SUN PHOTO/RUSTY CHINNIS
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 its 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
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. Youll 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 dont plan on keeping one, release
it while its 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,
youre 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"!