April is one of my favorite times to fish in Pinellas County and yet at the same time the most frustrating. Not frustrating because fish are hard to find, but because it is hard to determine which species to target. Snook are moving out of their winter slumbers to the mouths of creeks and passes, pompano and Spanish mackerel are plentiful, the grouper bite near shore heats up, trout and reds are still stacked around grass beds, mangrove islands and docks and even the sheepshead are still around finishing off their spring spawn and oh yeah… did I mention flounder, grunts and even the cobia migration into our are waters.
But the “mac”(pun intended) daddy of them all for me is stalking down the spring Kingfish bite just a 1oo yards off the beaches from the stealth of the kayak. I love tinkering in my garage at night making my stinger rigs and oiling up my reels, all the while dreaming of my next adrenalin rush from this drag screaming pelagic.
For the Kingfish, all you need is your kayak, a szabiki rig and a medium to heavy action spinning rod and reel, or even go sporty and use the setup you use for snook or reds. I like to use 20 to 30lb braid with about 8-10 ft of 30 to 40 lb flouro leading up to my stinger rig. You can buy your stinger pre made and save yourself the time of making your own, but for me that’s half the fun.
Paddle out from any local beach and set your sight on the horizon. What you are looking for is the fisherman’s best friend, the birds. They will let you know where the bait is and subsequently the fish. Match the hatch by using the szabiki to get your bait. Anchor up and float your bait on a stinger or put your paddle to use and slow troll your live bait around the bait balls.
Set your drag loose so the king doesn’t break your line with his initial run or “smoke’ your drag. Wait till you hear the sweet sound of your drag zinging and let the fun begin. Hooking up the king mackerel, aka the smoker, is one thing, chasing him down and landing him from your kayak as he tears through the mind field of crab traps that litter our coast is another. These beasts can easily push the scale at 25lb plus. I have even seen “tarpon sized” kings sky rocket out of the water just off the swim boueys. From my experience, many of the schooly size kings are farther offshore, while usually the big girls cruz the beaches.