Catching Kingfish In The East Region With Capt. Mike Holliday


Capt. Mike HollidayMay is the best month of the year to target kingfish in my region, as the Atlantic group of migratory fish are in the area the entire month. We also see a lot of southeasterly winds in May, and those winds push the sardine schools closer to shore. Kingfish LOVE Spanish sardines, so much that if you’re trolling with live threadfins or pilchards and I’m trolling with Spanish sardines, I’ll get all the bites as the fish come over to my boat for their preferred food. 

Every May the kingfish school in big numbers off Jupiter Inlet, although they’re stretched out from Boynton Beach to Vero Beach. The reef off Jupiter in 85 to 110 feet of water and the Loran Tower Ledge in 75 feet of water off Hobe Sound tend to hold the greatest concentrations of kingfish, which is why you’ll see all the commercial hook-and-line kingfish boats in those areas. 

The average kingfish in those locations will be 12 to 25 pounds, but there will be bigger fish pushing 40 pounds caught. A lot of the big fish will also be on the beaches feeding on blue runners, mullet and goggle-eyes on the natural reefs. Even bluefish and Spanish mackerel are good kingfish baits in May. 

On the beaches, the Kingfish Hole, the old dredge holes, the Bath Houses, the Doubles and the Vero Cove are the favored places for tournament anglers to target kingfish, especially on a southwesterly or westerly wind, which makes the ocean calm enough for the fish to move inshore. Those big fish are really looking for a 2 to 3 pound bluefish, mackerel or other baitfish to feed on, so big baits like a big blue runner is the way to go. 

Most kingfish anglers look for an off-colored green hue to the water, so the water is not crystal clear and the fish can see the wire. Rig up with a conventional or spinning reel that holds at least 300 yards of 30 pound test monofilament—I like mono because it stretches and won’t pull the hook loose like braided line which has no stretch. I’ll add a 30 foot section of 20 pound fluorocarbon leader, then a short wire stinger rig made from #4 wire and #2 to 2/0 4X strong treble hooks. 

Hook the live bait through the nose, and let the wire stinger hook dangle back alongside the bait (make sure it doesn’t extend past the bait or the fish will see it and you won’t get bit), and slow-troll them behind the boat making frequent turns. Any time you see a bait school on the bottom machine you’ll want to make circles around it. 

Keep a light drag on the reel, as kingfish are slashing type feeders and will regularly get the stinger hook lodged somewhere in their face or skin. A heavy drag will pull the hook on the initial run, which tends to be a long, strong run if the fish is big. Multiple baits behind the boat will give you more opportunity to catch fish, and the larger baits will likely draw the largest fish.

Captain’s Tip of the Week #9 Kingfish - 2015
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