King mackerel season is in full throttle with fish being caught all along the coast.
On Wednesday kingfish, most about 15 pounds, were caught on the Clearwater hard bottom, and Spanish mackerel, some of more than 6 pounds, were caught. Trolling hardware has produced small kings on nearshore reefs, the Betty Rose and the Egmont channel markers.
Cobia are showing up in fair numbers. Before you dive into kingfishing, idle up to a channel marker or buoy and spend a few quiet minutes looking into the water. The dark fish that look like sharks will be cobia. Free-line a live bait and hang on. Cobia put up a great fight and are good to eat. They are tackle busters, so make sure you play the fish until it is worn out. Gaff the fish if you are going to keep it, and move it directly to a fish box or well to keep it from thrashing into passengers and tackle.
When kingfishing we prefer to slow-troll live bait. We use No.3 wire for our primary single livebait hook and No.4 wire for a 6- to 10-inch trailer treble hook. The wire prevents most cutoffs and is small enough to fool big kings.
Live baits we prefer include big blue runners, shad, threadfins, ladyfish, Spanish sardines and large pilchards. Try using two smaller baits if large baits are hard to come by. The bigger the baits, the bigger the fish. A 3-pound Spanish mackerel is a great bait for big kings. Fifteen- to 20-pound line is all we use, and it can hold up to a lot of pressure.
With light tackle, a light drag setting and fighting the fish from a vertical position is required. Light line requires you fight the fish a lot longer than heavy tackle, but you can catch bigger fish and have a lot of fun landing 30-pound-plus kings, sailfish, cobia and blackfin tuna.
Amberjack fishing is good, because most anglers are concentrating on kings and nearshore grouper. Jacks are a good alternative if you want a tough fish that can make your back and arms burn. Springs and wrecks in 80 feet out are holding jacks, and a large blue runner is the preferred live bait with large pinfish a close second.
The gag grouper have moved closer to our coast, so start fishing in 65 feet over ledges and hard bottom as you work your way offshore. Always start with dead bait to get the bite going, then switch to live bait.
Larry "Huffy" Hoffman charters out of John's Pass, Treasure Island. Call 727 709-9396 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
(All phone numbers begin with 727 unless noted)
TODAY: Captain's meeting for T.A. Mahoney Kingfish Classic, Hamlin's Landing, Indian Rocks Beach, 363-0071.