King mackerel, or “kingfish”, are the biggest and most aggressive fish in the mackerel family. They have mouths lined with razor-sharp teeth, well suited for slicing through baitfish.
Kingfish are often seen exploding straight out of the water as they feed on bait schools. They are fast and tenacious, with big 30+ pound fish often pulling hundreds of yards of line while the drag screams from the reel. Kingfish range in size from small up to around 60 pounds.
Kingfish Fishing Season
Kingfish are pelagic, migrating throughout the oceans as water temperatures fluctuate year-round. They are found off the gulf coast of Florida all year, although certain times of year are best for catching them nearshore, suitable for one day charter trips.
The peak months for nearshore kingfish are typically May and October when nearshore waters dip into the 70s, and large amounts of baitfish move into the area. However, kingfish can be caught year-round, although the lowest activity is December – February.
Where To Find Kingfish
Kingfish can be found in a variety of underwater habitats. Underwater structure 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 baitfish near deeper water. Schools of spanish sardines, glass minnows, threadfin herring will all attract hungry kingfish.
Fishing Methods & Gear
Once you have located structure and schools of baitfish, slow trolling live baits like mullet, ladyfish, mackerel, seatrout, and shad through these areas can be very successful. Another strategy is to anchor up the current of these areas and create a chum slick to attract the fish to your live baits freelined in the water.
You will need a stout rod and reels with 300+ yards of line to survive the runs and land big kingfish. Rigging for live bait is usually a stinger rig, which features a wire leader to a long shank hook, with a secondary wire leader attached to a small treble hook that is placed behind the dorsal fin of the bait. This rig ensures hookups on short strikes and prevents lines from getting cut by their sharp teeth.
Kingfish can also be caught on artificial lures trolled or cast in hot spot areas. Lures need to be flashy to attract attention, such as spoons or reflective vibrant plugs.
Catching & Eating Kingfish
Kingfish is excellent to eat when cleaned and prepared properly. They have a great flavor and are often eaten grilled fresh off the boat or smoked and turned into a delicious fish dip. Anglers can keep three fish per day that are at least 24 inches to the fork in their tail.
The spring kingfish season is always busy, so book your kingfish adventure with Capt Kevin now to secure the best dates.