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Two rods plus a pier add up to big kings


© St. Petersburg Times, published April 29, 2001

The strike came as the reel's drag screamed.

"Whose is it?" someone yelled.

"Nancy, it's yours!"

Like a shot, Nancy McRae was on her rod and had everyone scrambling to get lines out of her way.

"It's tangled in my outrigger," McRae shouted. "Cut it, cut it!"

With the help from other pier regulars, Nancy was able to get clear of her outrigger and the other lines so she could battle the king mackerel.

"Get my belt," McRae barked. "It's in my stuff over in the corner."

What McRae wanted was her fighting belt for a better chance of landing the big mackerel.

"He's heading down the pier," McRae shouted.

The fish headed away from her, but it turned and came back just as fast. "Get the gaff, there he is. Get 'em!" McRae ordered.

With one yank on the gaff hook, Sam Rodriguez snagged the fish and lifted it over the rail.

"Nice job. Way to go," I said.

"Thanks," McRae said. "We aim to please."

For the next few weeks, king mackerel season will be in full swing. If you're interested in trying to do what Nancy McRae has done since she was a girl, head to the Redington Long Pier. Kingfish are being landed regularly from the pier, owner Tony Antionous said.

Outrigging for kingfish from the pier isn't new, but it does take a little know-how and a ton of cooperation from the outriggers, as well as from everyone on the pier.

"It's a team effort," McRae said. "You wouldn't be able to do this by yourself."

After watching McRae's fight, I can attest to that. McRae ran up and down the pier with her team bird-dogging everyone out of the way.

When outrigging for kings, two rods are used: one large spinning rod for the outrigger or guide line and a hefty conventional outfit for the main line for fighting the fish.

A clothespin on a short leader attached with a 4-ounce barrel weight and snap swivel connects the main line to the guide line. The guide line is secured to the bottom with a No. 1 treble hook with 6-8 ounces of weight.

After the guide line is cast out and on bottom, the snap swivel is clipped to the guide line, and the bait from the main line is attached to the clothespin. The bait slides down the guide line into the water away from the barnacle-encrusted pilings. Pretty neat.

Most anglers who outrig from the pier catch their own bait on sabiki rigs -- a series of small, gold hooks on one line. These simple rigs are are extremely effective for providing bait around piers. Blue runners, ladyfish, threadfins, pumpkin seeds and Spanish mackerel are favorite baits and are easily caught on sabiki rigs around the pier lights before sunrise.

Anglers have personal preferences, but McRae prefers ladyfish for bait. If she can't get a ladyfish, she will try a blue runner, a small jack crevalle or a mackerel. McRae's big kingfish hit a big blue runner she put out minutes before I arrived.

As with many anglers who chase kings, McRae makes and ties her own stinger rigs using No. 6 coffee-colored steel leaders and No. 1 hooks. She also uses fluorescent green skirts on her stingers to add flash.

-- Capt. Rick Frazier runs Lucky Dawg Charters out of St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 448-3817. 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 email

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