Are You Ready for King Mackeral
Are You Ready for King Mackeral
By Jim Hammond
Summer is here and the King Mackeral will be here any day now, are you ready?
Here are a few tactics to catch a kingfish trolling baits around some of the artificial reefs.
Lets first go over some of the equipment that you will need to present baits that will attract these fish.
Hooks, Spoons and Leader Line:
Your hooks should be 7/0 to 9/0 and you want to join them together in sets of three. Using a pair of wire cutters, open slightly the eye of two of the hooks. Slide the point end through the eye. Close the eye back to its original shape using a pair of heavy pliers. Do this to the hooks so you have a set that looks like this.
The eyes should not be so tight that the hooks can not bend at the joint. The one hook that still has an empty eye is the one that is tied to the leader line.
Now you will need some sort of skirts, like the Sea Bug, Ballyhoo Duster or the Sea Witch. These skirts have lead heads and some sort of Mylar type of material tied to the lead head. They have a hole in the lead head that your leader line will pass through. Point the lead head part of these towards the rod and finish the procedure by tying a knot to the front hook. You should now have a rig that looks similar to this:
The all around best dead bait in this area for king fish is a ballyhoo. This is a long slender fish that is usually sold in packs of 12. They come in sixes from small to large and all the way up to horse. The horse are usually the ones that are at least 12 inches long (bill not included) and they are usually sold in packs of 3 or 6. You can purchase these either rigged or not rigged, brined or not brined. Brined means they have been placed in a solution of salt and baking soda to make them tough and by doing this they usually last longer before starting to come apart. I prefer the medium ones that are brined.
Now, lets add a ballyhoo to this. First take the ballyhoo and holding it firmly around the head, break off the bill just about at the end of the top mouth part. The fish has a small upper bill or mouth part, this is where you want to break off the lower or long bill. You might want to clip it off with your scissors or cutters.
Take the hook that is tied to the leader line and from the top of the ballyhoo run it through the center of it's head and come out through the bottom. Take the fish in one hand and the second hook in the other. Bend the fish from the back of the head to about 90 degrees. Run this hook through the top of the fish so when you straighten out the fish the shank of the hook will be running straight down his back and the point and bend will be in the middle of the fish. Do this with the third hook and you are ready. The skirt should cover the ballyhoos head, thus keeping his mouth from opening and acting like a spinner. When you get up to trolling speed, slip the rig in the water. If it spins around in a circle, you do not have it rigged properly. Most of the time it is with the way it was hooked. It is important that the hooks be inline with each other and the fish not be bent after you put the hooks in it. Do not fish it if it is spinning, bring it back aboard and fix it.
This rig should be fished with different color skirts, like red and white, blue and white, solid white and solid black. I have not done well with yellow, green, or orange.
The spoons should be about 5 inches long and silver in color. You can troll a silver spoon like the biggest Clark Spoon or the Drone spoon in size 3 1/2. If you are using either of these baits behind a planer, your leader needs to be about 20 to 30 feet long. I normally use 100 or 125 pound test monofilament as leader line.
Rods and Reels and Line:
Using dead and artificial baits are trolled at speeds from 5 to 7 knots and your live bait rigs are best left at the house while trolling at this faster speed. I like a medium action boat rod from 6 1/2 feet to 7 feet long. I like the rod to have a long fore grip and butt. Rods with gimble ends are best suited as they will seat in your rod holders, thus keeping them from spinning. A rod without a gimble will sometimes spin in the rod holder and this is not what you want to happen.
These Shakespeare rods have the gimble ends and rubber caps to fit over them if you prefer not to use the gimbles or to put back on the rods when fighting a fish. These long butts allow you to put the rods in the boats rod holders and are long enough to keep the reels from clanking on the gunnels. They also have long enough fore grips to allow the angler to extend his/her arm high enough to straighten out their arm. This is an important feature when fighting a fish for a long time, it allows the angler to extend their arm and allows them to use their back instead of their arm to do battle with the fish.
The reels should have a clicker and quality star or lever drag that will not over heat when the fish makes long runs. I also like a reel that will hold about 300 yards of 30 pound test monofilament or if you like braided line you can scale down to a reel that will hold 300 yards of 20 pound monofilament and use 50 pound braided line. Power Pro 50 pound test braided line is only the diameter of 12 pound test monofilament so you can get well over 300 yards on a reel the holds 300 yards of 30 pound test monofilament.
I like using a reel that has a level wind on it because this allows you to pay total attention to angling the fish instead of having to guide the line back on the spool evenly. With a non-level wind reel, if you lose concentration on keeping the line flowing evenly on the spool, you will end up with a big glob in the middle of the reel and this high spot will make the reel where you cannot turn the handle in the middle of the battle. To keep a level wind reel working properly, keep the gear under the level wind properly lubricated.
Because most king fish that are caught around the artificial reefs are caught in water from 30 to 60 feet deep, you will need some way to get your baits down. There are two ways to do this, planers or down riggers. The planers are by far the least expensive but it might be a good idea to have at least one downrigger.
Planers come in many shapes and sizes. For this type of fishing, I like a metal planer that I have painted flat black.
The down rigger is designed to send a fishing line to a desired depth and when the fish strikes the bait, the clip on the down rigger line releases thus allowing you to fish the fish without any other terminal tackle to interfere with the action of the battle.
Down riggers are fairly easy to use and can cost from $59 each to around $600 each. They come in manual crank and electric. They can be as basic as a handle, a spool, a small boom and some line to as fancy as the ones that send positive ions into the water to attract fish and with electric motors that send the bait down and on a strike automatically bring the lead ball back to the surface. I would suggest starting with at least one in the middle of the road price of about $250. These can be just a valuable as the rods, reels and bait.
If you are going to purchase a down rigger, I would suggest you get one or two of them that have swivel bases. This is a good feature to have when you are trying to get the line attached and when the boat up on a plane.
Are you ready to catch a king fish now. Another trick is to have as many baits in the water as you and your crew can manage. When I was a kid with my first offshore boat, I used to run nine lines at one time. I had two off of each outrigger, two boat lines, one wire line and two off of each corner of the boat. Back then there were no downriggers so if you wanted to fish deep you did it with a wire line or boat lines with big planers and spoons. Running this many lines took a great deal of concentration on the drivers part and we did occasionally get a big mess with that many lines in a once.
Here is a good configuration that most of you should be able to run. If you do not have outriggers, you can run one line from the center of the boat. Send this way out there, about 200 yards. The outside baits in this picture have multiple baits on each of these rigs. One bait per rig works fine, don't get too fancy until you have mastered dragging six lines, it can get messy if they get all tangled up.
Once you have made your way to one of the artificial reefs, start sending out your baits. Try to stagger the distance from the boat as in the picture below. Bring your speed up to about 6 knots and get ready. Be sure to engage the clickers on the reels, so you can hear the sound as the fish screams off line.
Good luck in your pursuit of Mr. Kingfish.