By JAY MASTRY, Times Correspondent
Published November 18, 2005
Though we've not seen the numbers we are usually accustomed to in November, kingfish will dominate the offshore activity the rest of this month.
But with few bait schools to keep them interested, migrating kings that normally hold up on the artificial reefs, wrecks and hard bottom areas haven't stuck around.
The abundant schools of glass minnows and tiny baits are a poor substitute for the acres of greenbacks, whitebait, sardines and cigar minnows that usually gang up here this time of year. However, the small baits have attracted massive schools of ladyfish and juvenile Spanish mackerel, and opportunistic kingfish can be found taking advantage of the ladyfish and macks.
On Tuesday, while working schools of mackerel in 30 feet off Blind Pass, Larry Mastry and Bill Miller, the host of television's Hooked on Fishing, caught kings up to 30 pounds on slow-trolled whitebait and ladyfish. We worked the same area and had bites on ladyfish and mackerel. We also caught a 25-pounder on a finger mullet.
Although Pennywise's winning 43-pounder in the King of the Beach tournament was caught well offshore, many other big fish were caught around Spanish mackerel schools within 2 miles of the beach. On a trip last week we caught a 30-pounder in 14 feet while trolling around mackerel schools a couple miles north of Redington Long Pier.
When trying to entice a monster kingfish out of a school of mackerel, there is no better bait than one of their own. A fresh mackerel often outperforms anything else. Mackerel are difficult to keep alive in even in the best baitwells, so keep a kingfish rod ready to deploy a Spanish as soon as it's caught.
A variety of artificials work for Spanish. I like a No. 0 spoon rigged with a 1-ounce trolling weight about 4 feet up the line to promote longer casts. The single hook makes for easy unhooking and reduces the risk of damaging a bait.
While the quantity of kings caught has not been impressive, the quality size has been. Some of my most memorable kingfish trips have been on Thanksgiving morning, and I remain optimistic that if the weather permits and water temperatures stay in the 70s, this Thanksgiving will be another to remember.
- Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 321-2142.