King Mackerel Tournament Comes to Southport

by Oct 2, 2019Brunswick County Life, Online Exclusives, Southport Oak Island

The 41st edition of the U.S. Open King Mackerel Tournament comes to Southport this weekend.

Unlike last year, there are no hurricanes in the forecast and the weather forecast looks excellent, so Karen Sphar at the Southport Oak Island Chamber of Commerce might feel a little less stressed despite the work involved in managing what organizers say is the biggest king mackerel tournament on the East Coast.

Last year, officials evaluated their situation after Florence and went forward with the event. It was a good decision as plenty of anglers participated, more than $271,000 was awarded and the boat Tide Line, captained by Dieter Cardwell, became a two-time U.S. Open winner. His winning mackerel weighed 37 pounds, 20 ounces.

The major challenge was that the churned-up waters forced the fishermen to find different places than the normal spots to hook king mackerel. But, as Sphar noted, that’s what anglers do.

The tournament has attracted as many as 500 boats from around the country, lured this year by $280,000 in guaranteed purses and prizes. The big prize is $25,000 for the largest king mackerel and $10,000 for second place, and there are numerous other prizes and sponsor bonuses based on the weight of fish caught.

The event is free to spectators, including public concerts on Thursday and Saturday. Sphar says there should be great viewing anywhere along the Southport waterfront, and the public also can watch weigh-ins at the Southport Marina. The marina also will be the site of free live concerts Thursday and Saturday along with food and other refreshments.

The event has come a long way since a small group of Chamber members gathered more than four decades ago to figure out a way to promote fall fishing and bring more visitors to the community after the summer rental season.

“They had to sign a bank note to guarantee the prize money,” Sphar said. “But they didn’t need to use it.”

The rest, as the cliché goes, is history.


What: 41st annual U.S. Open King Mackerel Tournament; $280,000 in guaranteed total purse, including $25,000 for the largest king mackerel.
Where: Southport Marina and surrounding waterfront viewing sites
When: Oct. 3-5

Some cool things to do:

– Thursday: Free live music at the marina by The Big House, 4-7 p.m.
– Friday and Saturday: View weigh-ins from 2-5 p.m. Friday or 2-4 p.m. Saturday at the marina. Also streaming live at
– Saturday: Captain Charlies Kids Fishing Tournament at Southport City Pier; Island Eatery food truck at the marina from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Free live music by Island Fever from 4:30-7:30 p.m.

More information: