Vol 7 No. 3 - October 11, 2006

The Kings of Fall

KIngfish, such as the one above, appear in deeper Gulf waters when temperatures are in the high 70s and move closer to the beach when the water cools.

By Rusty Chinnis
sun staff writer

King mackerel are one of the premier targets for west coast anglers during the fall run. When water temperatures hit the high 70s, kings generally appear in the deeper Gulf waters, moving closer to the beaches as the water cools to the mid-70s. This year, with it’s abundance of bait promises to be a repeat of last springs banner run. Kingfish are very aggressive, and while anglers have traditionally targeted kings with live bait, they will hit a wide variety of plugs, spoons, feathered jigs and flies.

Up until the mid-80s kings were regularly targeted with 30- to 40- pound outfits, but recently, light tackle has become popular. Anglers who fish lighter tackle can expect better success and a lot more fun. While a 20-pound outfit is more than adequate, many anglers now pursue kingfish with gear as light as 8 pounds. In the open Gulf, kings are seldom lost to structure, so the most important consideration is rigging. Kingfish hit hard and make long runs. Aside from the need for a smooth drag, the major consideration is protection from their razor sharp teeth.

Anglers who troll for kings generally employ a short strand (8 to 12 inches) of wire. Fly fishermen and those who use live bait can opt to use extra long shank hooks and monofilament leader. You’ll get more hits with mono leaders and more cut-offs. I prefer the action and only use wire in low light situations — on cloudy days, early mornings, and late afternoons. The new braided wires and titanium leader material are easier to work with, kink less and can be tied like monofilament.

The best way to locate kingfish is to find the schools of baitfish they pursue. Structure in the Gulf (wrecks, patch reefs, ledges) and the edges of the local passes are prime areas. A loran and fish-finder are great assets in the search, but anglers who don't have this equipment can target kings by locating breaking fish, which usually have a contingent of pelicans and terns overhead.

The most effective way to concentrate kings is by deploying a chum bag and then chumming with dead and live bait. Position your boat near structure, live bottom, bait schools or feeding birds. After a chum line has been established, begin adding pieces of cut bait, and finally, a few live shiners to the water.

If you prefer not to chum, locate schools of bait fish on the surface and work the edges by drifting or with the aid of a trolling motor. A quiet approach will avoid spooking the baitfish and predators that may be patrolling the area. Cast to the edges of the school where kingfish patrol looking for wounded prey.

One of the best ways to target kings is with top water plugs and flies. There is nothing quite like a big king trashing a plug or fly on the surface. For the best results, use the biggest and nosiest flies, and plugs.

The utmost care should be taken when releasing these toothy predators. If you don’t plan on keeping one, release it while it’s still in the water. If you do land a king for a picture, act fast. Remove the hook with pliers and gloves and then launch it head first into the water.

Whether you seek out kingfish on flies, live bait or trolling, you’re in for some of the most exciting action to be found off our coast. Rig light, protect from the razor sharp teeth and enjoy one of the Gulf Coasts finest angling adversaries, the "Kings of Fall"!

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