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KING MACKEREL (KINGFISH)
20" minimum length (fork length); no closed season; 2 per person per day limit but is reduced to one fish in the Gulf and Atlantic when the fishery is closed to all harvest in Federal waters.
This migratory species live its entire life in the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. Once fished to dangerously low levels, king mackerel have rebounded to respectable numbers. Because this is a pelagic species few details of its life history are known. Tagging studies suggest that there are two populations that visit Florida's offshore waters, one centered in the Atlantic and the other in the Gulf of Mexico.
Anglers south of Jupiter Inlet will find kingfish in the Atlantic year round. North of the inlet the fishery is restricted to the warmer months of the year. Along the lower Gulf coast the fish migrate from the keys and appear in the spring and fall. They are heading to their summer feeding grounds off the Florida panhandle. King mackerel are almost always taken in open waters, usually by boats a mile or more offshore. A few fish move close to the beach and give anglers on the ocean piers and in the surf a chance to land a big one.
Tackle and Techniques
These strong fighting fish require tough tackle. For anglers fishing from a boat that means boat tackle with 20 pound test line or higher. This will work when trolling or drifting. Kingfish have a mouthful of sharp teeth so you'll need to use a 60-80 pound test monofilament or wire leader.
Finding these fish can be a chore. Trolling is the fastest way to cover a large area. Because the fish seldom travel close enough to the surface to sight fish for them, troll your bait well below the surface.
Small live fish are the preferred bait. Cut bait also works when drifting or trolling. A piece of whole or cut bait with a plastic skirt is often used when trolling. Large fish shaped plugs are another good trolling bait.
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