Hail to the king — kingfish that is
No, I’m not talking Elvis. I’m talking about the king mackerel or kingfish. Kingfish have moved into local waters around Anna Maria Island, ravaging bait schools and entertaining fishers with drag-screaming action. Most fish reported have been in the 10- to 25-pound range although it’s not uncommon to see fish from 50 to 75 pounds. We call the big ones smokers.
A variety of methods can be used to catch these high-activity fish. Trolling with artificials such as spoons and plugs can be an effective way to cover an area if the fish are spread out. Also drifting or slow trolling live bait works well when fishing over ledges and hard bottom. The most productive way often is to fish with live shiners, threadfins or cigar minnows. Chumming up the kings with live shiners is effective. You get to see the kings explode on the surface eating chummers, then you can throw a bait out on a long shank hook and get a hit fairly quickly.
If you get a king to the boat, be aware of its sharp teeth. One false move on your part could result in a trip to the hospital and stitches.
Remember, the minimum size for kings is 24 inches measured to the fork of the tail. You can keep two per day, so pick a couple of nice ones. Good luck on the kingfish and don’t put your fingers near their mouths.
Capt. Mike Greig is fishing nearshore structures as well as offshore reefs, and is catching limits of gag grouper in the 12-pound range. Greig is reeling in kingfish up to 20 pounds using live threadfin herring. “There is a lot of schoolies out there, but if you’re persistent you can catch some really nice kings,” Greig says.
Moving into the backcountry, Greig is catching spotted sea trout and redfish. Fishing the deeper flats is resulting in trout, while targeting mullet schools is the key to finding redfish.
Capt. Sam Kimball of Legend Charters is fishing the offshore waters around Anna Maria Island catching a variety of species. In the shallower depths, 30-50 feet, Kimball is targeting and catching kingfish up to 25 pounds. Live threadfin herring, live white bait and even cut baits are attracting these razor-mouthed kings of the mackerel family. Also on the shallower structures, Kimball is catching gags up to 15 pounds, Key West grunts, porgies, triggerfish and catch-and-release shark.
Moving out to depths of 100 feet and more, Kimball is catching plenty of amberjack up to 40 pounds. Again, live bait is the ticket for these tackle-busters. Kimball is catching mangrove, yellowtail and lane snappers fishing smaller baits on the bottom. “We’re still catching plenty of red grouper,” Kimball adds.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is catching a mixed bag of offshore and inshore species. While fishing the nearshore structures, Gross is targeting kingfish, gag grouper, mangrove snapper and flounder. “The kingfish bite is on fire out there,” Gross says.
Gross is using white bait with a small wire leader and long shank hook to catch and boat kings. Keeper gag grouper have been readily available on Gross’ charters as well. Fish up to 28 inches are being caught on white bait fished on the bottom at depths of 30-40 feet.
In the backwater, Gross is catching speckled trout in abundance. Spanish mackerel are being reeled in, while targeting trout. Also in the backwater, Gross is catching slot-size catch-and-release snook.
Capt. Wayne Genthner of Wolfmouth Charters is getting good results fishing nearshore and close-to-shore structures with threadfin herring and whitebait. Genthner is using light tackle as an entertaining way to fish targeted kingfish on the nearshore structure. “I like to tie a long shank hook on 30-pound fluorocarbon baited with a half fillet of thready on it.” Genthner says. “You might get cut off more often, but the bite is a lot more aggressive.” On a previous trip, Genthner says he had a barracuda bite a 36-inch kingfish in half. “Unfortunately he came back and ate the other half,” Genthner says. “It’s entertaining to watch a big cuda skyrocket at the end of your line.”
Also while fishing nearshore structures, Genthner is catching limits of gag grouper in the 25-inch range and hogfish in the 16- to 25-inch range using half of a select shrimp.
Moving inshore, Genthner is targeting redfish and trout in Sarasota Bay. Black drum, flounder and mangrove snapper have also been on the roster for his backwater trips.
Capt. Warren Girle is having success in the Gulf of Mexico at depths of 35-45 feet with both king and Spanish mackerel. Live threadfins and white bait are working well. In the same depths, Girle is catching keeper gag grouper and “lots of hog fish.”
Girle’s highlight of the week while fishing offshore was the sighting of a 40-50 pound sailfish. “We had a blue runner on a flat line behind the boat,” Girle says. “That’s when this sailfish came up and inhaled him.”
Girle and his charter watched the sailfish eat the bait in close proximity to the boat. Once hooked up, the fish tail walked, made a strong run and pulled the hook. It goes to show, you never know what to expect while fishing around Anna Maria Island.
Although it’s tough to beat catching a sailfish so close to shore, Girle has been producing nice catches of kingfish up to 25 pounds. Also, Girle and his charter caught and released a 150-pound hammerhead shark.
Jonny Keyes at Island Discount Tackle says reports of kingfish and gag grouper are the highlight of the week. Live bait presentations such as shiners or threadfin herring, are working great, although dead bait is working, too. “A lot of fishers are slow trolling live threadfin herring on stinger rigs to target the kings,” Keyes says.
Cobia are being caught on nearshore structures using live pinfish. Goliath grouper have begun to make a showing, so don’t forget to reel your grouper or snapper up quickly. If you don’t, they might get eaten by a hungry goliath.
Moving inshore, Keyes says spotted sea trout are still the No. 1 catch. Live shrimp under a popping cork is working well, or you can use DOA Cal jigs on a 1/4-ounce jig head. Sheepshead are still around and eating fiddler crabs. Rocks and docks are the targeted areas to find these striped fish. And shark fishing is proving prosperous off the beaches using frozen squid and shrimp.
Reports of jack crevalle, catfish and ladyfish have been abundant. “Anglers targeting the trashcan slam are being successful using frozen shrimp or squid,” Keyes says.
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