The kingfish have arrived.
With the water temperature dipping into the 70s and a multitude of bait near and off shore, the fall season has started with a bang.
To target these toothy speedsters, try slow trolling live greenback, threadfin herring or blue runners just under the surface in 30-60 feet of water. Concentrate in areas with hard bottom or plenty of bait on the surface.
For tackle, use 25-pound stand-up gear with the drag set loose. Tie 6 feet of 40-pound shock leader to the main line. The leader is protection against tail slapping and tangling that might occur during the fight.
Next, connect 2 feet of stiff wire to the shock leader via a swivel. Hook the baits through the nose with a 1/0 trailed with a stinger rig. Depending on the size of the bait, the rig should be 3-4 inches of stiff wire leader connected from a single hook to a small treble hook.
The stinger is designed to hang freely behind the bait so that if the single hook misses, the treble should find a home.
On the move
During the fight, the king often will suddenly change directions.
In cases with a single hook, the fish will pull and the angler will lose the catch. A stinger rig is added insurance against this misfortune. Using one should greatly improve the hook-up to bite ratio, producing more kingfish.
If you don't have success slow trolling, try anchoring up-tide of the many artificial reefs or another piece of your favorite structure.
Start by hanging a frozen chum bag over the side of the boat, then tossing a few handfuls of squeezed greenbacks into the water. Drift the baits, rigged in the same manner, back into the slick, and hold on tight.
Tying a balloon at the top of a 40-pound shock leader will help keep your spread in order and force the baits beyond the sanctuary of the boat.
If using light tackle, keep in mind the capacity of the reel. A good size king is capable of several runs more than 100 yards, so getting spooled is possible.
To combat this, tie a large jug or Styrofoam float to the extra anchor line.
If an angler hooks a fish that might spool, untie from the cleat, toss the jug clear of the boat, then follow the target. When done battling the fish, go back to the float and retie to the anchor.
Macks and jacks
The fall mackerel run usually doesn't last as long as its spring counterpart, but it often will bring the fish closer to shore.
If prepared with proper leaders and good baits, anybody can enjoy tangling with the fastest fish.
Inshore, large schools of jack crevalle are dominating the flats, as they usually do this time of year. The aggressive, powerful fish will take live and artificial baits with equal conviction.
In many cases, they'll make it nearly impossible to present bait to anything else. Large schools will be spread over the flats and in river and canal systems.
For guaranteed drag screaming, there's no easier fish to target.
Pete Katsarelis charters out of Tarpon Springs and can be reached at (727) 439-3474 or by e-mail at pkatsarehelios.acomp.usf.edu.