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Outrigging can help land king mackerel

© St. Petersburg Times
published April 7, 2002

Interested in catching a king mackerel? Just head out to the Redington Long Pier. Kingfish season is in full swing, and the toothy critters are being pulled over its railings.

Successful kingfish anglers there employ a system called outrigging, which requires a few pieces of tackle. One rod and reel is used as the outrigger, or guideline, and the other is the main outfit, used in battle.

The main line is a heavy-duty outfit that can hold 300 yards of 50-pound line. Unlike kingfishing from a boat, where 15- to 20-pound line is used, fighting a 30-pound king from a stationary position such as a pier requires more heft.

Eight-foot grouper-style rods are fastened to the pier railings with a clamp-on rod-holder or tied with half-inch anchor line. Wire leader rigs are used on the main line. The outrigger is a 20-pound spinning reel on a 7-foot rod. Tied to the end of the line is a 6- or 8-ounce egg sinker with a No.1 treble hook dangling about a foot from the weight. The idea is to cast the treble hook as far from the pier as possible and snag the rocky bottom.

Once the bottom is snagged, the rod is placed in a rod-holder consisting of a 5-foot piece of 2-inch PVC pipe tied to the pier railing. The length of the rod-holder is important because it gets the guideline higher and keeps the line out of the water a longer distance from the pier.

This helps keep the bait farther away from the pier. An outrigger clip is used to attach the main line to the guideline. It is made from a short piece of 50-pound monofilament leader about a foot long.

At one end of the leader, a medium-sized snap swivel is tied. A 4-ounce egg sinker is tied at the middle of the leader. At the other end of the leader is a clothespin. The jaws of the clothespin are fitted with a rubber band to give the pin more gripping strength.

The next-to-last piece of the puzzle is the stinger rig, or what amounts to the wire leader. Most pier regulars make rigs from No.6 coffee-colored wire with two No.1 treble hooks.

A leader is about 24 inches with one treble tied to it. A short piece of wire is tied to the main leader with another treble hook, known as the stinger.

The length of the stinger wire depends on the size of the bait. For example, if the angler uses a threadfin, a 3- to 4-inch piece of wire is best. If a ladyfish is being used, then a longer piece of wire should be used. The idea is to have the stinger treble lie just beyond the dorsal fin of the bait.

Savvy pier regulars use flashy skirts on the front treble to draw attention to the bait.

The last piece of the puzzle is the bait. Bait is always fresh, lively and caught at the pier with bait-catching rigs. Rigs are good for catching pinfish, blue-runners, threadfins, sardines, pumpkinseeds (Atlantic bumpers) and mackerel.

One of the popular baits is ladyfish, usually caught with small sardines.

Now that we have all of the pieces, let's fish. Cast your outrigging line as far out as possible. Drag it along the bottom until it snags tightly. Place it in the PVC rod-holder. But leave some slack so it's easier to work with at first.

Hook your bait on the stinger rig. Clip the snap from the outrigger clip on the guideline, then put the main line in the clothespin's jaws about 4 feet above the bait.

Tighten the guideline, and let the bait slide down to the water. Shake the rod-holder slightly to help the clip slide farther. Landing a king is not easy. Teamwork is a must.

Finally, it's a good idea to go to the pier and watch someone else before attempting it.

-- Capt. Rick Frazier runs Lucky Dawg Charters out of St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 510-4376. If you've had a great day fishing from land and want to share it with readers, contact the LUBBERLINE at (727) 893-8775 or e-mail

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