Considering the rising costs of boat fuel, king mackerel fishermen are downsizing their kingfish boats, fuel tanks, outboard motors and even the size of their tow vehicle!
It was questionable whether I wanted to enter the "2008 Nassau Sports Fishing Association's Tournament of Champions" kingfish tournament. My son, Terry David Lacoss, and I had been trying to decide earlier during the first part of the year whether to keep our 32-foot Topaz charter boat or sell it and replace it with a center console fishing boat. A center console fishing boat would allow us to fish in local SKA tournaments and, at the same time, use it for taking out area fishing charters. We decided to put the Topaz up for sale. At the same time, the price of fuel skyrocketed from $3.20 per gallon to $3.50 per gallon. Later in the summer, the price of a gallon of gas rose to over $4.00 per gallon! With the rising costs of fuel, the sales of large fishing boats began dropping dramatically. Even with new diesel engines, transmissions, and a full warranty, we had very few calls for the Topaz.
So we decided to keep the Topaz for at least one more fishing season. We could always use the it to compete in any area SKA kingfish tournaments.
However, when the dates for NSFA kingfish tournament arrived, the Topaz was booked up with fishing charters. So Terry David and I made the decision to take the sure money and keep the charter reservations.
As the dates of the event came closer, the seas also calmed down with traditional light and variable winds blowing early in the morning and a light sea breeze arriving in the early afternoonâ€”perfect conditions for targeting king mackerel in close to the beaches and inlets of Fernandina Beach, Florida!
At the same time, a huge migration of king mackerel moved into our near shore fishing waters causing a full case of Kingfish Fever!
"Why don't you take your two grandsons out king mackerel fishing in the tournament,"my daughter Mary Lee asked? "Just don't go too far offshore and you will be okay while fishing from your 20-foot, Mercury powered Triton."
The next day I worked all daylong rigging my small boat for king fishing. Meanwhile my brain was trying to figure out how to rig rod holders, downriggers, live wells and trolling speeds to be able to catch king mackerel from a redfish boat, alias ***bass boat***!
The first thing that I did was to bolt a pair of rod holders to the rear deck pop up cleats. The two rod holders were to be used for trolling flat lines, particularly ribbonfish. Next, I removed the rear seat and attached a third rod holder to the pole where the seat had been mounted. This third rod holder was to be used for a prop wash kingfish bait.
My final mountain to climb was how to get kingfish baits down dee, without drilling holes in my new redfish for a downrigger mount. Suddenly a light began flashing brightly in my head, "Use your power pole!"
Here, I attached a downrigger release clip two thirds of the way down onto the Power Pole rod. The cable of the downrigger release clip was attached to the rod with a heavy duty tie wrap. I also left two inches of the tie wrap, so that when I wasn't using the release clip, I could clip the release clip to the tag end of the tie wrap.
This allowed me to attach the fishing line of the starboard fishing rod to the release clip, then hit the remote control of the power pole, which dropped the fishing line down under the water some five feetâ€”a perfect depth of water for trolling ribbonfish in close to the beaches and inlet mouths!
Finally, I bungie tied a 12-foot gaff to both the rear and front popup cleats and filled a large fish bag with ice. We were now ready to kingfish!
With both grandsons on board, David Lacoss, 15-years old and Chris Forehand, 16-years old on board, we motored slowly towards the checkout boat during the first day of the tournament. A school of nice sized mullet delayed our checkout briefly. By using the boat's electric motor, we easily ambushed the school of kingfish baits, while the small boat was also able to navigate the shallow water depths with its shallow draft.
Now we had a live well full of ten- to 12-inch silver mullet and 15 shiny ribbonfish, plenty of bullets to shoot down a winning size king mackerel. After checking out of the inlet, we soon ran along the beaches to the south end of Amelia Island.
As planned ahead of time, a ribbonfish was trolled deep from the starboard rod holder with the aid of the power pole. The port rod holder was used for a second ribbonfish bait, which was actually fished way back at some 60 to 70 feet. Finally, a live mullet was rigged and fished some 20 feet behind the prop wash while the fishing rod was set in the rod holder attached to the rear seat pole.
King fishing wouldn't be complete without chumming of some kind; so we filled a mesh bag full of menhaden-soaked catfish pellets and attached the chum bag to the port side boat cleat.
With the Mercury Optimax 250-XS in gear, we were able to keep our trolling speed down at two-knots. A perfect trolling speed for pulling ribbonfish and a big prop wash bait.
Five-minutes after setting our kingfish baits out, a beach king slammed the ribbonfish rigged to the power pole release clip. It was a breeze chasing Chris Forehand's kingfish down with our small boat and maneuvering was made real easy with the small redfish boatâ€”particularly when it came time to gaff Chris's mackerel with the casting deck so close to the water.
Later that morning we ran to the St. Marys inlet and landed two more non-tournament-winning kingfish. The next day we fished the entire day at the inlet and landed ten kings weighing to 19 pounds. Once again, a tournament-winning kingfish had avoided our kingfish baits.
However, we had really enjoyed our two days of king fishing together, which gave me valuable time bonding with my grandsons. Secondly, our Mercury Optimax outboard motor had only burned 27 gallons of gas during both days of the event!
Certainly with the rising costs of fuel, more king mackerel fishermen will be taking a closer look at rigging smaller boats and motors for both recreational and competitive king mackerel fishing. Also consider the present increase of healthy stocks of kingfish close to shore, where more and more small boat fishermen will be targeting king mackerel. Great family fun, too!
For a closer perspective on how small boats should be properly rigged while targeting kingfish, Amelia Island's Captain Joe Bruce has some expert advice.
"I used to run large center console fishing boats when targeting kingfish, however, today I have found that a smaller boat can accomplish the same tasks that a large boat can,"Captain Joe Bruce explained. "The costs of filling up the boat's fuel tank is a lot less too after a full day of king mackerel fishing."
"Today, my 23-foot World Cat catamaran fishing boat is rigged with all of the right fishing gear and electronics for both recreational and competitive king mackerel fishing. More importantly, my ***Cat*** will run very well in seas up to four feet. When the seas are running four feet, even the big boats will have to slow down!"
Captain Joe Bruce is a past SKA Angler of the Year, holds the SKA Georgia Division kingfish record at 53 pounds and multiple tournament winner. By many fellow competitors, Bruce is regarded as an expert when it comes to outfitting his kingfish boat and fishing tackle, too.
"Smaller boats typically have smaller live bait wells," Bruce said. "My World Cat has a 30-gallon live well located at the transom. To keep up to 40 large kingfish baits alive for several hours of king fishing, I installed a Blue Marlin Chronicle oxygen system. With the Oxygen system, I set the timer on the raw water bait well pump to cut on every five minutes. It takes about five minutes to completely replace the old saltwater in the bait well for fresh saltwater. After the pump cuts off for five minutes, the oxygen system continues to keep high levels of oxygen in the water."
Bruce has also chosen to power his 23-foot World Cat with a pair of Mercury Optimax, 150hp outboards.
"The Mercury Optimax outboards get incredible fuel economy,"Bruce explains. During a recent two-day SKA kingfish tournament, we burned only 55 gallons of gas which translates to 1.92-miles per gallon."
For electronics, Bruce installed one Raymarine C120, which doesn't take up a lot of room on the console's dash. Here, the unit shows radar images, color fish finder and mapping, while using only one unit, a perfect choice for a small boat's console. An ST-1000 Auto Pilot is also installed and affords for hands-free navigation and fishing.
A Sirius Satellite marine radio is also installed, which Bruce can also use in his towing vehicle, along with a cell phone booster.
A four-rod rack has been custom installed at the transom in place of the boat ladder. The fifth, or middle rod holder is also angled out and used as a ***shot gun*** rod holder.
Bruce's World Cat is also rigged with a pair of Cannon manual downriggers, flat line rod holders on the T-Top, with extra rod holders on the back of the T-Top and rod holders on the leaning post as well.
"I also have three batteries on board located under the console with battery switches and an onboard battery charger,"Bruce explained. I always plug in the boat's battery charger after each fishing trip to ensure that my batteries always have a full charge."
"Finally, my boat weighs thousands of pounds less than the last big center console boat that I ran. This makes towing and launching my much smaller kingfish boat a lot simpler. Keep in mind that I am saving a lot of gas money while trailering my lighter kingfish boat as well."
Rigging smaller boats for king mackerel fishing is beginning to make more and more common sense with the rising costs of both fuel and everything associated with fishing. They are much easier to store and clean too, while you will save lots of insurance dollars as well!