With the warming water temperatures of summer, big schools of bait fish will begin to hold close to the surface of the ocean, eventually attracting the foraging instincts of nearby schools of giant king fish. To hook up to this great summer fishing opportunity, king mackerel fishermen will need to employ certain fishing skills to become successfuL
"When giant kingfish begin to feed close to the surface, they often become very spooky and often times very difficult to catch," says two time SKA Angler of the Year, Dave Workman. "Down riggers often spook surface feeding kings, so I simply don't use down riggers when the kings are shallow. I also prefer to fish with double baits that seem to trick big kingfish into striking. Fishing with double baits, including double pogies or cigar minnows, often excites big kings into striking when all else fails."
Double baits have been very popular kingfish baits during the past five kingfish seasons, simply because they suddenly become a larger bait. They also create a struggling effect on the surface of the ocean as they swim against each other. Their frantic swimming action often hides hooks and hard ware that normally spooks big kinglish. But more importantly, they offer a easy target for a nearby kingfish strike.
However there is one advantage to fishing double baits on the surface, that often times gives the king mackerel angler a second chance in hooking up to a speedy kingfish.
A prime example of this came a few fishing seasons, while we were trolling a typical spread of kingfish baits at the mouth of Georgia's St. Mary's inlet. Including in our live baft, slow trolling spread, were two flat lines that were set up as double pogy rigs. As we neared the tip of the St. Mary's north jetty rocks s, a huge splash behind our short flat line indicated that a surface feeding kingfish had attacked our double pogy rig. Unfortunately, the massive kingfish strike had resulted in a missed hookup.
Somewhat disappointed, Terry David Lacoss grabbed the kingfish rod from the T-top rod holder and began to feel if there was any chance of a second strike.
"Dad, it feels like there is still one more pogy on our double rig," T.D. announced. "I am going to free spool the live bait back in hopes for a second chance at hooking up this big surface feeding kingfish."
T.D. pulled back the free spool lever on the Penn kingfish reef and began to free spool the remaining live pogy slowly back to hopefully where the kingfish was still holding close to the surface and with a hungry appetite.
Suddenly, the remaining live pogy shot to the surface and began to swim frantically on the surface. This was definitely a good sign that the hungry kingfish was still nearby.
Seconds later, another massive surface strike once again indicated that the kingfish had once again attacked the barbed kingfish set up. Only on his second attack, the massive kingfish found the sting of the 4X kingfish treble hooks.
"Fish on," announced TD.! "Grab the rods and bring in the trolling baits, we are hooked up to a monster of a kingfish!"
We had actually just trolled past the red jetty buoy, that marks the end of the St. Mary's north jettys when the kingfish came back for a second strike. The buoy now presented a definite danger, along with an anchored fishing boat that the kingfish had now targeted.
"Hurry, Hurry, Hurry," T.D. shouted over the screaming sounds of the kingfish drag washers. "Our kingfish is heading right for the jetty can and that anchored bottom fishing boat!"
Steering our boat in the direction of the runaway kingfish, T.D. moved to the front of the boat and pointed his rod tip in the direction of the fast running kingfish. Fortunately, the kingfish ran right between the jetty can and the anchored fishing boat without parting our fishing line. With a sigh of relief, T.D. settled down in fighting the kingfish in the open water of the inlet. Minutes later, a 35 lb. smoker came grudgingly to the surface and soon felt the sting of the ten foot kingfish gaff. Our double pogy rig had not only enticed our kingfish into striking on the surface but it had also given us a second hooking a missed kingfish.
Double pogy rigs include a two foot section of #3 wire, with a # 8 barrel swivel haywire wrapped to the tag end of the wire. A #2 live bait hook is then haywire wrapped to the remaining end of the wire leader. Next, a twelve inch section of #4 wire is then haywire wrapped to the loop of the single live bait haywire wrap. Be sure and wrap the wire through the loop of the haywire wrap and not the eye of the live bait hook. Simply because the wire may pull through the gap between the eye and the shaft of the hook, because of the direction of pull when a kingfish is hooked up.
The next step is to haywire wrap a *6, 4X treble hook to the tag end of the second wire leader. Finally a second , eight inch section of #4 wire is then haywire wrapped to the loop of the last haywire wrap. A #4, 4X treble hook is then haywire wrapped to the tag end of the stinger wire. the length of the stinger hook should be adjusted so that the stinger hook lays right alongside of the tall of the live bait.
Unfortunately, a common problem that often arises while fishing double live bait set ups, is when the rear live bait swims past the first live bait and the terminal tackle becomes entangled. This often results in the double live baits spinning and swimming unnaturally. However skilled king mackerel fishermen Will often avoid this problem by hooking up the largest live bait to the first nose hook. This allows the stronger live bait to become the load swimmer, while the smaller bait swims behind the stronger live bait without becoming entangled.
There are several other fishing tactics to attract surface feeding kingfish to your barbed kingfish baits. One successful fishing tactic includes fishing with large ribbon fish right on the surface, or just under the surface.
One of these deadly ribbon fish tactics was introduced by Georgia king mackerel fishermen, a few kingfish seasons ago. This deadly surface feeding kingfish tactic includes rigging a live pogy, right in front of a dead ribbon fish. The result is very fascinating, as the live pogy swims ahead of the dead ribbon fish, giving the ribbon fish a lifelike swimming action.
The live menhaden is rigged in the same manner in which the double pogy rig is set up. Keeping in mind that the nose hook of the pogy should be rigged on the wire leader so that the pogy swims just a few inches in front of the dead ribbon fish.
This live pogy, dead ribbon fish setup is a very effective for hooking up to kingfish when they are feeding both on the surface and down deep. However the best location for your live pogy and dead ribbon fish setup, is just behind the wheel wash. Naturally many of the larger kingfish that we attracted to surface baits, are also attracted by the churning of the propeller on the surface. Once the foraging kingfish has spotted this commotion, which simulates a school of bait fish on the surface, the big mack will more than likely spot the swimming pogy and dead ribbon fish setup, which is slow trolled just a few feet behind the wheel wash. Ultimately, some of the most exciting surface strikes and the largest fish of the day will often be attracted by this deadly fishing combination.
Several skilled king mackerel fishermen will also use large ribbon fish to attract monster kingfish to their surface baits. This is accomplished by slow trolling a weighted ribbon fish just under the surface and right live bait. Normally the ribbon fish is weighted by using a led head jig as the nose hook. The size of the led head jig is normally a 1/2 oz., which allows the dead ribbon fish to troll just a few feet under the surface. The first step is to drop back the dead ribbon fish into your trolling pattern, preferably as a gunnel flat line. Next a large live mullet or pogy is then flat lined from a T-top, shotgun rod holder until the live bait is fished just over the top of the trolled, dead ribbon fish. Naturally nearby kingfish are attracted by the big flash of the large ribbon fish and then ultimately, the frantic swimming action of the live bait ignites the big surface feeding kingfish Into striking.
Another deadly tactic for hooking up to surface feeding kingfish, is surface chumming. Chumming on the surface for kingfish is highly effective, particularly when kingfish are on a feed. An old and true surface chumming tactic includes simply tossing out dead fish into the water and creating a floating chum slick. Handfuls of dead fish are tossed out into the water, once you have located a school of feeding kingfish. Nearby kingfish will move into the chum stick and begin to feed on the floating chum slick, which ultimately gives your fishing party a excellent opportunity in hooking up to these surface feeding kingfish either by slow trolling live baits through the floating chum slick, or while fishing from an anchored or drifting boat.
In tact one of the more deadly, surface feeding kingfish tactics, is to barb a few live kingfish baits and attach small floats or balloons to the fishing line to hold the live baits close to the surface. The kingfish baits are then drifted into the floating chum stick from a anchored or drifting kingfish boat.
Finally, there are certain periods of the day when catching kingfish on the surface is more productive than others, Naturally early morning and late afternoon fishing hours are ideal for catching kingfish on top. However when the heat of the warm summer sun concentrates big schools of bait fish close to the surface, this often sets up great kingfish action on the surface.
Without a doubt, the kingfish teams that offer a wide variety of surface fishing tactics, will often end up in the winner's circle in the highly competitive SKA kingfish circuit