Mild temperatures and light winds have allowed anglers to target nearshore kingfish and Spanish mackerel this week. Large kings up to 40 pounds have been caught within 2 miles offshore, feeding on small Spanish mackerel and threadfin herring. Some of the larger charter vessels elect to pull hardware around the schools of bait showering on the surface, while other boaters will anchor and attract the fish by chumming with a store-bought chum bag or small cut pieces of sardines and herring. Kings and Spanish mackerel have very sharp teeth, so long shank hooks are a must when tying straight to leader. If breakoffs are too frequent or kingfish are present, try 4-8 inches of 30- to 40-pound wire and a single 2/0 hook with a small swivel. Many times attaching an extra piece of wire to a treble hook, also called a stinger, increases the odds of a positive hook set on a large kingfish. Be prepared for a blistering run, sometimes more than 100 yards, before slowing them down. Initially, drags should be set lighter to allow the rod and leader material to absorb the shock, slowly increasing the drag as the fight continues. A cool front dipping in the next few days will bring higher winds that often move the fish out deeper. We should still see a push from the north for a couple of more weeks as fish continue to migrate southward. Gag grouper season closed today, so both red and gag grouper are now off limits. Red grouper is set to reopen Jan. 1.
Brian Caudill fishes from Clearwater to Tarpon Springs. He can be reached at (727) 365-7560 and captbrian.com.