Kingfish, or king mackerel, got their name by being the apex predator of the mackerel family. They often reach sizes over 50 pounds and are explosively powerful. They have mouths full of razor-sharp teeth and are known to speed in and instantly slice prey in half, then swim around and eat the rest.
Kingfish will also leap many feet out of the water as they swim straight up to attack bait near the surface. These fish are strong, with big fish peeling off hundreds of yards of line during their long initial runs.
Kingfish can be found throughout the oceans during different seasons, migrating to stay in warm water and follow bait fish as well.
Although they are found in the Gulf of Mexico throughout the year, in the Tampa Bay area late spring and early fall are the best months for nearshore charter trips. However, kingfish can be caught on nearshore trips during all but the months with the coldest water temperature.
They are attracted to a wide range of marine habitats. We are often most successful fishing near wrecks, reefs, large rocks, and ledges.
These structures attract the entire pyramid of marine life, and thus hold lots of food for these voracious predators. They can also be found attacking schools of sardines or threadfin in open water. In short, find the bait and you will find the kingfish.
Underwater structures in the form of reefs, wrecks, ledges, rocks, channels, springs, and walls can all attract and hold kingfish.
Additionally, anywhere you find large schools of bait fish near deeper water. Schools of spanish sardines, glass minnows, and threadfin herring will all attract hungry kingfish.
When you have identified an area to target kingfish, a successful technique is to slow troll or free-line a live bait, ideally, the same bait found in the area. Chumming is also effective to bring in kingfish. Kingfish will also strike trolling plugs, or spoons, that imitate fleeing bait fish.
For gear, a heavy rod and high capacity reel with hundreds of yards of line (30+ pound) and a wire leader stinger rig is needed. Stingers include a J-hook through the nose of the fish and a treble hook to place behind the dorsal fin to decrease the chance the kingfish will take only the rear of the bait and not get hooked.
Anglers can keep three Kingfish per day, greater than 24 inches to the tail fork. Kingfish filets are good to eat, despite being known mostly for making smoked fish dip, which is also quite good. Keeping the fish very cold on ice and eating the filets as fresh as possible will increase the quality of the meat.
With Non-Stop Fishing Charters, Captain Kevin Walton has several nearshore locations to reliably catch kingfish and other species. For the best action, contact him now to schedule your nearshore charter fishing trip to secure the prime days.