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King Mackerel Fishing - Smoking your Reels in the Deep

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The oceans around the world hold a lot of pelagic species some of which are great game fish. One such species is the King Mackerel, known for its great taste and its blazing run. King Mackerel Fishing is a great way to get the adrenaline pumping - the sighting of the silver flash in the waters, and a smoker darting headlong and stripping the line off the reel is a fun, exciting and a rewarding experience in itself.

The King Mackerel or the King Fish is a part of the Scombridae family or the mackerel family as is a bit obvious. Popularly referred to as ‘smokers’, they are also recognized by the names – Sierra, Cavala, Seer Fish and Surmai Fish in India and the smaller kings are often referred to as ‘snakes’. They earned the popular nickname of ‘smokers’ because of their powerful ability to burn off reels very quickly and also because they taste good when smoked. The king mackerel likes to make a dash out to the open sea and not to the nearby reef, which makes landing one a whole different experience.

Commonly confused with its near cousin the Spanish Mackerel, the King Mackerel are known to grow much bigger and are more widely distributed. The dorsal fin of the Spanish Mackerel is black in colour. And unlike the King Mackerel lateral line that dips sharply at its mid-body section, the dip in the Spanish Mackerel is hardly visible. Another thing that distinguishes the Spanish mackerel from King Mackerel is it has the pronounced yellow goldish color dots all over its sides along with a greenish tint to their backside. The King Mackerel, on the other hand, has a colorless first dorsal spine that unlike the Spanish Mackerel is folded down. In Spanish Mackerel, it stands erect. This write-up will be addressing the question of how to fish for king mackerel and King Mackerel fishing tips.

Spanish Mackerel Vs. King Mackerel

Habitat and Distribution of the King Mackerel

King mackerel are a subtropical species belonging to the Atlantic Coast of the Americas, drawn towards water temperatures ranging from 68◦F/20C and 85◦F/30C. You can see the numbers rising when the water generally hits 71◦F/22C, and are capable of hanging around in waters of 65◦F/19C should there be plentiful food available. Know that their primary feed consists of squid and fish, especially small forage fish of the likes of sardines, herrings and menhaden – this should give you an idea about the best bait for kingfish. The smaller of the kingfish feast on crustaceans like small floating crabs and shrimps.

Technically found in water depths ranging from 40 feet to 200 feet, these nomadic fish are kind of structure oriented which means they have a tendency of travelling from one structure to the next, a pier, a floating buoy or even a reef, under the idea of searching for food. The ‘snakes’ or the smaller of the king mackerels are schooling fish averaging around 10lbs, are more structure oriented compared to the larger kingfish, which usually travel alone or in small groups consisting of two or three fish.

King Mackerel feed in the day as well as the night, which means they could be fished using live baits any time, but if you decide to go trolling with artificials during the night it’s pretty much a lost cause. These fish own about 30 sharp triangular teeth which means you’ll be using wire leaders or very heavy mono to catch them. Usually, they feed near the surface not far off from the surface during dusk, night and dawn. Cloudy and overcast days or rainy days will see the fish feeding close to the surface while bright ‘sunshiny’ days will find them feeding somewhat lower down.

King Mackerel

King Mackerel are found in water depths of 40 feet to 200 feet (source)

The King Mackerel as Food

The Kingfish weigh between 8 – 60 lbs on an average and the ones in 10 – 20 lbs weight range are more commonly available and safer to eat. The biggest Kings are known to reach 200 lbs also. The raw flesh of this fish is greyish in colour, owing to its high amount of fat content. It’s best prepared by frying, baking, grilling and of course – smoking! Due to their oily flesh, they are quite a delicacy when consumed fresh but don’t survive freezing. Also, this fish has high levels of methylmercury, which isn’t the best for one’s health if consumed in large quantities, in fact, it’s advised that children and pregnant women avoid eating this fish due to a consequential risk of mercurial poisoning.

Huge King Mackerel

How to Find King Fish?

As explained earlier, king mackerel being nomadic move between structures in search of food so if there are two close spots, circling between them or doing figure eights around these spots should land you in luck. Remember to stick to a mile’s distance, since anything further off would just be a waste of time. Begin with a trolling pattern, mostly an eight-figure, when fishing a structure, drifting off to around 250 yards from it, since mackerels prefer the outskirts instead of just staying directly on top of the structure.

The best time to fish for king fish is early morning, the earlier to dawn the better it is. You could also consider dusk, and the tactics for both time periods remain the same. Overcast and cloudy, rainy days are also good for fishing for king mackerel. If you are unable to make it on any of these specific times and days, don’t lose out on the bright sunny days – all you’ll have to do is let down your bait halfway down or possibly even deeper. Should you have a boat which is equipped with a proper depth finder, keep a lookout for schools of bait balled up close to the bottom – chances are that a king fish is close by to that bait ball. In the case of artificial, use lighter coloured ones during dawn or dusk and darker coloured ones when fishing during the day.

Chumming is a good technique for a bright sunny day since it brings the mackerels up slightly, but live-bait chumming isn’t a convenient technique and you could do well even without it. During the night, fishing live baits over any structures can yield results but trolling proves almost worthless. Dead baits too are productive at night.

Contradicting the popular belief, free swimming mackerels do not fear dolphins and can often be seen feeding alongside dolphins. However, what you should keep in mind is that once the fish is on line, let it run with the least amount of drag, or the dolphins and sharks might indulge in a feast of its own right off your hook.

Most Popular Technique for King Mackerel Fishing:

The most popular and efficient among the king mackerel fishing tips is to use trolling. When using live bait you need to troll very slowly, but in the case of lures fishing techniques, you would troll faster. As is seen in most members of the Mackerel species, the kingfish to tend to go for the tail, so ensure you have a hook in place at the back in addition to the one in the front. They also are well equipped with sharp teeth and good eyesight, making the use of wire leaders a pesky task since without one you run the risk of it being cut and with it fish are less likely to go for.

Trolling is the best method for King Mackerel Fishing

King Mackerel Fishing Tackle:

There’s no need to be shelling out a whole lot of bills on king mackerel fishing tackle, instead, suit your gear according to your personal technique of fishing. If you intend on trolling which is recommended, then you would want to head for trolling type of reels and rods, but if you intend on drift fishing, you will require a spinning type of reels so as to go for farther casting. Good kingfish rods are usually rated medium to a medium heavy which enable some give to fish at the time of the strike while providing a sturdy backbone to fight the fish with. Kingfish Fishing requires quite a lot of line, especially for the larger sized ones, as they always take off on the long track, but a super heavy line isn’t required, as they don’t head towards rocks or anything.

Spinning Tackle for Kingfish:

This type of tackle is not only easy to find and to use but is also very popular to use when fishing for big fish. The line capacity of the reel is what matters the most. While commonly the smaller reels sport around 300 yards approximately, the ones suited for offshore can accommodate around 500 yards of monofilament and then some more braid which makes it more suited for Kingfish Fishing than the smaller ones. Another thing to keep in mind is the gear ratio. For a king mackerel, a high gear ratio is an obvious choice, since it allows you to regain the line lost during the runs and get out the fish faster to the boat. A firm 7-foot rod with fast action and an extra thick backbone have become second of nature for kingfish rods since this type of rod can easily manage to cast far in the case of live baiting and can also survive slow trolling.

Conventional Trolling Tackle for Kingfish:

A conventional tackle is capable of holding a larger amount of line with 1000 yards being fairly a common capacity which allows you to expand the depth of your trolling and eliminating the worry of a shortage of line. The conventional tackle is a popular prescription for kingfish fishing, especially for the trolling technique. Another advantage is the better leverage as compared to spinning tackle, which means conventional gear is suggestive when deep jigging over structures or ledges etc. to enhance the power of lifting the fish when hooked, up and away from the structure preventing the fish from running into the structure and cutting off your line.

King Mackerel Trolling gear

Best Lures for King Fish:

To capitalize on lure fishing techniques it’s good to know that the king mackerels are known to be unquestionably good swimmers with an appetite for fast moving baits which makes the use of lures highly effective whilst fishing especially when trolling. Standing out of the crowd is the ever effective and multifaceted silver spoon, which can be easily utilized to adjust to any situation – be it trolling at different depths, dispersing a school of bait at the very surface, throwing them off a boat or a pier etc.

Diving plugs and Vertical jigs are also some of the best lures for king fish commonly put to use. Diving plugs in blue and silver colors are very effective for throwing off a pier or trolling and obligatorily dive deeper the faster your retract them which enables you to cover a larger section of water. Vertical jigs are handy when the fish are located near a reef or a structure like a deep ledge or so.

King Mackerel Lures

Bait Fishing Technique with Best Bait for King Fish

While king mackerel love feasting upon varied schooling baitfish, they don’t all get included in the ‘best bait for king fish’ category. Many prefer using lure fishing techniques, but baits work just as well. When trolling with live baits goggle eye, white mullet and blue runner make it to the top of the list of mackerel bait because of their ability to swim hard as well as remain mounted on the hook even against the force of the water. They also are quite commonly used for stationary live baiting and slow trolling too. Other good trolling mackerel bait includes the likes of frozen baits – mullet, squid, ballyhoo and ribbonfish. Herrings and sardines know to fall off a fast-moving trolling hook usually hold prominence for stationary live baits.

King Fish Stinger Rigs:

The two-hook stinger rig is the standardized rig among king fishing rigs for kingfish fishing which is made out of two treble hooks and 37# coffee coloured wire.

  • Cut off around 18 inches of length of wire from the spool and haywire twist one end of it into an open loop, while the other twist onto the first hook.
  • Next, you take about 3 -4 inches of wire, maybe even more if you’re looking to match your bait (what you’re looking for is that the trailer hook run 2/3ds down the back of the fish), and twist the wire onto the first hook and then onto the second.
  • Break off or cut the tag ends off and you’ll be ready with your own stinger rig for king mackerel fishing.

Why you’re looking to twist an open loop is so as to enable fast changes of the stinger rig using high-quality snap swivels. Also, it allows you to leave the rig in the mackerel’s mouth, reducing your chances of being a bit when trying to remove it.

King Fish Stinger Rig

When the bites are steady, and you’ve hit your best fishing spot, you can pull in a lot of fish. While the amount of information is bound to leave you reeling, don’t forget to reel in a whole load of fun and ‘on-the-water’ learning when it comes to fishing. So throw in the bait and hope for some bites……

Keep Fishing!

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