February 26, 2024

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How to fish for Kingfish: A Angler’s Guide

Reading Time: 8 minutes

King Mackerel – or Kingfish, as they’re commonly known – are a popular, sought-after species for a couple of reasons. First, take a look at the name – King Mackerel. That’s a hint right there! This species is loved for its tough, aggressive fights, cool looks, and ability to bring dinner to the table. Being located both inshore and offshore, it provides plenty of opportunities for all sorts of anglers to get their hands on them. But it’s not quite that easy.

Photo courtesy of Olivia J Charters

That’s why I’m here today. I’ll give you the lowdown on how to fish for Kingfish. You’ll learn how to spot one of these regal creatures, how to attract them, reel them in, and much more. So without further ado, let’s dive in to see what makes the Kingfish such a popular species!

How to Identify a Kingfish

Three men sitting on the deck of a fishing charter, two with their shirts unbuttoned, and holding a King Mackerel each wiuth the water behind them on a day with sunny intervals
Photo courtesy of Always Tight Fishing Charter Destin

There are quite a few species in the Mackerel family, and It can be easy to get them mixed up. Most have similar body shapes and coloring. But it’s not difficult to recognize a King Mackerel. That’s because the Kingfish is the largest species in the Mackerel family. These guys can grow up to 6 feet and have maximum weights close to 100 pounds! The average catch is usually a bit smaller, but if you’re lucky, you could land a record-breaker!

There are a few other key details that will help you identify Kingfish besides their size. They mostly come in grey but they have a slight bluish-green touch to their backs. They don’t have spots like most Mackerel species, but they have a slight stripe-like appearance instead.

The lateral line drops down once you reach the second dorsal fin, and the front one doesn’t have a dark blotch – unlike other Mackerel species. They have rigid fins, and their back tail is quite large. They also have small yet sharp, pointy teeth.

The Best Time to Go Fishing for Kingfish

Two young women standing on a fishing charter back in the dock, holding a small Kingfish each after a successful fishing trip
Photo courtesy of Always Tight Fishing Charter Destin

Before you think about targeting a Kingfish, you’ll want to know when’s the best time to cast a line. One important thing to know about this species is that they love to migrate. They migrate when the weather changes, when food sources aren’t providing enough, when they spawn, and even more often than that. That being said, there are times when fishing for them may or not be so productive. The best opportunities depend on the region you’re in…

The most important thing to note is that they prefer “comfortable” temperatures, meaning a bit on the warmer side but nothing too hot. In Florida for example, they’ll be most abundant during the cooler months. The Sunshine State is still warm during this time, but the summer is a little too hot for Kingfish. The best way to put it is, if it gets too hot, they will travel up north, but when it gets cooler, they’ll go down south.

When it comes to the best time, Kingfish will bite throughout the day, so you have plenty of chances of hooking some. The most productive times, however, will be around dawn and dusk. Many species, including Kingfish, are most active around these times, so it’s a feeding frenzy!

As for tides, focus on outgoing or incoming tides. When the current is strong and bait fish are being pushed around, Kingfish will be most active as they hunt for prey.

The Three Ts of How to Fish for Kingfish: Tips, Tricks, and Techniques

So you know when to visit and what to look for, now it’s time for the fun stuff. In this section, I’ll talk you through the tips, tricks, and techniques when it comes to fishing for Kingfish.

A view from the flybridge of a boat towards three anglers, sitting and enjoying themselves aboard a fishing charter in Florida, as trolling rods trail behind the boat in its wake
Photo courtesy of Reef Runner Charters Key West

The most popular method of King Mackerel fishing is trolling. This means leaving your bait out behind the boat, usually 32 feet or more. With trolling, you can have multiple lines out to cover more ground. You can use live or dead bait, but the most common approach is with lures.

You can also try Kingfish fishing the old-fashion way – with a rod, reel, and a hook. Try freelining bait both inshore and offshore, with the option of adding a sinker if the current is strong.

King Mackerel have small mouths and sharp teeth, so it’s important to try to keep as little tension on the line as possible. Allow them to run when they need to and quickly reel in when there’s any slack. Don’t make your drag too tight or you can pull the hook. They may try and shake the hook out, so always keep the tension balanced.

You can also add some chum to an area before you drop a line in, even if it seems busy. In addition, if the fish lets go of the line, wait a second before you bring your bait back in as there’s a chance they may bite again.

I’ve covered a lot but there’s still more to know – namely, how to get the fish to bite. There are various ways you can entice a King Mackerel, and so here are a few favorite bait selections…

For live or dead bait, you can free line or troll critters such as mullet, threadfin herring, cigar minnows, goggle eyes, pilchards, menhaden, squid, and more. You can find these by easily casting your net while looking around beaches or offshore points. But another quick and easy option is to buy fresh ones from a bait shop or frozen ones from a grocery store.

In addition to live bait, artificial lures are popular in King Mackerel fishing. Anything that’s bright, flashy, mimics bait, and makes movement is sure to capture the attention of a Kingfish. And there’s an added bonus if it makes a sound! A few examples of angler-favorites include jigs, jerk baits, spoons, and trolling plugs.

Best Gear for Kingfish Fishing

A view of three trolling rods with heavy-duty reels set up alongside a fighting chair on the deck of an offshore fishing charter at sunset on a cloudy day, with crashing waves visible around the boat

As you’re now aware, Kingfish are strong and fight hard, so you need gear that can hold up against them. The good news is that despite their hardiness, they aren’t monster fish like Tuna or Marlin, so you don’t need to go all out on your gear. A reliable, sturdy setup is fine.

The perfect setup for King Mackerel fishing includes a medium-action rod, a 4000 spinning reel, 20 lb braid, 40 lb fluorocarbon leader, and a 3/0 hook. You can always up your line, leader, and hook size if you’re targeting big Kingfish or if there’s a lot of structure in the area. Some anglers also recommend using wire leaders because the fish’s razor-sharp teeth may cut through your leader if it’s in the wrong spot.

Just beware, this is a basic King Mackerel fishing setup. You can always tweak it to your preference or current surroundings. In fact, you’re encouraged to do so!

Kingfish Hotspots

You can find King Mackerel all around the globe. While they’re common in the Gulf and Atlantic waters of the US, you could just as easily find them in waters as diverse as the Caribbean, India, or Brazil.

A view of an oil rig offshore from Galveston, Texas, at sunset on a sunny day

The best inshore habitats to locate some Kingfish consist of piers, jetties, and structure near shorelines or beaches. If fishing offshore, check around wrecks, reefs, and deeper points where schools of bait fish travel by. Here are a few prime hotspots for you to try and fish for Kingfish:

  • Key West, FL. Key West is a popular fishing destination for many species. Anglers from near and far come to this tropical oasis year-round for vacation fun and fishing adventures. Plenty of King Mackerel can be found both close to shore and in deeper waters.
  • Texas Oil Rigs. The oil rigs off the Texas coast provide shelter for tons of marine species, both small and large, with King Mackerel being one of them.
  • Shark Hole, NC. Twenty miles off the coast of Oak Island, North Carolina, anglers run into a feeding frenzy zone called Shark Hole, where many large King Mackerel reside.
  • Grays Reef, GA. Grays Reef is a national marine sanctuary off the coast of Georgia that’s booming with sea life. You’re not allowed to keep your catch here, but you’ll have plenty of fun ripping up nice-sized Kingfish.
  • Bay of Bengal, India. The Bay of Bengal is renowned for its Kingfish, along with many other species. If you’re ever looking for the ultimate angling vacation, this may be it.

These are just a few admired hotspots for King Mackerel but there are plenty more across the world. If you’re interested in fishing for King Mackerel but don’t have a way to get out there, FishingBooker can help you. Team up with an experienced charter captain who can create a Kingfish adventure tailored to you – you won’t regret it!

King Mackerel Fishing Regulations

You may think we’re done but there’s just one other important section before you start booking your trip. As with all species, it’s important to educate yourself on the regulations when fishing for Kingfish. You don’t want to face any fines or punishments for illegally harvesting or mistreating the species!

An infographic featuring an illustration of a King Mackerel followed by text that says "Kingfish Fishing Regulations What You Need to Know" along with the FishingBooker logo against a blue background

As you can find Kingfish all over the world, the regulations will differ depending on the area you’re fishing in. You can easily check online to see the current rules in your region.

In my state of Florida, for example, you can harvest King Mackerel year-round as long as you have a valid saltwater fishing license. You must also meet the minimum fork length of 24 inches. In Gulf waters and Monroe County, you can keep three per day, but the bag limit in Atlantic waters is two per day. You can fish with hook and line, or you can spearfish.

Most states (and countries) will have something similar, so head over to any government site to find out what’s what. Alternatively, check with your chosen charter operator and they can help you. Because, as long as you follow the rules, you’re sure to have plenty of fun fishing for Kingfish – and you can fill your hungry stomach too!

Kingfish Fishing: Now You Know

A woman in a black t-shirt, denim shorts, and sunglasses holding a large Kingfish back on the dock after a successful fishing trip on a sunny day
Photo courtesy of Just Reel

Each marine species is unique in its own way and provides a different experience in the fishing world. If you haven’t caught a King Mackerel already, you need to add this fish to your bucket list. I hope I made that clear throughout the article! It’s now over to you to go and land that personal best or fill the coolers for dinner – anything is possible!

Have you caught a Kingfish before? What’s your personal best? Leave your Kingfish stories in the comments below!

The post How to Fish for Kingfish: An Angler’s Guide   appeared first on FishingBooker Blog.

By: Caitlyn Gatrell
Title: How to Fish for Kingfish: An Angler’s Guide  
Sourced From: fishingbooker.com/blog/how-to-fish-for-kingfish/
Published Date: Wed, 08 Nov 2023 15:25:46 +0000

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