Website Created by Keith Kalbfleisch
My thanks to my friend, veteran writer Max Branyon for this great article that was in the July 2007 issue of Florida Sportsman, one of the top fishing magazines in the nation!
For Text Browsers:
Beach Patrol Kingfish
Slow-troll livies right off the beach for big summer kings.
By Max Branyon
Offshore from Port Canaveral, at two of the hottest spots for kings, 8-A reef and Pelican flats, the bite just shut down on us. Water temps had climbed to 72 degrees for the last week, but I did recall, on the trip out, seeing baitfish swarm the beaches like bees on a stack of fourth of July watermelons.
It dawned on me that maybe we should be fishing much closer to shore--just off the beaches, in fact. The kings were probably along the shorelines, I had a strong suspicion.
I hooked up with Captain Keith Kalbfleisch, who fishes out of Port Canaveral, to check out my hunch. Keith has a 17-foot center console, which, paradoxically, goes by the name of MTC (Empty Sea) and serves him well for both inshore fishing for reds and trout and nearshore for kings, jack crevalle, tarpon and sharks. When he runs offshore for kings and sailfish, he has to watch the weather and sea conditions closely.
Together with Keith and Bob Abernathy, my neighbor and fishing friend, we castnetted a baitwell full of pogies (menhaden) first, and then we headed just off the port and dropped sabiki rigs over the side near a couple of buoys for greenies (Atlantic thread herring), another good bait for king mackerel. As a rule, pogies won't bite, but can be caught by castnetting. However, greenies will take a sabiki rig, with or without the hooks tipped with shrimp or squid.
Loaded with bait we headed south. We wasted little time getting our three lines into the water, slow trolling the live baits. Because the water temperature was right and the baitfish plentiful, we had a good chance at locating hungry kings along the beach on this early summer day.
We didn't have to wait long before something crashed into a live greenie full blast, peeling off line and ripping like a buzzsaw.
"Mackies back in town!" I yelled.
"Take him!" Keith said. "I think it's a big king."
The king peeled off what seemed like 100yards of line, then settled down. I tightened the drag and began retrieving line. The fish made several streaks out to sea, toward shore and under the boat. I gave it plenty of running room.
Finally, I worked the mackerel to the boat where Keith gaffed it and slid it into the cooler. Fresh king mackerel makes for delectable table fare; frozen is not so good. This one would never reach the freezer because it was already destined for tonight's dinner.
Because of a king's powerful strike, it's important to keep a light drag setting while slow trolling. You want line to peel off easily on a long run. Once the fish slows, you can tighten the drag somewhat, or better yet, apply thumb pressure to the spool. As a lad growing up in North Florida, Keith spent lots of time watching kingfish and their feeding habits.
A large king charges prey at full speed because, unlike many species, it has no suction power. It can't open its mouth and inhale a baitfish like many fish can. So, it must come at its victim full blast, hoping to strike it and swallow it in one fell swoop.
Along much of Florida's coast, this kind of fishing is fun and convenient. From May through August, you'll find many days calm enough that you can run down the beach a few miles and get some great kingfish action. If it gets rough, you can always slip inside the closest inlet and go for redfish and seatrout.
Again, look for a week of 72-degree water temperatures, along with a combination of bait along the beach (mostly pogies). Off east Central Florida, King mackerel fishing starts building in may and peaks in June and July.
In a typical summer, you'll find the beach kings run larger than those caught at traditional trolling grounds, such as 8A reef and at Pelican Flats. "The kings along the beaches average approximately 20 pounds," said Kalbfleisch. "You don't catch as many, but they're larger than the ones at the offshore hot spots."