An Angler's Guide to King Fish

By: Peter Miller, Bass 2 Billfish

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A Florida fishing expert shares his tips and tools for catching the stately king fish, also known as king mackerel.

Well named, the king fish is indeed one of the most regal fish in the sea. A schooling and migrating fish, kings spend their winters off the coast of Florida before heading into northern waters in the spring and summer. Constantly feeding on whatever smaller fish cross their path, kings are particularly fond of sardines, herring, ribbon fish, jacks, shrimp and squid.

Typically weighing between five and 30 pounds, the Florida record for king fish is 90 pounds. One of this attractive species’ most notable features is its mouthful of sharp, efficient teeth. Anglers would be well-advised to use heavier wire or mono leader to bring a large fish boatside successfully. As a game fish, king mackerel are considered to be highly desirable.

In a class by themselves, they are coveted for their impressive leaps, spins and explosive runs. Voracious feeders, king fish will hit live or dead baitfish as well as spoons, jigs and large fish plugs.

They can be found inshore and offshore, and are often caught right off the beach or pier. They are well known for lurking along ridges and wrecks, stalking schools of smaller fish. Because they travel in schools, it is common for anglers to come upon a group of king fish and encounter non-stop action with multiple hook-ups.

King fish over 20 pounds are commonly known as "smokers," while those around five to eight pounds are called "snakes."

Prized by some for their firm, dark, relatively oily meat, kings are fished commercially with gill nets, but are mainly targeted by sport fishermen through trolling or employing various live bait techniques.

They can be broiled, fried, baked or even smoked. Delicious to eat, consumption should be avoided by children and pregnant women due to the high mercury content of the meat.

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