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Captain's corner

By RANDY ROCHELLE

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 14, 2001


In the next month or two, kingfish will make their way north along our coast. If you don't like spending all day trolling, try combining a grouper and kingfish trip. On your next grouper trip bring a few extra blocks of chum and a couple of kingfish rigs. I use 7-foot medium action rods with high-speed conventional reels, spooled with 20-pound mono. Rig them with your favorite kingfish rig. Tie on a 4-foot length of 30- to 40-pound leader between the main line and the wire leader to keep the kingfish from cutting the lighter mono with their tail.

On the way to your favorite grouper spot, stop by one of the buoys along the Egmont Shipping Channel and put live bait in the well using a gold hook bait rig. Buoys one through six always seem to have bait near them this time of year. I prefer to use Spanish sardines or blue runners, but threadfins or large white bait work just as well.

After anchoring, hang a chum bag over the side on the surface. Make sure to put out a new block before the old one runs out to maintain a good slick. I normally fish two flat lines, one approximately 20 feet behind the boat and the other at 40 feet. Use a float on the short bait to keep it near the surface and let the other bait run deeper. If the current is light, use floats on both baits.

Change the baits occasionally to make sure they are as lively as possible. Put the reels in free spool with the clickers on and set them in the rear rod holders, then start grouper fishing as you normally would. I've caught a lot of kingfish using this technique, along with tuna, dolphin and other fish that followed the chum slick to the boat.

- Randy Rochelle runs Islander Charters in St. Petersburg. Call (727) 528-1213.

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