What's hot: With the water temperature just right and the first two cold fronts of the fall overhead, most attention is focused on king mackerel. Just hearing those drag-screaming runs and watching those skyrocketing hits is priceless. Before this last front, we spent the mornings on the beach slow-trolling large ladyfish and catching fish in the 20- to 30-pound range. In the afternoon, we relocated a few miles offshore to the nearshore reefs, which are covered with Spanish mackerel and as much fry bait as one could hope for.
Tactics: Using the right bait while targeting kings is key. Whether on the beach or offshore, the right bait can make the difference between catching a few fish and having an unforgettable trip. These fish are always on the move, so they need plenty of nourishment to keep them strong. After all, they travel hundreds and hundreds of miles each year during their migration. For instance, while fishing the shipping channel inside markers 5 and 6, bait such as bluefish, threadfin herring and ladyfish produce more bites and bigger fish because those are the bait most prevalent at that location. Moving a little farther offshore in the same channel, cigar minnows, blue runners and Spanish sardines will work better as these baits are usually found in deeper water.
Tackle: Tackle for kings varies with the angler. The most common setup is a fast reel loaded with at least 300 yards of 15- to 25-pound line, a rod with a light, fast tip and a wire rig. Many anglers lose fish with heavier setups because the mouth of a king is very soft, and because these fish hit bait so fast, they sometimes miss, or if they get the hook it is not always in the mouth. I have caught many kings that were foul-hooked lightly in the skin, and if I were using more pressure or heavier tackle I probably would have pulled the hooks right out of the fish.
Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at fintasticinc.com or (727) 642-3411.