Kingfish begin to make their annual migration to near-shore waters during early spring, where water temperature is critical
I recently ran into Chris and Jan Chase at the Fernandina Harbor Marina, both headed to Daytona Beach and riding motorcycles. They planned to enjoy the upcoming Daytona Beach "Bike Week."
"It's still pretty cold, with lots of snow back home," Chris said. "We tried to go king fishing in South Carolina, but it was too cold there as well and the kingfish were not on a good bite. So we passed up the king fishing trip."
Some ten-fishing seasons ago, the Chases were making their annual winter trip to Florida to enjoy some dolphin fishing. Local fishermen convinced them that king mackerel fishing was better. They ended up fishing in a south Florida SKA kingfish tournament. Since then the Chases have been hooked on king mackerel fishing and have actually won top "SKA Angler of the Year" honors.
I would safely bet that after the first day of bike week, Chris and Jan might just end up at the Daytona Marina, checking out the possibilities of a kingfish trip!
I guess riding a motorcycle is a lot like king fishing, all of a sudden you are hooked up for a speedy run!
And there simply isn't anything in the outdoor world of saltwater fishing compared to that first kingfish trip of the New Year. More reasoning why SKA's Hog's Breath King Mackerel Tournament in Key West is so popular. After the SKA National Championship at the end of the kingfish season, there is a slight lull in kingfish tournaments, generally in between the holidays and the Key West SKA tournament.
However the kingfish season really begins to roll into full swing during late May when spring water temperatures begin warming up the kingfish action. In many of the south's coastal states, kingfish can be found in water depths of 70 to one 100 feet of water-which is actually their winter pattern. As the water temperatures begin to warm, baitfish schools will also begin to migrate into shallow coastal waters where they find more abundant supplies of plankton and microscopic organisms to feed on.
Baitfish schools will also migrate up and down the water column during the day depending on where the warmest temperatures are located. Typically in the early morning hours, baitfish will be holding deep and often where a thermocline is located in the water column. Thermoclines can be identified on your fish finder as a fuzzy wave that actually runs horizontally on the screen of your fish finder. What is actually takes place is that your fish finder is marking the thickly gathered plankton, small baitfish and microscopic sea life. Obviously fish finders don't have the ability to mark deep-water temperature changes, but they can mark sea life that is attracted to the temperature break. This is how you can identify a deep-water thermocline.
If your fish finder is not marking a thermocline, try turning up the sensitivity on your fish finder until you see a fuzzy wave running across the screen.
Once you have identified the depth of water of the thermocline, try to establish where there is nearby bottom structure, like a hard bottom or series of small rock ledges. This is typically where you will find the best spring king mackerel fishing.
Here, you will find that kingfish will hold just below the thermocline during the early and mid morning hours. As the afternoon sun heats up the surface water temperature, baitfish will generally begin to school close to the surface and sometimes, right on the surface.
It's here between mid morning and just after high noon when you will find your best late spring kingfish action. On cloudy and those ugly cold front days, late spring kingfish will stay deep, seeking their comfort zone.
King mackerel fishermen can really relate to that age-old saying, "Here today and gone tomorrow!" As the water temperatures are rapidly warming during late spring, baitfish schools are also on the move. Here, baitfish are seeking the warmest water temperatures, which is normally taking place closer to shore, or where warm water eddies from deep water currents, like the Gulf Stream, break off and move inshore. Simply said, you might begin your search for deepwater kingfish in deep water early that morning, then work your way back to shore and shallower water depths as the sun warms up water temperatures.
It is a good idea to visit your local bait and tackle shop the day before your late spring kingfish trip. Normally they will be able to give you the latest kingfish reports and some good starting points by actually showing where kingfish have been holding recently.
It's also a great idea to find out if there are going to be any kingfish boats in that area fishing the next day so that you can stay in touch with fishing action that's happening on the water.
Another major consideration is surface water temperature during late spring. Surface water temperature breaks also attract baitfish and kingfish too. King mackerel fishermen can use water temperature companies like Roff's to find where there is a one- to two-degree water temperature break. Water temperature charts can actually be e-mailed to your laptop computer during your day of king mackerel fishing, or the day before their fishing trip.
Surface water temperature breaks are especially attractive to both baitfish schools and kingfish when they are located close to offshore structures including hard bottoms, rock ledges, artificial reefs and sunken wrecks.
Historically, the largest spring kings are annually taken where fishermen locate heavy concentrations of baitfish. Sunken wrecks can be real magnets for baitfish during late spring, particularly when there are clear water conditions.
Obviously the high noon sun is beating down on the sunken wreck and actually heating it up like a wood stove. As the metal or wood from the wreck is heated by the spring sun, the wreck has a wood stove effect and warms up the whole neighborhood.
I have often seen my fish finder's screen completely black out when marking baitfish holding on a late spring wreck.
Offshore buoys and channel markers also tend to warm up nearby water temperatures during late spring. As the sun beats down on the metal buoy, the warming buoy begins to heat up nearby water temperatures. The warming sun also heats up the chain that anchors the buoy to the bottom of the ocean, which also warms up the water temperature. Here, the warming buoy and the plankton that is found growing on the buoy chain, both team up to provide excellent late spring king fishing action.
However locating deep water thermoclines, surface water temperature breaks, deep water buoys, or sunken wrecks that are warming up nearby water temperatures, doesn't mean that you have located a school of eager kingfish.
Spring king mackerel are normally schooling and here one day and gone the next.
"Boy one day we really caught the kingfish at Jacksonville's Elton Bottom," George Savitz said. "We were trolling dead cigar minnows just below the surface at a hard bottom that my son Chris and me had caught kingfish during the past. The next day the kings had moved on and not one kingfish boat had a single fish!"
To avoid this aggravating situation, keep your VHF marine radio tuned to the sport-fishing channel. In many cases you can actually listen to fishermen talking at a nearby kingfish drop. In many cases, they can't wait to get on the marine radio and brag about their big kingfish catch. And in other cases, they will often talk to other kingfish boats about how bad the king fishing is.
Most kingfish boats will give an area 30 minutes before moving on to another kingfish drop. Simply by watching your fish finder for kingfish activity down below, listening to your marine radio for nearby kingfish action and more importantly, receiving updated water temperature charts by e-mail you can improve your hook-up rate.
Be sure and watch your fish finder's water temperature once you have the latitude-longitude numbers of the water surface temperature break and troll on the warm side of the break.
For more information on Roff's water temperature services, visit http://www.roffs.com.