SUN PHOTO/RUSTY CHINNIS
Chad Pahud poses with his 30-pound kingfish
By Rusty Chinnis
sun staff writer
Spring is here; I know it. The fish have given me a clear
signal. My tangerine tree has burst into new growth, and
blooms will be appearing any day. Over the weekend I heard
the first whippoorwill trilling in the pre-dawn darkness,
and the gold trees are painting the neighborhood in swaths
of yellow. These are sure signs of spring and they are
welcome harbingers to local anglers. Theyll keep
an eye on the Gulf, looking for a white flurry of wheeling,
diving sea birds as they feast on schools of bait that
mass off the beaches in a primordial ritual of renewal.
Anglers know from experience that schools of bonito, Spanish
mackerel, cobia and kingfish wont be far behind.
Knowledgeable guides know when to start looking by monitoring
water temperatures, and they reap the benefits of an early
spring bonanza. Captain Randall Fowler was the first to
alert me last week that he was having some banner days
on kingfish just off the area beaches. He was leading
half day charters to double digit catches of kings up
to 20 pounds. He invited me to go offshore the next day
with his morning charter as the chief photographer.
As luck would have it, the day dawned bright but extremely
windy. Fowler wisely chose to avoid a miserable trip offshore
(where he had been finding kings) and instead fished an
area in the lee of Anna Maria Island that afforded a comfortable
morning of fishing.
Over the years, Ive come to admire guides for their
ability to change with capricious weather, a trait that
Fowler displayed intuitively. Not only did he set the
charter up in an area where they could enjoy the fishing,
but he also had the patience to stay the course as other
guide boats left the area. The reward for his clients,
Brian Pahud and his son, Chad, was the fish of a lifetime.
Chad hooked, fought and landed a 30- pound kingfish on
light spinning tackle. The fish exploded on a baitfish
near the surface, and made several sizzling runs as well
as a number of head shaking trips to the surface before
he was landed by Fowler. The anglers had several other
hits from kings and hooked another large fish, but unfortunately
the hook pulled. For the final hour of the charter, Fowler
made a move to an artificial reef off Longboat Key, where
the remainder of the morning was spent hooked up to Spanish
mackerel, grey trout and bluefish.
King mackerel are one of the premier targets for west
coast anglers during the spring run. When water temperatures
hit the low 70s, kings generally appear in the deeper
Gulf waters, moving closer to the beaches as the water
warms to the mid-70s. Kingfish are very aggressive, and
while guides like Fowler target 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 Fowler uses light tackle
tailored to maximize the success rate and the fun. While
a 20-pound outfit is more than adequate, even for big
kings, Fowler will often use tackle as light as 10-pound
class. In the open Gulf, kings are seldom lost to structure,
so the most important consideration is rigging. Kingfish
hit hard and make long runs, so a smooth drag and protection
from their razor sharp teeth are paramount.
Fowler uses a short strand (8-12 inches) of wire when
the kings arent leader shy, but is prepared to substitute
long-shank hooks on days when bright skies and clear water
make the kings wary.
Fowler locates kingfish primarily around patch reefs,
ledges and wrecks in the Gulf. He also keeps an eye out
for breaking fish, birds and bait. The most effective
way to concentrate and catch kings is by chumming with
dead and live bait, which is Fowlers preferred method.
The utmost care should be taken when releasing these toothy
predators. If he doesnt plan on keeping one, Fowler
releases it while its still in the water. If he
does land a king for a picture, he acts fast, removing
the hook with pliers and then launching it head first
into the water after the photograph.
Captain Randall Fowler can be reached at (941) 238-8925
or visit his web sit at www.unclemudfish.us. April is
prime time for kings. Rig light and enjoy one of the Gulf
Coasts finest angling adversaries, the King of Spring!