Thursday, November 23, 2017
Outdoors

Two 65-pound king mackerels rule Wild West

RECOMMENDED READING


Anglers call it the Wild West for a reason. One hundred miles from shore, out in the deep blue water of the Gulf of Mexico, anything can happen.

It is a dangerous, unforgiving place. If the weather takes a turn for the worse, you are on your own. Only a select few have the fortune or fortitude to venture that far from land.

"You are out there," said Jim Naset, whose Pro Marine Team is known for its long runs and big fish. "It isn't always worth with it, but sometimes it is."

Two weeks in a row, Naset and his teammates fishing the Wild West Kingfish Tournament Series, came back to the dock with a tournament-winning 65-pound king mackerel.

"The first one was 'Wow!' " said tournament director James Malz. "But the second was 'Wow! This is disgusting. Are you guys going to weigh in a 65-pound king every week?' "

The first fish, which netted the Pro Marine team $13,000 and the top spot on the leaderboard for the four tournament series, weighed in at 65.15 pounds. At the time it was believed to be the largest king mackerel caught in a tournament north of Naples.

Kingfish are a migratory species. They spend their summers fattening up on baitfish in the waters off the Florida Panhandle. When the fall winds blow, they head south along local beaches to the waters off the Florida Keys, where they spend the winter months. Biloxi, Miss., and Key West are known for big fish, but a 65-pounder off Tampa Bay? That's pretty much unheard of.

"I know it sounds crazy … and if I wasn't on the boat, I probably wouldn't believe it," said Naset, a veteran of the kingfish tournament trail. "This second fish didn't have the girth of the first fish, but it was a little longer."

The Wild West Kingfish Series attracts the best of the best. The top kingfish teams in Florida compete, the rules are tight, and nobody would dare cheat. And it they did, they wouldn't get away with it. Tournament structurers are given a polygraph test.

But the way the tournament is structured makes big fish almost a given.

"The tournament boundaries are 100 miles north and 100 miles south," said Malz. "But (teams) can run as far west as they dare to go."

Naset and his team run a 36-foot Yellowfin equipped with triple 350-horspower Mercury engines, the ideal vessel for long runs in rough water.

"Nobody knows where they caught those fish," said Malz. "But everybody figures that they probably made a pretty long run."

Secret spring? Forgotten wreck? There are hundreds of possible locations.

"We had fished this spot before without any luck," said Naset, who, as expected, declined to reveal his honey hole. "But this time, as the week before, there were fish there."

Naset said the first 65-pounder, landed April 16, was hooked about an hour into the trip.

"This time we had the lines in the water a matter of minutes before the fish hit," he said. "This fish weighed in at 65.85 pounds."

The twin 65 pounders will make it hard for any other team to catch Pro Marine when fishing resumes in the fall.

"It really makes me wonder that if we had another tournament this spring, could they do it again?" Malz said. "I would have never thought they could weigh in two, so why not three?"

Up next

King of the Beach Tournament and Festival: The Old Salt Fishing Foundation will host the annual event Thursday-Saturday at Madeira Beach's newly renovated Recreation Complex, 200 Rex Place. Admission and parking are free. 5-11 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 2-10 p.m. Saturday. Info: oldsaltfishing.org.

Comments

Captainís Corner: Switching to bottom fishing for grouper, snapper

With water temperatures falling, offshore anglers soon will have less species to target. Migratory species such as cobia, kingfish and Spanish mackerel will be migrating south for the winter. Most offshore captains will switch to bottom fishing for g...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Captainís Corner: Bay area reefs, hard bottoms, flats worth your attention

With air temperature still in the upper 70s to low 80s during the day in between cool fronts, you might want to look around bay area reefs, hard bottoms and flats. When the water starts warming in the middle of the day, snook start biting. But donít ...
Published: 11/22/17

Captainís Corner: Get ready for gag grouper migration

With falling water temperatures and bait fish making their way into the near shore waters off of the coast, we can expect the fall migration of gag grouper to be in full swing with the next two or three cold fronts that make their way into the centra...
Published: 11/18/17
Updated: 11/20/17

Captainís Corner: As visibility improves, so does spearfishing

Spearing in the Gulf of Mexico is improving day by day. First, the underwater visibility is getting much better. For more than a month, after Hurricane Irma, the offshore water clarity was so poor that most divers stayed home. The water is now much c...
Published: 11/17/17
Updated: 11/18/17

Captainís Corner: Snook bite remains aggressive

We are in the midst of prefrontal conditions, so there should be good fishing today. Bait seems to have moved on the last full moon and judging by the amount of bait fry that has filtered onto the flats, it spawned also. Load up the wells with the sm...
Published: 11/17/17

Captainís Corner: Calm seas closer to beaches rewards with kingfish

Strong east winds have made it challenging for offshore anglers. The first few miles are quite tolerable since the land buffers the shoreline. After that, sea conditions have been tougher. Anglers searching for kingfish have been rewarded with calm s...
Published: 11/16/17

Captainís Corner: A little wind doesnít stop hot fishing in November

Despite many windy days, November fishing has been amazing. The water is cooling off, and the fish are becoming more aggressive. Itís getting to be the time of year when the cold fronts start to make their way out of the north. When this happens, win...
Published: 11/15/17

Captainís Corner: Fly fishing success possible, even in wind

When your day to fly fish arrives, do you hope for a day without wind? Knowledgeable fly fishers know there are many ways to deal with different wind situations. Avoid open water, and select an area that offers protection. Stay close to shore and use...
Published: 11/12/17
Updated: 11/14/17

Captainís Corner: Low tides and cold fronts make for rewarding fishing

Fall and winter low tides combined with cold fronts passing through can lead to highly rewarding fishing. It takes winds blowing 20-plus miles an hour out of the northeast combined with an astronomical low tide around the new moon and full moon phase...
Published: 11/12/17
Updated: 11/13/17

Captainís Corner: Reef fish abundant offshore; mackerel, kings better near shore

Before this recent cold front, we were able to travel where we wanted, and the calm seas allowed us to make the mistake of running past the best depths for our type of fishing. The 40- to 50-foot depths produced almost nonstop action from reef fish, ...
Published: 11/12/17