Rules: How To Troll, Catch, Bait, and Fish For King
Mackerel (Kingfish) Rules
professional secrets on how to catch & fish king mackerel
(kingfish, king fish)
(methods, tips, tactics, how to, techniques for catching & fishing
king mackerel, kingfish)
Few fish along the Gulfís green water zone can match the fight and tenacity
of a king mackerel. Perhaps for this reason kings top the list when it comes to
competitiveness and big-money tournaments.
Here in Louisiana, most of the hype surrounding king mackerel competition
originated along the East Coast where tournaments run rampant. Thanks to such
influence, many king mackerel anglers have refined their techniques to a
Thereís no question about it, if you give an angler a choice between
catching big fish or small fish, you donít have to guess which ones heíll
choose. This is more so with tournament circuit king anglers. They hunt for whatís
called "smokers." These are fish no less than 30 lbs. and, as their
nickname might imply, can literally smoke line from a reel upon hookup.
Among tournament king anglers it is customary to avoid catching the smaller
kings under 15 lbs., categorically referred to as "snakes." These are
kings that predominately make up the catch for the charter boat and commercial
fishery. Consequently, snakes are more often caught by meat seekers and the less
informed who resort to faster trolling methods that employ Drone spoons,
Japanese feathers or strip baits.
In contrast, smokers seldom take fast-moving or free-lined baits. Trying to
free-line a big, live bait to them frustratingly produces an amberjack, shark or
some other unwanted species. The trick is figuring out how to get the bait to
the smokers, while keeping it away from the undesirables.
The science of accomplishing this is all too familiar to tournament-circuit
goers and those who have successfully experimented with the tactic for any
length of time. Theyíve discovered that there are basically several kingfish
rules one has to know: what to do, how to get it, how to keep it and how to rig
RULE 1: THE RIGHT BAIT
One of the main secrets to successfully catching smokers lies in the right
choice of bait. While kings differ in bait preferences--depending on the waters
theyíre in--most tournament anglers use 10-inch, live porgies (menhaden). But,
as many anglers are well aware, porgies are difficult to catch and just as
arduous to keep alive for any length of time.
To catch these prized bait fish, a wide-mesh, 10- to 12-ft. mono cast net is
needed. Considering the fact that large porgies are quick to escape from
conventional nets that sink too slowly and have relatively narrow spreads, itís
imperative that the lead line weigh at least 15 lbs. so that net drops quickly
upon contact with the water.
Because of its size and awkwardness, a net casting dish can make the throwing
job much easier, especially when thrown from a boat. Pros usually have these
nets custom made, since theyíre difficult to find in most sporting goods
RULE 2: FINDING THE BAIT
Freshly caught porgies incite more strikes. Hence, it is best to catch
porgies early in the morning, immediately prior to use, as they seem to lose
their scented slim coating after a few hours in an aerator. Evidence of this
shows up in the form of a foamy, meringuelike topingĖĖmore often noticed on the
waterís surface of closed system bait wells.
Aside from the open Gulf, porgies are likely found in backwaters and
intersections of deep canals, near marinas or harbors, close to beaches, behind
jetties or near piers. Be alert to their telltale presents by observing the
waterís surface for blips, spurts and splashes. The presents of diving
pelicans are also a dead giveaway, but donít pay attention to sea gulls; they
donít eat 10-inch porgies.
RULE 3: KEEPING THE BAIT ALIVE
However, catching porgies is one thing; keeping them alive is another.
Bait-saving containers with corners must be avoided or porgies will fatally
damage themselves, as they have a tendency to gang up and inflict bloody wounds
to their noses. For this reason, uses a round container of at least 50-gallon
capacity to give the porgies plenty room to swim.
Porgies also need a lot of oxygen to live. For aeration, a circulation system
that pumps outside water works best. Such systems constantly move and replace
water by means of an overflow tube located in the tankís upper level. This
type system accomplishes three vital things: removes toxins produced by the
porgiesí waste, naturally aerates the water through swirl jetting, and keeps
the porgies swimming in an unobstructed circle.
RULE 4: RIGGING TERMINAL TACKLE
Careful consideration to rigging of leaders and baits is
most essential for an effective presentation and extended life. The leader
outlined herein consists of two sections: header leader and tail leader. The
tail leader has two treble hooks (Eagle Claw 4X-extra strong), one
of which is hooked through the porgyís nose, and the other in the back near
top center. Placing the hooks anywhere else may kill the porgy or significantly
shorten its life.
For leader material, use single strand stainless wire (bronze camouflage),
rather than braided types that are bulkier and produce more water drag.
Consideration to this is critical, since the porgies must swim naturally, with
the least line resistance. Moreover, leaders of the aforesaid wire gauge and
color are more apt to prevent kings from becoming line wary, particularly when
water clarity is high.
The header leader (main leader) should be 44 lb. test and 6 ft. long. The
tail leader (final section) should 58 lb. test and 7 inches long for rigging the
two treble hooks on each end.
One end the header leader is attached to the tail leader at one of the treble
The mono fishing line to header leader connection is made via a #10, 50 lb.
test ball bearing swivel (note: a 2 oz. egg sinker is needed on the flat
line--non-downrigger--ahead of the swivel). On one end of the swivel eyelet the
mono fishing line is attached by means of a double improved clinch knot. On the
other end of the swivel the remaining end of the header leader is attached.
All wire connections are made by passing 3 inches of wire through an eyelet,
doubling back, and twisting it into several tightly wrapped turns. After making
the wraps, a multipurpose terminal tackle pliers should be used to break off the
tag end of the
wire by bending it back and forth several times. Donít cut it
with wire cutters; it will leave a razor-sharp snag.
RULE 5: STAGGERING THE LINES
Troll at least two lines; one on a downrigger and one flat line. On the
downrigger line, set it astern about 20 ft., and lower it 15-20 ft. in depth. On
the flat line, set it astern about 30 ft.
More downriggers and flat lines can be used but they must be staggered in
depths and set astern in 10 ft. differentials. Troll no more lines than can be
reasonably handled among each crew member--one per person on the average.
RULE 6: DRAG SETTING
Careful attention to drag setting and line choice can be critical.
Recommended mono test in the big game class should be between 15-25 lb. test.
Heavier lines bring in factors of resistance and visibility, as previously
mentioned under rule 4. Drags should be set to 1/3 the line test rating.
Thereafter drags may be tightened, but only after the king has shown
unmistakable evidence of tiring.
RULE 7: TROLLING TECHNIQUE
Trolling too fast is one of the main mistakes king anglers make. Idle speed
is all thatís needed to troll live porgies, and in some instances this may be
too fast--depending on the type of engine and whether it is twin screws. In the
latter, both engines may be running, but only with one engine drive engaged for
If the porgies seem to be flipping around and swimming in an
unnatural-looking way, this indicates too fast of a trolling speed. To slow the
troll down, one of two things can be done; either use a vertical board mounted
on the lower unit, or pull a bucket as a sea anchor.
The use of a fish finder is indispensable. While trolling itís a good idea
to keep a constant watch for bait clusters and their depths. Doing so will make
it easier to determine whether downriggers need to be adjusted.
Itís customary and effective to allow the porgies to occasionally free swim
in selected bait clusters. Once an unusually thick bait cluster shows on the
fish finder, immediately place the engine drive in neutral to allow the baits to
drift into position and swim.
To make this tactic most productive, always keep a frisky porgy on each line.
Accordingly, make it a practice to periodically check the baits for liveliness,
and replace those not up to par.
RULE 8: DETERMINE FEEDING PATTERN
Migratory species attain a feeding pattern that may change from day to day,
depending on tide and conditions. While trolling, observe the place where
strikes occur, and repeat this trolling pattern. Frequently, for example, if
strikes occur down current from an oil platform, most likely the kings will
occupy the same position in relation to every other rig or structure in the
area. Once the pattern is established, odds of catching more kings the same way
LOUISIANA KINGS UNMATCHED
While other areas along the Gulf and East Coast produce kings of longer
an established fact that those caught off the coast of Louisiana have larger
girths. According to marine biologists, it is this very fact that makes
Louisiana kings naturally heavier and stronger than those found along other
parts of the Gulf and East Coast. So itís no wonder why king anglers who have
caught kings elsewhere have experienced firsthand the distinct contrast--harder
fights, more aggressiveness and reel-burning runs.
To their staunch pursuers, the kingfish rules!
Successful king anglers know the kingfish rules.
Rigging the porgy (Menhaden)
properly makes all the difference when it comes to attractiveness
and hook up ratio.
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