September has arrived and the bigger kingfish will be arriving on their journey to the south. Kingfish are a great fish to target for some good rod bending action and blistering runs. These fish will be found from just off the beach around the bait schools to the 80- to 90-foot depths in our Treasure Coast waters.
When the waters warm again from the August cold water upwelling, it will be time to find the bait schools of pilchards and greenies off the beach. For the first couple of hours in the morning, kingfish, big and small, lurk around these schools of bait. Kingfish are very toothy fish so you will want to have your baits rigged with a wire leader and a “stinger rig.” For a stinger rig, you will attach your main hook in the nose of your live bait with another short piece of wire from the main hook to a treble hook in the mid-section or near the tail of your bait. Kingfish hardly ever eat the whole bait on the first strike so two hooks on the bait will increase your chances for a hookup. This being said, a light drag is essential because a lot of times a kingfish will get foul hooked and a light drag with steady pressure will keep from pulling the hook out. Once you catch some bait, hook a bait or two up and slow troll the live bait around the edges of the bait schools. If the bait schools are around structure, this will increase your chances of hooking up a smoker kingfish.
As the day goes on, the majority of the kingfish will move to deeper waters. Anywhere out to 80 feet will be a good area to find kingfish. Look for kingfish around structure and ledges. When heading out to the deeper depths, try to have a variety of live baits such as pilchards, greenies and big blue runners to put in your trolling spread. If you are running out of live bait, don’t have live bait or would prefer a faster trolling speed, kingfish will hit shiny spoons like the drone spoon and big lipped lures. I would still recommend using a wire leader on lures. As with any lure or live bait trolling for kingfish, cover the water column from the surface to down deep by using a down rigger, if available, or a planer.
Big kingfish put up a great fight, are a great trophy and are tasty smoked, or smoked and made into fish smack. Smaller kingfish put up a good fight, but are the better size for grilling or broiling. If you look online you can find a lot of different recipes for various ways of cooking this fish.
If the weather and seas this month allow, another rod bending idea is to head out to the deeper waters early and look for the shrimp boats that will anchor up in 150 feet depths and beyond. This draws the black fin tuna and skipjack tuna. The shrimpers do this early in the morning so you should be heading offshore before sunup for your best chance at catching some of these tuna. When targeting these fish, I like to troll small feathers or small squid daisy chains way back behind the boat and troll at 6 to 9 knots down current of the shrimp boat. An HMS permit is required to keep all tuna except black fin tuna. For more information regarding the HMS permits please visit the National Marine Fisheries Service online at https://hmspermits.noaa.gov/default.asp.
Please know and abide by the State and federal regulations for the fish you are targeting. Catch ‘em up!!