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Land Side King Mackerel

Terry Lacoss

King Mackerel fishermen will need to take a closer look at catching king mackerel closer to land this summer with the rising costs of fuel and, more importantly, the opportunity to catch tournament-winning kingfish.


Southern Kingfish Association tournament teams will be taking a closer look at ways to save fuel this summer while competing during the SKA tournament season. Fuel prices are still rising and might just bust the $4.00 per gallon mark before the summer fishing season is over. Five kingfish seasons ago, king mackerel fishermen were faced with $2.00 per gallon. Five years later, the cost of boat fuel is predicted to double.

And in some rare cases, you may not have to spend a single penny to catch world class king mackerel!

"During the spring fishing season, a variety of live bait schools stack up close to Tampa's old "Skyway" fishing pier and "Skyway Bridge,"St. Petersburg's Chris Turner said. "Here you will find 40 feet of water at the old fishing pier, which is also located next to the main Skyway Bridge shipping channel. In fact, this spring a pier fisherman landed a 40-pound king mackerel while drifting a live bait from the old fishing pier!"

During the spring migration of Gulf Coast king mackerel, the Tampa Bay shipping channel is simply a big magnet for migrating mackerel. Once a migration of kingfish finds the deep shipping channel, they also discover plenty of forage foods including one of their favorite baitfish, blue runners. Other delectable kingfish baits schooling in the deep channel include greenies, menhaden, Spanish sardines and more.

Two other popular hot spots for king mackerel are located just north of Tampa Bay where competitive king mackerel fishermen don't require a long, fuel guzzling run offshore. An area called the Rock, is located just a few miles southwest of John's Pass and has a huge hard bottom where numerous baitfish schools attract tournament-winning king mackerel. Further north, the Clearwater Live Bottom is located just a half mile from the pristine beaches of South Clearwater and also harbors plenty of baitfish and sizable kingfish too.

The moral of this story is, you don't have to burn a full tank of expensive fuel when targeting tournament-winning king mackerel. Throughout coastal kingfish waters, including the Carolinas to coastal Texas, mackerel fishermen will find plenty of king mackerel fishing opportunities within easy access from most inlets.

A good example comes during the AT&T Greater Jacksonville Kingfish Tournament. Granted plenty of winning kingfish are caught from distant offshore live bottoms, particularly the Elton Bottom, there are actually more money winning kingfish caught closer to the St. John's inlet.

Just a few Jacksonville kingfish seasons ago, Captain Fred Morrow checked out through the St. John's inlet and after a five-minute boat ride north, landed the winning kingfish within clear sight of land!

The Red Tops are located just south of the popular kingfish pass and also offer close-to-land king mackerel fishing.

Georgia's D Buoy is located also within a mile from land and traditionally produces tournament-winning kingfish as well. One of the biggest SKA tournament catches ever made came from the middle of the Brunswick Shipping Channel during the SKA Golden Isles Kingfish Tournament. After checking out from the St. Simon's fishing pier, many tournament boats began their day of king mackerel fishing right away in the deep channel waters. And at times, you could see many of the kingfish boats were fighting sizable kingfish from the bow of their center console fishing boats.

However if you have to make that long run offshore, here are a few tips on keeping down the cost of fuel during this year's Southern Kingfish Association's tournament season.

King mackerel fishermen frequently make the mistake of running propellers that are too large for their outboards. Propellers that have too much pitch will actually put a strain on your outboard and fuel costs, too. However, a propeller that allows your outboard to breathe and push your boat without added strain, produces the best fuel economy for you and your fishing team. Unfortunately, propellers that produce the best fuel economy, will often produce boat speeds that are slower than larger propellers.

With all of this said, you may save a lot of money at the gas pumps by experimenting with different sized propellers. Having a flow scan or fuel monitor installed on your fishing boat will also allow you to keep a close eye on the amount of fuel your outboards are burning.

Trim tabs can make or break your wallet as well. In rough seas, using your trim tabs to keep the bow of your fishing boat from rocketing to the moon is a must for a comfortable and fast ride. However, the full use of the tabs is also like putting one foot on the brakes and one foot fully applied to the gas pedal. By watching your fuel monitor, you will soon see an increased consumption of fuel.

By fine tuning the adjustment of your trim tabs you can actually watch the consumption of fuel decrease from the fully applied position. At the same time you will need to adjust the trim on your outboards as well.

Your outboard's trim adjustment is also very critical to your fuel consumption. Full use of your trim will certainly decrease your fuel economy and you can visually watch the amount of gallons burned per hour increase on the readout of your fuel monitor. Once again in rough seas, fine tune your outboard's trim just like your set of trim tabs. You will soon find that a little positive trim will actually decrease your outboard's fuel consumption. Teamed up with a little negative trim from your trim tabs, you will both experience a smooth and comfortable ride to the fishing grounds and save the cost of expensive fuel at the docks as well.

If the seas were calm, I would recommend not using your trim tabs and trimming your outboards up until the bow of your boat begins to porpoise. Trim your outboards back down until the bow stops porpoising. Keeping the bow up and out of the water will decrease the drag on your boat's hull and, at the same time, save a bunch of money when it comes time to refuel.

Keeping the loaded weight of your fishing boat in check is also very critical when saving fuel costs. I once knew of a fisherman that took the time to clean out his kingfish boat of unwanted gear. The mackerel fisherman was simply delighted with both the increase in boat speed and, more importantly, the better fuel economy his lighter kingfish boat was now enjoying.

Also avoid completely filling your boat's fuel cell if you are going to be targeting close-to-shore king mackerel. You will be amazed how much fuel you will save and how well your boat performs with a lighter load of fuel. Gas weighs eight pounds per gallon!

If you have to store gear, try to store most of your gear at the transom of your fishing boat. By keeping the weight of your boat at the transom, you will also keep the bow of your boat out of the water. This allows for less hull drag, while giving better boat performance and speed too.

For example, don't store your kingfish bag full of ice at the bow of the boat when running, move it to the transom of your boat. Fishermen should also sit, or stand, at the transom of the boat when running as well to save fuel costs.

Finally, shop around for lower prices at gas stations. Fishermen will typically find higher fuel costs at service stations that are located close to interstate highways. While service stations located closer to shopping malls will often sell fuel for less. Fuel purchased at most marinas is typically 50 cents more per gallon.
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