Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

It's king mackerel time

Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring, but everybody knows those Yankee varmints know nothing about kingfish.

"It's still a little cool," tournament angler Dave Bayes said of bay area water temperatures. "We are close but just not there yet."

Cold and rainy sounds good to a Pennsylvania groundhog that has been living in a hole since Halloween. But here in the Sunshine State, we like warm with a light breeze out of the east, especially if you are looking for king mackerel.

"The water temperature is about 64 degrees offshore," veteran charter boat captain Steve Papen said. "We need it to be around 68 degrees.

"Then we'll be in business."

Papen and his colleagues have been catching "schoolies," 10- to 15-pound kings, the kind that bring smiles to the faces of those tourists accustomed to catching sunfish and smallmouth bass.

But a baby king mackerel won't put you on the leaderboard at a major kingfish contest such as this weekend's opener of the Wild West Kingfish Tournament Series. The four-event tournament has a 100 percent payout, so it attracts the top offshore anglers on Florida's west coast.

Traditionally, bay area anglers start celebrating the return of the kings around St. Patrick's Day. The predators spend their summers in the northern Gulf of Mexico then sit out the winter in the warm waters off Key West. At the first hint of warm weather, they begin their run back north.

Some years, the kings can be as predictable as a puppy at dinner time. But some years, all it takes is a late-season cold front to stop the migration. The fish will get here, but the $7,000 question (how much you would earn by winning this weekend's tournament) is when.

If the weather breaks, as it is expected to this weekend, and we get a few days of sun and calm seas, anglers can look forward to an action-packed month ahead. The 26 boats that have signed up for the Wild West Series will have three more chances this year: April 21, Oct. 5 and Oct. 19. (Sorry, registration is closed.)

Weekend warriors can still register for the Suncoast Kingfish Classic, a Southern Kingfish Association event to be held April 19-20 at Gator's on the Pass on Treasure Island. To register for the event, go to fishska.com.

One week later, April 25-27, the granddaddy of all kingfish tournaments, the annual Old Salt Spring King of the Beach, gets under way on Madeira Beach. The KOB, as it is called, pays $80,000 in cash and prizes and usually draws more than 300 boats.

Now in its 20th year, this "everyman's tournament" has been fished by anglers in 18-foot flats skiffs as well as million dollar yachts. The key to this tournament's success is the level playing field. A modest $195 entry fee and a 30-mile fishing boundary mean you don't have to be a seasoned SKA veteran to win.

"I just couldn't believe it," said Frank Quinto, a 42-year-old aerospace engineer from Seminole who won last year's event.

"I fished the tournament for years and always watched the guys weigh in their winning fish."

Last spring, just a few minutes after he caught his 46-pound winner, Quinto called his wife as he motored back.

"Honey, this is not a drill," he said. "Call everyone, I got it this time!"

When he finally pulled into the dock, he had 30 friends and family waiting.

"You just can't beat it," he said. "Those were the best couple of hours in my life."

To learn more about the tournament, go to oldsaltfishing.org.

It's king mackerel time 04/04/13 [Last modified: Thursday, April 4, 2013 8:40pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. For starters: Rays at Twins, looking for another with Odorizzi starting

    Blogs

    UPDATE, 12:45: Cash said Robertson was taking better swings Friday and so he wanted to move him up today, liking the idea of having three straight right-handers vs. a LHP they don't know much about. ... Souza was still smiling this morning about his failed dive attempt last night, and the reaction it got. .. The …

  2. Why the Lightning would consider trading Jonathan Drouin

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — This summer, the Lightning could trade one of its most dynamic young players ever.

    Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin (27) celebrates with his team on the bench after beating Chicago Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling (33) to score his second goal of the period and to tie the score at 4 to 4 during second period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Monday evening (03/27/17).
  3. Why the Lightning should keep Jonathan Drouin

    Lightning Strikes

    Keep him.

    Jonathan Drouin is live bait. The Lightning is ready to run the hook through him and cast him out there again. Drouin has enough talent for the Lightning to meet some defensive needs in a deal.

    Keep him.

    Lightning wing Jonathan Drouin celebrates after beating Los Angeles Kings goalie Peter Budaj during the first period of Tuesday's win in Tampa. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]
  4. This Tampa Bay Lightning wing rides the newest wave of fan interaction

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — There are photos of Lightning fan Shaun Egger as a toddler at center ice at the then-Thunderome, aka Tropicana Field. He's played in the Lightning's high school hockey league for Palm Harbor University. But his closest personal encounter with players had been waving through a crowd after a training camp …

    Tampa Bay Lightning player J.T. Brown wears his anti UV glasses as he talks over the headset with a hockey fan while they play against each other on line in an XBOX NHL video game in Brown's game room at his home in south Tampa. The fan chose to be the Washington Capitals and Brown, of course, was the Tampa Bay Lightning. Brown interacts with fans through video game systems as he streams the games live on Twitch with plans for the proceeds to go to charity.
  5. ‘Biggest fight' behind her, Petra Kvitova returns ahead of schedule

    Tennis

    PARIS — Five months after a home invader's knife sliced into her left hand, Petra Kvitova will return to competitive tennis at the French Open, a last-minute decision to make her comeback earlier than expected.

    Petra Kvitova adjusts her hair during a news conference at Roland Garros Stadium, where she will make her tennis return at the French Open. Kvitova's left hand was badly injured by a knife-wielding intruder in December; she has recovered ahead of schedule. [Associated Press]