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Kingfish Fishing

The Kings of Spring

Kingfish Fishing

Kingfish Fishing in the Gulf of Mexico

Here on the Suncoast, the return of the king mackerel migration definitely marks the beginning of spring. Hordes of ravenous kingfish will be passing through our area for at least another four weeks devouring every baitfish in sight. So, do what I like to do, go slow troll!

As I stated last month, you can simply run off shore to some hard bottom, start chumming and wait for kingfish to come to your chum slick or you can slow-troll live bait and increase your odds at catching a true smoker. Slow-trolling live bait also allows you to cover a larger area and encounter more fish.

Another king this month is snook. April is the last month of harvest for this awesome table fare until snook season reopens in September. This month snook will be feeding like savages in anticipation of the upcoming spawning season, which runs May-July.

Early this month I’ll still be targeting snook in the back bays and mangroves, but as May approaches snook will be moving into deeper water around bridges and into many of our coastline passes.

Redfish are also a king in the spring. Large schools of redfish started showing up on many of our grass flats back in February due to the above average temperatures we’ve been experiencing. Once a school is located, anchor your boat and start live bait chumming with scaled sardines like a maniac. This will keep the school near you and feeding for hours on end. Then cast a hooked sardine free-lined or suspended under a cork into the fray for a solid hookup.

The fourth king of spring for April is the “Brown Bomber,” cobia. I like to refer to cobia as the “pork chop of the sea.” When steaked out and grilled, I think cobia resembles the firmness and texture of perfectly grilled premium pork chop. Delicious!

Cobia can be spotted on many of the grass flats this month trailing large southern stingrays. So, when you’re out searching for bait or redfish, keep an eye out and be prepared. I always keep cobia rods at the ready, because should you spot a cobia, time is of the essence. Have your bait at the ready and cast way in front of the stingray, so you don’t spook it. If you cast too closely and blow out the stingray, game over, say “bye, bye cobia.”

Rounding out the kings of spring is the Silver King.

Tarpon typically show up around the Skyway Bridge in early April, weather permitting, and I don’t see this month being an exception. The water temperature is already higher than normal, thankfully to climate change. Can I get a “hallelujah?”

Early on, anchoring close to the bridge and creating a fresh cut-bait chum slick while dropping back a big fat piece of cut-bait on a hook works best. Just watch out for the dolphins, because they will take the bait right off your hook. So, when they move in, move out and go to another spot along the bridge and start all over.

Come May and June, tarpon will be hailed as king!

Smoking Springtime Fishing is Here!

Even though spring doesn’t officially start until March 20 this year, I’m really looking forward to it. This winter, the fishing was the most inconsistent that I’ve ever experienced. Cold fronts were few and far between and when we did get one, temperatures headed back north of 70 degrees the following day. This inconsistency prevented fish from settling into their normal winter patterns. That being said, there were a good number of days when sea-trout catches were outstanding. The next day, not so much.

The redfish bite was about the same, but with a slightly different twist. Some days, most of the redfish landed were in the mid to upper slot-size of 27-inches. Other days, most were under 18-inches. Still fun to catch, but a little disappointing if you were planning on a blackened redfish dinner. Fortunately, of late, schools of large redfish are once again prowling the grass flats.

Traditionally, St. Patrick’s Day marks the start of the annual kingfish migration run along the Pinellas County coast. Kingfish can be caught very close to shore with very little effort. Just run offshore about a mile or so and locate hard bottom using your sonar or by searching out crab traps. Crab fisherman, always drop their traps on hard bottom, because that’s where the crabs are. Go figure! Once you locate a decent spot, drop anchor, start a chum slick and put out some live-bait on flat lines.

Chumming for kingfish and waiting for them to come to you is productive, but luring the fish with a trolled bait is more proactive. Slow-trolling live bait also eliminates the possibility of catching non-targeted species like sharks. I always prefer to head offshore with some bait in the live-well, but you can catch it once you reach your destination with a Sabiki rig.

Kingfish are great table fare, if you stick to the smaller ones, because they’re common carriers of high levels of mercury. The FDA recommends eating fish under 30-inches to limit your mercury intake.

Personally, I like to smoke kingfish on my Big Green Egg and then make fish dip. If you’ve never done it, just Google smoked kingfish dip and you’ll find plenty of recipes.