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Kingfish is found on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is also called king mackerel. Do you want to learn how to catch kingfish? Catching kingfish is challenging as they grow to be large, have good eyesight, and sharp teeth, and can put up a spirited fight when caught on the hook. In this article, we share information and tips to help you catch more kingfish.

How To Catch Kingfish
How To Catch Kingfish

How To Catch Kingfish

There are a number of fishing methods that can be used to catch kingfish. Kingfish is often found in open waters and using a boat to catch kingfish is popular. You can troll for Kingfish. With trolling, you move the boat slowly and let the line follow the boat with the bait hooked on. When you get a bite, you reel in the fish.

Kingfish have good eyesight and sharp teeth. If you use wire leader, there is a good chance that it will see the line and just might not bite. Additionally, if your line is too close to you, the kingfish may see you and will not come anywhere near your bait. Kingfish can also be caught near the shore around structures like piers, docks, jetties, etc. Jigging can also be used to catch kingfish.

1. Trolling

Trolling is a popular fishing method for targeting kingfish, especially in offshore waters. Anglers typically deploy a variety of lures, such as spoons, diving plugs, and skirted baits, behind a moving boat. The lures are towed at varying depths and speeds to cover a wide swath of water and entice strikes from kingfish.

Trolling allows anglers to search for active fish across expansive areas, including reefs, offshore structures, and open water. It’s essential to adjust trolling speed, lure presentation, and depth according to the prevailing conditions and the behavior of the kingfish.

Additionally, using planers or downriggers can help anglers effectively target kingfish at different depths in the water column. Overall, trolling is a versatile and productive method for catching kingfish in a variety of offshore environments.

2. Live Bait Fishing

Live bait fishing is another effective method for targeting kingfish, particularly around nearshore reefs, wrecks, and bait schools. Anglers typically use live baitfish like pilchards, mullet, blue runners, or threadfin herring rigged on circle hooks or jigs to entice strikes from kingfish.

The key is to present the live baitfish naturally by allowing them to swim freely or using a slow troll or drift to cover productive areas. Kingfish are highly predatory and readily ambush live baitfish, making this method highly effective. Anglers can also employ chumming techniques to attract kingfish to the vicinity of the boat and increase their chances of hooking into these fast and powerful gamefish.

3. Vertical Jigging

Vertical jigging is a versatile fishing method that can be highly effective for targeting kingfish, especially when they’re holding over deep structures or near the bottom. Anglers use heavy metal jigs, typically ranging from 2 to 8 ounces, and drop them vertically to the desired depth where kingfish are suspected to be present.

The jig is then worked with sharp jerks and lifts to create an erratic action that mimics wounded baitfish, attracting the attention of kingfish. Vertical jigging allows anglers to cover various depths quickly and efficiently, making it ideal for locating and enticing kingfish in offshore waters.

This method requires precision and control to effectively work the jig in the strike zone and trigger aggressive strikes from kingfish lurking below.

Tricks For Kingfish Fishing
Tricks For Kingfish Fishing

How To Catch Kingfish In Florida

When fishing for kingfish look around structures such as wrecks, ledges, and oil platforms. Kingfish is a very mobile fish that is always hunting down schools of baitfish. Minnows, sardines, and silver eels are some of the baits that can be used when fishing for kingfish.

Lures can also be used to catch kingfish and soft plastics are a good choice. Trolling and chumming are fishing methods that are used when fishing for kingfish in Florida.

Best Bait For Kingfish

1. Pilchards

Pilchards are one of the most popular baits for kingfish fishing due to their oily and enticing profile. These small baitfish, also known as scaled sardines or white bait, are abundant in many coastal waters and are readily targeted by kingfish.

Pilchards can be rigged in various ways, such as nose-hooked, belly-hooked, or through the tail, to provide a natural and lifelike presentation. Anglers often use a live bait rig or a free-line set up to allow the pilchard to swim freely in the water, mimicking its natural behavior and enticing predatory strikes from kingfish.

Pilchards emit a strong scent trail that attracts kingfish from a distance, making them effective bait for both nearshore and offshore kingfish fishing. Additionally, pilchards are relatively hardy and can withstand the rigors of casting, trolling, or drifting, making them a preferred choice among anglers targeting these fast and powerful gamefish.

2. Herring

Herring is a favored bait among anglers targeting kingfish due to its oily and flavorful nature, making it highly attractive to these predatory fish. Fresh herring can be rigged in various ways, such as nose-hooked, butterfly-rigged, or filleted and rigged with a stinger hook, to provide a natural presentation that entices kingfish strikes.

The strong scent and taste of herring create an enticing trail in the water, attracting kingfish from a distance. Anglers often use herring as a live bait or cut bait, deploying them on downriggers, planer boards, or free-line setups to target kingfish at different depths and locations.

Herring can be effective for both nearshore and offshore kingfish fishing, and their availability in many coastal areas makes them a versatile and reliable bait option for anglers pursuing these fast and powerful gamefish.

3. Menhaden

Menhaden, also known as bunker or pogies, are a popular bait choice for kingfish fishing due to their oily flesh and strong scent, which attract predatory fish like kingfish. These baitfish are often used whole or cut into chunks to create a substantial scent trail in the water, enticing kingfish to strike.

Anglers can rig menhaden on a variety of setups, including live bait rigs, fish-finder rigs, or trolling rigs, depending on the fishing conditions and preferences. Menhaden can be fished nearshore or offshore and are effective at attracting kingfish in both scenarios.

Their abundance in many coastal areas makes them readily available and convenient for anglers targeting kingfish, and their natural appeal makes them a reliable choice for enticing strikes from these powerful gamefish.

4. Mullet

Mullet, like threadfin herring, menhaden, pilchards, and blue runners, is often used as bait to catch Kingfish. Mullet is a versatile and effective bait choice for kingfish fishing, prized for their natural oils and strong scent that attract predatory fish.

These baitfish can be rigged in various ways, such as live bait rigs, fish-finder rigs, or freelined setups, depending on the fishing conditions and angler preference. Their large size makes them particularly enticing to larger kingfish, and their lively swimming action can provoke aggressive strikes.

Mullet can be caught using cast nets or purchased from bait shops, and they are commonly used by anglers targeting kingfish both nearshore and offshore. Their availability in many coastal areas and their ability to withstand the rigors of casting or trolling make mullet a popular and effective bait option for kingfish enthusiasts.

5. Blue Runners

Blue runners, also known as hardtails, are highly prized as bait for kingfish fishing due to their large size, vigorous swimming action, and oily flesh that emits a strong scent underwater. These baitfish are often caught using live bait rigs or sabiki rigs, with anglers targeting them near offshore structures, reefs, or bait schools. Blue runners can also be purchased from bait shops when available.

When rigged properly, either live or as fresh-cut bait, blue runners can entice aggressive strikes from kingfish. Their robust nature allows them to withstand the rigors of trolling or casting, making them a reliable choice for anglers pursuing kingfish in both nearshore and offshore waters. Their versatility and effectiveness in attracting predatory fish make blue runners a preferred bait option among seasoned kingfish anglers.

6. Ribbonfish

Ribbonfish can be used as an ideal slow-trolled bait for Kingfish. It is very effective as bait for Kingfish when you troll just above the idle speed. Ribbonfish, also known as cutlassfish, are occasionally used as bait for kingfish fishing, particularly in offshore waters where they are commonly found.

These slender, elongated fish possess a shiny, silvery body and a distinctive ribbon-like shape, making them an attractive option for trolling or drifting rigs targeting kingfish. Anglers typically rig ribbonfish whole or in sections, either live or dead, using wire leaders to prevent bite-offs from toothy predators like kingfish.

While not as widely used as other baitfish species such as blue runners or pilchards, ribbonfish can still be effective in enticing strikes from kingfish, especially when presented in areas where they are abundant. Their long, slender profile and natural swimming motion make them an enticing target for predatory species like kingfish, making ribbonfish a viable bait option for anglers looking to hook into these fast and powerful gamefish.

7. Cigar Minnows

Cigar minnows are a popular bait choice among anglers targeting kingfish due to their abundance, durability, and effectiveness in enticing strikes. These slender, silver-colored baitfish closely resemble the preferred forage of kingfish, making them a natural choice for anglers seeking to attract these gamefish.

Cigar minnows are often rigged whole or in chunks on wire leaders to prevent bite-offs from toothy predators like kingfish. They can be fished either live or dead, with some anglers preferring to troll them behind planers or downriggers to target kingfish in deeper waters.

Cigar minnows emit a strong scent trail in the water, further enhancing their appeal to kingfish and increasing the likelihood of strikes. Their availability at bait shops along coastal areas and their ability to hold up well on hooks make cigar minnows a reliable bait option for anglers seeking success in kingfish fishing endeavors.

8. Spanish Mackerel

Spanish mackerel can be an effective bait choice for targeting kingfish, particularly in regions where both species coexist. These sleek and agile fish are known for their speed and tendency to school near the surface, making them a prime target for both anglers and predatory fish like kingfish.

Anglers often use fresh or frozen Spanish mackerel as bait, either rigged whole or in chunks, to attract kingfish. Their oily flesh and strong scent make them highly attractive to kingfish, enticing strikes even in challenging conditions.

When rigged properly, Spanish mackerel can withstand the rigors of trolling or casting, making them a versatile bait option for anglers targeting kingfish in various environments and depths. Additionally, Spanish mackerel can be readily available in regions where they are abundant, offering anglers a convenient and effective bait choice for their kingfish fishing pursuits.

Tips For Kingfish Fishing
Tips For Kingfish Fishing

Best Lures For Kingfish

1. Spoons

Spoons are popular lures for targeting kingfish due to their versatility and effectiveness in mimicking the baitfish that kingfish prey upon. These lures typically feature a shiny, metallic finish that reflects light and mimics the scales of small baitfish, making them irresistible to predatory species like kingfish.

Anglers often troll spoons at varying depths to cover a wide range of water columns where kingfish may be feeding. Additionally, spoons can be cast or jigged near structures such as reefs, wrecks, or drop-offs, where kingfish are known to congregate. The erratic action of a spoon as it flutters and wobbles through the water can trigger aggressive strikes from kingfish, especially when retrieved at high speeds.

Many spoons also come equipped with colorful skirts or feathers that add to their appeal and increase their visibility in the water. Overall, spoons are a reliable and effective lure choice for anglers targeting kingfish in both inshore and offshore environments.

2. Cedar Plugs

Cedar plugs are highly effective lures for targeting kingfish, particularly in offshore waters where these gamefish roam. These lures typically consist of a wooden body, often made from cedar wood, which is shaped like a cigar and features a sleek design that mimics the profile of a small baitfish.

Cedar plugs are renowned for their ability to attract kingfish due to their lifelike swimming action and natural appearance. Anglers often deploy cedar plugs by trolling them behind a boat at varying speeds, allowing them to dive and swim through the water column, enticing strikes from hungry kingfish.

The simplicity of cedar plugs makes them a favorite among anglers, as they require minimal effort to use yet yield impressive results. Additionally, cedar plugs are durable and can withstand the rigors of offshore fishing, making them a reliable choice for targeting kingfish in deepwater environments. Overall, cedar plugs are a tried-and-true lure option for anglers seeking to hook into trophy-sized kingfish on their next offshore fishing adventure.

Kingfish Tackle

A medium or heavy rod with a length of 7 feet can work for catching kingfish. A conventional reel with 250 yards of line will work for catching kingfish without it breaking when the fish pulls it. A spinning reel can also be used. A line with at least a 20-pound test will catch kingfish. Nylon braided leaders with a 45-pound test will support the kingfish. Don’t use shiny leaders as kingfish have very good eyesight and will spot the glint of metallic wires.

Kingfish Fishing
Kingfish Fishing

How To Catch Kingfish Trolling

Trolling can be used to catch kingfish. Move the boat about 3 to 4 knots to troll for kingfish. This will allow the boat to move slowly and carry the line. When trolling for kingfish, after covering about 100 yards, you can turn the boat around for another pass. If you do about 3 to 4 passes in the same area without any bites, check your bait if it is still on the line.

If the bait is still on the line, you might want to try another area. If the bait is skimming the surface of the water, slow it down by turning off the engine or lifting it slightly out of the water.

How To Catch Kingfish in the Surf

When fishing for kingfish from the shore, you can use bloodworms to bait the hook and cast it into the water. Look for structures like troughs, jetties, deep holes, and pockets to catch kingfish. When you get a bite, reel it in.

Kingfish Fishing Tricks
Kingfish Fishing Tricks

How To Catch Kingfish From a Pier

Kingfish can be found swimming closer to the shore at times and this gives you the opportunity to fish for them from a pier. You can use live bait, frozen or artificial bait to catch kingfish from the pier. It is always good to find out what bait works in that area and match the hatch. You can chat with other anglers or the people at the local tackle shop for bait information.

When you are fishing for kingfish from a pier, set up an anchor rod to the end of the fishing rod. Drop the anchor rod about 50-100 yards into the water and slowly reel it until it catches something. Then keep the fishing rod upright by putting it in a holder.

Fishing Kingfish Tips
Fishing Kingfish Tips

Kingfish Fishing Tips

1. Live bait is the best bait to catch kingfish.

2. Lures like artificial ribbonfish or spoons can be used to catch kingfish.

3. Kingfish can be found in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.

4. The best time to catch kingfish is from June to October when the water is warmer.

Tips For Kingfish Fishing
Tips For Kingfish Fishing

5. Be on the lookout for a big group of boats congregated in a particular area. They may be fishing a school of kingfish.

6. Watch out for seabirds circling over the waters as they may be preying on baitfish that kingfish also eat.

7. Chat with the people at the local hunting and fishing shops to find out where people are fishing for kingfish. You can also talk to other anglers.

8. You can fish for kingfish during the entire day as kingfish bite from the morning to evening.

Kingfish Fishing For Beginners
Kingfish Fishing For Beginners

9. use a sonar device to check underwater structures for kingfish when you fish from a boat.

10. When you set the bait on the hook, set up the bait so that the fish is looking up the line toward the rid and steel. It makes the bait look like it is naturally swimming when the bait is in the water.

11. Attach the hooks near the head and tail of the fish when you set the bait on the hook.

Ideas For Kingfish Fishing
Ideas For Kingfish Fishing

12. Don’t fish with your line close to you because kingfish might not come to it if it is close to you.

13. Make sure the line on the fishing rod is attached to the line of your anchor with a downrigger clip so it doesn’t float away if you are fishing from a pier.

14. Set up an anchor rod if you are fishing from a pier.

Fishing Kingfish
Fishing Kingfish

15. When the bait is on the hook, drop it in the water gently and give it about 50 yards of the line so it floats away from you.

16. If you are fishing from a pier, leave the fishing rod alone so the baitfish swim naturally which will attract the attention of kingfish.

17. Trolling can be used to catch kingfish.

Fishing Kingfish Tips
Fishing Kingfish Tips

18. Troll the water at a very slow speed to catch kingfish.

19. If you troll an area for about 4 passes and don’t get any bites, try another area to troll for kingfish.

20. While trolling, if you notice your bait fish is skimming across the surface of the water, shut the engine off or lift it slightly out of the water to slow down.

21. Kingfish can strike your bait at 40-50 miles per hour, therefore the line will be loud when a fish is on it.

Fishing Kingfish Ideas
Fishing Kingfish Ideas

22. When a fish is on the line, reel it in slowly so avoid breaking the line or engaging in a serious fight with the kingfish.

23. Always watch the line to see how fast the reel is spinning. When it becomes quiet, start reeling in the fish.

24. Use a gaff to catch the fish and bring it into the boat.

Fishing Kingfish For Beginners
Fishing Kingfish For Beginners
What is the best bait for kingfish?
Pilchards, herring, cigar minnows, ribbonfish, and Spanish mackerel are some of the best baits for kingfish.
What tide is best to catch kingfish?
The best tide to catch kingfish is high tide. Additionally, the first two hours in the morning and late evening are the time kingfish will be feeding.
How do you catch a kingfish?
Use live baits, dead baits, or lures and troll if you are in a boat. When you get a bite, reel in the fish. If you fish from the shore, you can fish around structures like docks and piers with bait hooks on the line.
Can you catch kingfish from shore?
Yes, you can fish for kingfish from the shore using bait as they sometimes come close to the shore.
What is the depth of a kingfish?
You can fish for kingfish in depths of 90 to 130 feet.
Is kingfish a bottom feeder?
Kingfish are bottom feeders and prey upon sardines, mullets, worms, small crustaceans, etc.
Is a kingfish good eating?
Kingfish is a good fish for eating and it makes good fillet.

The Bottom Line

Kingfish is a challenging fish to catch as it is large and has good eyesight and sharp teeth. However, with knowledge of its behaviors, the right equipment, and bait. Additionally, kingfish is a good fish to eat and makes good fillet. In this article, we discussed fishing techniques and behaviors of kingfish to help you be more successful in catching it.

If you also fish for red snapper, grouper, and surfperch, then read how to catch red snapper, how to catch grouper, and how to catch surfperch to increase your chances of catching more fish.