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Captains' corner


© St. Petersburg Times, published October 17, 2000

The Gulf of Mexico's water temperatures have dropped to 78 degrees -- and even lower in some spots.

With the lower temperatures, we have been getting plenty of kingfish action off our coast. This past weekend, we caught kingfish up to 25 pounds using live bait.

I prefer slow trolling live bait. Schools of Spanish sardines, blue runners, cigar minnows, and pilchards can be found along reefs, shipwrecks and Egmont Channel markers.

The advantages of live bait fishing is that you catch bigger kings and you can fish with light tackle. We use 17-pound test line, No. 3 wire leaders with a single live bait hook and a No. 4 treble hook stinger rig. We troll six lines: two on down-riggers and four lines on the surface.

When targeting kingfish,cover the entire water column. Many days,the kings willfeed only on deep-rolled baits. We set our reel drags very light for the initial run.

Kingfish "smokers" are known to spool a reel of 400 yards of line in the time it takes to turn your boat around and start chasing the king. Usually, the longer the kingfish takes your line out, the bigger the fish.

Once we catch up with the kingfish, we try to fight themfrom a vertical position.

A chum bag is essential equipment to attract the kingfish to your live bait offering. We use a half dozen5-pound frozen chum bags on an all-day fishing trip. Because kingfish school, it isn't uncommon to have four fish hit at one time.

Areas that are holding kingfish right now are the Rube Allen, Betty Rose, Egmont Channel and Clearwater hard bottom.

- Larry Hoffman charters the Enterprise out of Kingfish Wharf, Treasure Island. Call (727) 430-3474.

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