing skills to the test to see who comes out on top for a chance to win one of 55 cash prizes ranging from $500 to a $25,000 grand prize! This year’s tournament will be held from the starting point at Dutchman Creek Park and will take place from October 6th to October 8th.  Go dust off those rods and reels!

(Image courtesy of

How It Works

Rules for the U.S. Open King Mackerel Tournament are simple, each one of the up to 300 boats will be given an entry number to identify themselves which must be displayed and clearly visible. King Mackerels are the ONLY eligible species for the tournament. No more than six fishing lines are allowed to be in the water per boat. The only weapon of choice for angling these fish is a good ol’ rod and reel. No fancy or ex-squid-sit electric reels or boat lines will be allowed! The captains of each boat call the shots. So, it is up to them to decide how their crews will perform during the two days of this competition. Boats must catch bait inshore. Once their inspection is completed by tournament staff, the crews are then allowed to motor offshore to catch King Mackerel. These “check-out” areas include:

  • Masonboro Inlet
  • Snows Cut
  • Cape Fear River at Southport
  • Holden Beach Marina
  • Wildlife Ramp at Sunset Harbor
  • Little River Inlet

Try and Catch the Action

Once the competition begins, our so-fish-ticated anglers will have from 7 am until 5 pm on Friday and 7 am to 4 pm on Saturday to reel in the biggest King Mackerel they can hook. The name of the game is fun and healthy competition. We expect all crew and boats to be respectful and mindful of those around them. Everyone wants those bragging rights for reelin’ in the biggest fish. While there can only be one o-fish-al winner, everyone gets a fair shot! You can often find plenty of spectators watching from the riverwalk on the Cape Fear River, and even join in on the fun. The town of Southport will put you in the center of all the action. If you’re fishing for a good time, be sure to come out! You’ll be hooked!