Kingfish and Spanish mackerel typically migrate through the bay area from mid October through late November. Recently, however, there has been a surprising early run of both. Remarkable numbers of kingfish are being caught just offshore from Tampa Bay to Boca Grande. Anglers have reported catching dozens daily just off the beaches in 20 feet of water. Most kings have been small, from 5 to 12 pounds. Spanish mackerel have been mixed among them. The combination of the two species feeding together can provide fast action. The easiest way to find the fish is to look for birds diving into dense concentrations of bait a few hundred yards off the beach. The small minnows are stacked up in various locations, but they move day to day, so pelicans can be your best friend. There have also been schools of kingfish that are not working on bait schools. The only way to find those is to troll around an area until you get bites. Mark each strike on your boat's plotter and before long it should draw you a pretty good map of where the majority of the fish are. Light-tackle anglers usually like to anchor and chum to bring the fish into casting range. A combination of fresh-cut fish and crippled live baits can inspire a feeding frenzy behind the boat. At this point it can be fun to play around with gear such as fly rods or topwater plugs. Keep in mind that there is a 24-inch-fork length minimum size limit on kingfish. While uncommon locally, there have been some juvenile kings that have been too small.
Ed Walker charters out of Tarpon Springs. He can be contacted at [email protected]