The kingfish are here. Reports have been coming in from Clearwater and the Egmont Channel area. Most have been 10-18 pounds and have been gathering in large schools outside the 5-mile range. They have been moving from day to day, but once a big school is located, double and triple hookups are common. Trolling artificials is the most effective way to find concentrations because the faster trolling allows you to cover more area. Once you locate the school you can downsize your tackle and catch fish on live bait or by casting lures. One of the most exciting methods is to anchor and chum with live sardines. This not only draws the fish into casting range but drives them into a feeding frenzy.
For catching a large number of school kings, a 2-foot wire leader and single long shank hook is the preferred rig. Treble-hooked stinger rigs make catch and release difficult and have a high mortality rate. Leave your bait where it is if you get a bite and fail to hook up. More often than not the kingfish has bitten the tail off the baitfish and will return for the rest. When you get a kingfish boatside, grab it by the tail with one hand and hold the leader with the other. By controlling the head and tail you reduce the fish's ability to thrash around. This will allow you to retrieve your leader intact and increase survivability for the fish. If the fish is hooked deep, simply clip the wire and twist another hook onto it.
_ Ed Walker charters out of Palm Harbor. Call (727) 944-3474 or e-mail TarponEdaol.com.