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Kids Love King Fishing

Terry Lacoss

Kingfish are the perfect game fish when teaching children the art of fishing. Their speedy strikes and fast runs leave lasting impressions on how rewarding king fishing can be.


Kingfish are frequently found schooling in huge numbers throughout the fishing seasons with some of the best schooling action coming during the good old summer fishing season. Perfect timing for young fishermen who have the summer off from school with plenty of idle time for sports and recreation.

Please don’t mention the fact that kingfish are schooling fish to your young fishermen, as they may confuse king fishing with school. Instead, plan a day of king fishing around the fact that kingfish are the number one targeted recreational and competitive game fish. Excellent eating, too, when prepared fresh.

Begin your day of fishing by capturing live kingfish baits. You may find that the best part of the day fishing with children is the portion that includes cast netting or jigging up live baits. Once a net full of live kingfish baits are gathered into a large cast net, children soon become fascinated with how many fish can be caught in one net. Allow children to gather the live baits with a bait net while placing them in the live bait well.

Always allow the kids to release a few live baits explaining it is always a good idea to let some of the bait fish back into the water so future generations of bait fish will ensure excellent fishing for future generations.

It’s always a good idea to educate young fishermen concerning the principles on how live wells keep bait fish alive for a full day of king fishing. I am certain that throughout your day of fishing the live bait well will be visited several times by your young fishermen!

If possible, bring along a small four-foot cast net allowing your young fishermen to toss the net over a school of menhaden. Have patience; cast netting live baits may well turn out to be the best part of the day for your future king fishermen.

When I was teaching my son Terry David how to cast net, I would first show him how to load the net, then stand in back of me at the front deck. I would then toss the net over the school of bait fish. This was a great teaching tool as T.D. had fresh in his mind a good idea on how a cast net should be thrown.

If possible, be sure and locate a school of cigar minnows, or threadfin shad so that your young fishermen can also experience the art of jigging up live baits. Begin with allowing them to watch the fish finder for schools of baitfish that are holding deep down in the water column, just under the surface, or right on the surface. Also point out the fact why so many small fish are gathered in such a small area. Explaining how bait fish school over sunken wrecks, lime rock ledges or similar structures because they are feeding on the plankton that grows on the structures.

Allow your children to watch while you jig up a few live baits, then let them drop pre rigged series of feathered jigs down into the school of bait fish. When they detect the hard strikes made by the bait fish taking the jigs, they will certainly sport a wide grin. Reeling several live bait fish to the surface can put a deep bend in a light action jigging rod as well, while creating instant pleasure for your young anglers.

I have actually had fishing charters ask me to stay a little longer at the bait fish hole so that their children could continue to enjoy jigging up live bait fish!

Now that you have gathered a live well full of bait fish, it’s time to select your targeted fishing waters. Without a doubt, avoid kingfish waters that harbor slow kingfish action. You certainly would not wish to take your young fishermen to an area where the kingfish bite is slow. Forget about targeting those giant kingfish that are more difficult to find and catch, young fishermen will soon lose interest in fishing between those long hours of slow action.

Instead, I would select kingfish habitats that are close to shore and can be navigated without a long boat ride. Sunken wrecks, or big ledges frequently hold good numbers of bait fish and a variety of game fish too, including king mackerel. Here it will be much easier to keep the interest of your young fishermen and at the same time, have them begging for future king fishing trips on the water.

With this in mind, barracuda, cobia, Spanish mackerel, amberjack and a variety of saltwater game fish that frequent large offshore structures will put a deep bend in your children’s fishing rods in between the kingfish bites.

Also, big structures like sunken wrecks and steep rock ledges often attract huge schools of king mackerel where double and triple hook ups will certainly keep the kids interested in their day of family fishing fun.

Once you have arrived at your targeted deep sea fish haven, be sure to allow your young fishermen to watch the GPS, explaining to them how signals are received via satellites giving fishermen exact locations. Hopefully you will have already programmed the fish haven into your GPS so that you can show them the waypoint and the location of your kingfish boat.

Keep the GPS/Fish Finder on the split screen mode so they can see valuable pictures, a picture of the structure down deep, bait fish and game fish. While at the same time, the navigation portion of the unit shows your boat’s position related to the fish and structure.

Once you have educated the kids on the importance of using both the fish finder and GPS to locate your targeted kingfish waters, they will have gathered important knowledge for not only king mackerel fishing, but a wide variety of fishing applications as well.

I once had a young fisherman continually watch my boat’s fish finder and when the screen was void of structure, bait fish and king mackerel, I was the first to know!

Now it is time to deploy a kids spread of live kingfish baits. Avoid the heavy 30-pound kingfish tackle, instead use the lighter 15- to 20-pound kingfish gear. As a charter captain, I always bring along light kingfish tackle just for the kids. The one thing I don’t like hearing from a young fishermen that has just hooked a speedy kingfish is, “Dad I can’t do it, please take the rod!”

I would recommend setting out two flat line baits from the T-top rod holders. The long live bait is set with a sixty-foot drop back distance and the second with a forty-foot drop back distance. A third live bait can be trolled from the middle transom rod holder with a thirty-foot drop back distance.

By trolling the live baits right in the strike zone, you are more likely to enjoy fast action and more importantly, keep the interest of your young fishermen.

Be sure and have your young fishermen wear rod belts so while fighting game fish, the rod will be more secure and easier to handle. Young fishermen tend to place the rod handle in between their legs where it is difficult to reel and pump their hooked kingfish without a rod belt.

Once a game fish is hooked, hopefully a speedy king mackerel, help your young fisherman hold the rod and reel by standing right in back of the child. Explain the principals of fighting a fast running fish while at the same time, giving them plenty of support and encouragement.

While hooked fish are frequently lost do to a poor hook set, or parted fishing line, at this point its important to explain to your young angler that they won’t be able to land every king mackerel that they hook. Instead relate to them factors that may have resulted in losing their fish, like jerking the rod, or allowing slack fishing line.

Once they have been assisted with landing a few striking fish, they will be ready to do the job by themselves. In fact, when a speedy kingfish strikes a live bait and applies a deep bend in the kingfish rod, they will be the first to grab the bucking rod and begin to play the fast running king mackerel!

Finally, it is extremely important to teach young fishermen the importance of preserving our fishery for future generations. Keep only the fish that you plan to eat and release the rest in a manor that ensures survival. This means dislodging the hooks while the fish is still in the water and holding the fish in the water so that fresh saltwater runs through their gills until they are completely revived. Once the fish has recovered, have the young angler point the head of their fish towards deep water and with a gentle shove, release their game fish.

It’s also important to have a venting tool on board when deflating the air bladder of deep water game fish. This procedure is very educational for young fishermen.

Certainly king mackerel offer an excellent game fish when teaching young fishermen the art of saltwater fishing. Large schools of kingfish often supply fast summer fishing action when school’s out. Keep in mind that school is in this summer for teaching young children the art of king fishing!

Angler magazine, June 2011

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