Fish Post

Tidelines – July 2, 2020

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If you find yourself in this crazy world craving anything that seems relatively normal, then you’re like me when I arranged for me and my boys to go spanish mackerel fishing, like we do every year, on Father’s Day morning.

For the last so many years, the Spanish Mackerel Open has fallen on Father’s Day weekend, and that’s where our annual tradition started. This year, though, the Spanish Mackerel Open was the weekend before (which we fished in, too, on Saturday when the weather and seas forecast couldn’t have been more wrong), so I decided to call on Alex Benson, a past employee of Fisherman’s Post who has gone on to start Golden Hour Guide Service.

James Hurley, Max Paegler, and Owen Hurley with some of the spanish mackerel they caught on Father’s Day morning trolling spoons off of Wrightsville Beach. They were fishing with Capt. Alex Benson of Golden Hour Guide Service.

Alex’s plan was simple (normal)—head out of Masonboro Inlet and make our way to Mason’s Inlet where we would pull spoons behind planers in search of enough modest spanish mackerel for a family fish fry. Lucky for the Hurleys, Alex’s simple and normal plan played out perfectly.

I say the Hurleys, but me and my two oldest boys were joined by Max Paegler, the oldest son and by far the biggest fan of fishing in the Paegler family, long time friends that were visiting us from Atlanta. My boys made me proud when they informed Max on the boat ride out of the inlet that he was up first on the rod when we hooked a spanish. It was certainly the right thing to do, but boys of any age, especially ages 13 and 14, don’t always do the right thing, so I already considered our fishing day off to a strong start.

Max Paegler, from Atlanta, GA, with the first spanish mackerel put in the boat. He was trolling spoons behind #1 planers in 30′ of water with Capt. Alex Benson of Golden Hour Guide Service.

I asked Alex why we were headed to Mason’s Inlet. As he was telling me that he had seen tons of bait there the day before, lots of menhaden and glass minnows, we both saw a spanish jump up ahead in the near distance.

Alex quickly put out two planer rods, each with a #1 planer and mini Drone spoon (one green/chartreuse and one silver/chartreuse), and after maybe a minute of trolling, the short rod tripped and the bend in the rod alleviated, the classic signal of a spanish mackerel on the line. The boys like to hang in the front of the boat, so I gave a big and loud, “Fish on!”

Max came running to the back. He followed Alex’s instructions to reel in steady and stop reeling as the planer approached the rod tip. Alex grabbed the line and made sure all the boys were paying attention as he showed Max and reminded my boys how to properly handline in a fish—again with the steady, but really emphasizing to keep the collected line in the water and not the boat, as well as giving a smooth pull of the fish out of the water and onto the boat.

A few circles around didn’t create another bite, so we headed on to Mason’s Inlet.

At Mason’s, Alex tried something new in the spread. In addition to our two planer rods, he also put out a couple of small ballyhoos on Hank Brown rigs. He wanted to add the bigger baits, Alex explained, because Johnnie Mercers Pier had a number of kings come over the rails just the day before.

The Hank Brown rigs made it easy—pull the ballyhoo out of the package, break off the bill, pop the eyes, squeeze out the poop, check to make sure the back was limber, and then bring the first hook (a single) right through the nose and place the second hook (a treble) in the tail.

The baits looked good swimming in the water, but we noticed that our spanish bite on the spoons slowed down once the ballyhoo were in the water. After several passes both to the south and the north of the inlet without any king action and noticeably slower spanish action, Alex decided to bring the ballyhoos back in.

The ballyhoos came out of the water, and the spanish action improved.

Alex and I stayed mostly at the console, letting the boys reel in fish, handline fish, and then set the lines/planers back out. All three boys took turns with every aspect of the process, and we steadily put together enough fish to feed the Hurleys and Paeglers, each a party of five.

Max showed a strong learning curve on the day, as this was just his second time ever fishing for spanish. For my boys, the day was less about learning and more about practicing the skills they’ve already been taught. However, I may give the day’s evolution award to Alex, who has clearly grown as a fishing guide now that he’s in his second full year of Golden Hour Guide Service.

I brought that observation up to Alex, and he quickly replied, “I started this company wanting to be hardcore fishing but soon realized that running a charter business is all customer service and making sure the guests are having a good time.”

“I’ve gotten better with consistency,” he continued, “and making sure the gear is ready to go and fine tuning all of the processes, but I’ve really gotten better at reading the customers. Maybe they don’t do so well in the ocean, so when they start looking at each other, you can tell they’re not having a good time. I then offer different options, such as shooting back inshore to do some dock fishing, or maybe they want to pull up to a beach and hunt for seashells.”

Capt. Alex Benson, of Golden Hour Guide Service, would be happy to take you and your party on a half day or full day of spanish and/or king fishing. He also likes to chase the summer mahi when they come in close, or target some of the easy-to-reach bottom fishing spots within 12 miles.

You can reach him at (910) 777-9482, or visit him online at

If you’re craving normal, then taking family and friends on a nearshore fishing trip seems like an easy and fun way to accomplish normal.