Kenny “K.J.”Crawford Jr. has a whale of story to tell when he returns to school in a few weeks. Actually, he’s got two big fish stories to share.
That’s because this 12-year-old angler hooked into a monster king mackerel while pin-rig fishing on Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head early on Wednesday, July 30. The 47-inch-long, 26.5-pound fish grabbed his live bluefish bait at the surface and ran. When it was finally on the deck, Crawford was grinning from ear to ear.
“It felt good,” he said.
“He was on cloud nine,” said Crawford’s fishing companion, Chris Reed of Gaithersburg, Md., who had given the young man a ride to the pier before sunrise. The two met on the pier last year. K.J.’s dad, Kenny Crawford Sr., was also flying high.
“This week, he’s been on fire. He decked a cobia and king. He’s excited, he’s tore up,” he said. “It’s all his own equipment he bought and paid for himself.”
Pier regular Spike Stevenson of South River Rods gave K.J. a good deal on his fighting rod, and the Shimano TLD 15 reel came from an unlikely place, the senior Crawford said.
“A guy on a boat found the reel in the bilge of a charter boat. We cleaned it up and that’s what he caught it on,” Crawford said.
As for all the additional equipment required for serious pier fishing such as pin-rigging, K.J. has his own money-making enterprise to pay for it – cutting grass.
The rising seventh grader at First Flight Middle School decked the 32.5-inch cobia on Saturday, July 26. The fish didn’t meet the required legal measurement of 33 inches and was released. Cobia is considered a prize catch by most anglers. Having to release the cobia didn’t seem to matter much to K.J., who was still excited about the catch four days later. “It came up on the north corner, just a little dink,” he said about the fish’s size. The king definitely fought better.”
The king mackerel represents the third species of this pier angler’s grand slam: He also caught and released a 45-inch bull red drum last fall. The 47- inch king mackerel represents his biggest fish to date.
The senior Crawford got the call that K.J., which stands for Kenny Junior, was hooked up while he was at work Wednesday morning. He dropped everything and headed to Jennette’s Pier.
“He started the serious pier fishing last year,” Crawford Sr. said. “But he’s been fishing since he was two years old. Since he was big enough to hold a rod and walk.
“I gotta’ go back to work,” he told his son. “Bye, I love ya!”
K.J. went straight back to his set up to wait for the next big fish to come along.