Fall means King Mackerel

Published on 21 September 2017 in Business
Capt. Matt Selby (author)

Capt. Matt Selby

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September is still a very hot month in our area of Florida but with that being said, the water temperatures start to come down slightly and that means King Mackerel will be flooding our waters anytime. By the end of the month, the King and Spanish Mackerel, will show up in large numbers as they make their migration through our area well into November. Fall is my favorite time of year to troll the reefs and hardbottom off Clearwater, and the King Mackerel is exactly why.

In my opinion, the King Mackerel is the most underrated gamefish in our waters. Some people don’t bother with them because of their, well, I hate to say the word but again, underrated table fare value. I’ll admit, if you try to fry a kingfish fillet, you likely won’t be impressed. However, a bacon wrapped, smoked kingfish nugget is probably my favorite fish dish next to the panko crusted Wahoo bites I make.

 Most caught fish are what we call “snakes,” between 2 and 8 pounds, but the “Smokers” of 30 to 40, sometimes into the 60 pound range, are what keep us coming back for more, year after year! There’s nothing like the sound of the reel screaming as the fish takes runs as long as 200 yards! I’ve often joked about how I could set that as my alarm clock and I’d wake up pumped and ready to take on the day! They have been known to make an initial run so hard and fast that the bearings get burned out and sometimes the angler will notice smoke coming off the reel, hence the nickname “smoker.”

I have fished the local Kingfish tournament called “King Of The Beach” for the past few years and while I’ve never won it, I’ve caught a number of fish that would easily place top 20 out of the 500 boats on tournament day, and of course my personal best; 46 pounder (would have won it!) was caught just 15 hours before tournament time! I’m getting chills just thinking about the November tournament. I feel like this year will be my year!


Kings are found anywhere between 10 feet all the way out to 100 feet or more here off Tampa Bay. I know what you’re thinking, “Thanks Matt, that really clears things up.” The truth is, find the migrating baitfish and the predators will follow. I love searching the beaches for giants. The biggest kingfish are usually found in 2 places. The first place is the Florida middle Grounds and the second place is just off the beach where the sandbar drops off or hard bottom begins. The big girls off the beach are referred to as “Beachcombers,” and if you’ve ever noticed a restaurant on Clearwater beach with that name, now you know why. The females, along with many species of fish, are much larger than the males. A typical Male Kingfish is rarely above 10 pounds but the females have been recorded as big as 80!

 My favorite method for catching the big Kingfish is a method called live bait slow trolling. This tactic is where the angler either drifts with the current or idles at the slowest speed possible. I usually set back a 4 rod spread with 2 baits low and 2 baits presented at the surface. You can’t forget the wire leader because many Kings are lost to cut lines.

Sometimes if I’m trolling fast enough and decide against slow trolling, I’ll use 80 pound Fluorocarbon leader and hope they bite near the hook and not the line but it’s always a gamble. My second favorite tactic is one anyone can do, even from a kayak! This is easy, chum like crazy and throw out live bait on a float or a balloon and wait for the reel to start screaming! I’ve caught a number of 30+ pound fish this way, and you can too! 

If you want to catch the biggest Kingfish of your life, book with me for the month of October. I still have some days available!

Capt-Matt Selby




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