Top 15 King Mackerel Fishing Tips
Top 15 King Mackerel Fishing Tips
This article features a list of the top 15 king mackerel fishing tips. King mackerel are a very popular game fish. They are found in the coastal waters all along the entire Gulf of Mexico coast and up the East Coast of the United States to the mid Atlantic. They are also plentiful in the Caribbean.
King mackerel are a pelagic species. This means that they spend the majority of their time in the upper portion of the water column. They are constantly on the move, though they do relate to structure. Their migration patterns mirror those of the bait fish that they feed on. The world record king mackerel is 93 pounds and was caught in Puerto Rico. Kings are very good to eat when prepared fresh, though they do not freeze well.
1) Finding bait is critical to catching king mackerel
King mackerel will never be very far from the groceries. They feed and schools in open water, foraging on bait fish. The type of fish they feed on will depend on location and time of year. Scaled sardines, threadfin herring, blue runners, cigar minnows, pogies, and mullet are just a few of the more popular bait fish species that king mackerel feed on. Bait schools can either be seen dimpling on the surface or located using a bottom machine.
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2) King mackerel love structure
While king mackerel are an open water fish, they will often times relate to some sort of structure. Part of the reason for this is that structure tends to attract the bait fish that they feed upon. Areas of hard bottom, ledges, reefs, wrecks, and oil rigs will all attract and hold kings. Generally speaking, structure and water depths between 30 feet deep and 75 feet deep are the best spots. However, they can be found right along the beach as well is very far offshore.
3) King mackerel fishing requires a smooth drag
King mackerel are one of the fastest fish species in the sea. Large kings are called “smokers” because of their blistering initial runs. Reels, whether conventional or spinning, need to have a high capacity of line as well is a very smooth drag. Fast retrieve ratios are also helpful in retrieving the line back on the spool.
4) Planers are an effective tool for trolling
Most king mackerel are caught by anglers trolling. Planers are a clever device which allows anglers to get the lore down into the water column to the desired depth while still maintaining the 5 mph to 7 mph speed that is most productive. Planers come in several sizes. A #1 planer will dive down 5 to 7 feet, a #2 planer will dive down to 12 feet, and a #3 planer will go down as deep as 25 feet. Planers work great when looking for numbers of fish as opposed to big fish.
Spoons are most often used in conjunction with planers. A long leader is used between the planer and the spoon, with 20 feet being a good all-around length. Fluorocarbon leaders a 50 pound test 280 pound test work well. Snap swivels on both ends will help reduce line twist. The spoon should be massed in size to the type of bait fish that are local to the area. Large spoons are most often used. Plugs can also be used, as long as they have a small lip which will not trip the planer.
5) The correct leader is important when fishing for king mackerel
Like all mackerel, king mackerel have a mouth full of very sharp teeth. However, this does not mean that wire leader’s always need to be used. Anglers trolling spoons do well with a 20 foot section of 5280 pound fluorocarbon. Very few cutoffs occur when trolling with these larger spoons. Anglers trolling plugs usually use a small trace of wire leader.
6) Use stinger rigs with live bait when targeting kings
Anglers slow trolling with live bait fish often use a stinger rig. They can also be used while drifting or fishing from an anchored boat This rig consists of two hooks on a 2 foot to 3 foot piece of wire leader.
The front hook is either a treble or single hook. It is used to secure the bait fish through the nose. The rear hook is always a treble hook. It either swings free or is lightly hooked into the back of the bait fish. King mackerel often chum the rear half of the bait. Stinger rigs drastically increase the hookup ratio.
7) Spinning and conventional tackle can be used when fishing for king mackerel
Both spinning tackle and conventional tackle work well when targeting king mackerel. Anglers trolling with planers and larger plugs will generally do best using medium conventional tackle. Spinning tackle is more appropriate when using shallow diving plugs and live bait. In both cases, rods with a lot of backbone and a soft tip work best.
8) Troll plugs for king mackerel
Plugs work very well when trolling for king mackerel. Plugs come in a myriad of sizes and colors, making it very easy for anglers to mimic the locally available forage. In addition, plugs have lips which will determine the depth that which they dive. This allows anglers to cover the water column thoroughly when trolling with plugs.
9) Trophy king mackerel love live bait
Live bait fish work extremely well when fishing for king mackerel. Blue runners, sardines, herring, cigar minnows, and mullet are the top live bait fish. These bait fish are difficult to keep alive. Therefore, most anglers catch their bait fish the morning of the fishing trip using either a cast net or a Sibiki rig.
Anglers using live bait for king fish can troll, drift, or anchor. All three techniques can be effective. Slow trolling with a large live bait on a stinger rig accounts for some of the largest king mackerel taken by anglers. Drifting works well when the current and wind will move the bait along at the desired pace. Anchoring is usually done in shallower water when king mackerel are located over a small piece of structure.
10) Trolling feathers and skirts will produce fish
Skirts and feathers are lures that are used to troll for king mackerel and other species. They are troll right at the surface and put up a commotion which attracts game fish up to them. They are most often brightly colored. Often times they are used in conjunction with some type of natural bait, especially ribbon fish and ballyhoo.
11) King mackerel are seasonal fish
As mentioned earlier, king mackerel are a migratory species. In the wintertime, they will be found in the warmer climates such as the Florida Keys and Mexico. As the water warms up, this triggers the migration of both bait fish and mackerel. Spring and fall are prime times in Florida and Texas. Summer is better in the northern golf of Mexico as well as in the waters off of North Carolina and South Carolina.
12) Local information is the best information
King mackerel are notorious for being here one day and gone the next. Successful anglers use a networking system to keep abreast of the current king mackerel hotspots. Local bait and tackle shops are great resources. They will generally speaking be up-to-date on the most productive lures and locations. Online fishing forums and social media reports can also be excellent sources of quality information.
13) Handle king mackerel with care
King mackerel have a mouth full of razor sharp teeth. Anglers need to be very careful when handling them. Fish that are going to be kept to eat are normally gaffed. Special release tools work very well on small king mackerel. They allow anglers to pop the fish off without even touching them. Larger fish are generally grabbed by the tail and laid along the gunnel of the boat while the hooks are removed.
14) Chumming is a very productive technique
Chumming is one of the most effective angling techniques used and saltwater fishing. It is the act of putting bait in the water in hopes of attracting fish. Anglers can chum from an anchored or drifting boat and use either live, fresh cut, or frozen chum. Chumming with live bait fish is incredibly effective though requires a lot of bait.
Most anglers opt for commercially available bags of frozen chum. These are blocks of ground up fish and often times come in their own mesh bag. This bag of chum is tied off to the stern. As it thaws, the chum is dispersed into the water column. This will at first attract bait fish and then hopefully the larger game fish.
15) King mackerel are terrific eating
Kings have a bad reputation in some areas when it comes to table fare. However, when handled correctly and prepared properly they are fantastic eating. King mackerel are oily and do not freeze well. Their flesh can also be a bit soft. Therefore, the best approach is to immediately ice down any fish that are destined for the table. They can be cut into steaks or fillets. King mackerel are fantastic baked, broiled, grilled, or smoked.
In conclusion, this article on the top 15 king mackerel fishing tips will help anglers targeting the speedy game fish enjoy more success.