I have only one thing on my mind when the water temps fall into the 70’s off our beaches… the sleek, powerful and toothy kingfish. This fish roams the gulf beaches chasing schools of spanish mackerel, blue runners and white bait every fall and spring up our coast. It is a short window of 4- 6 weeks in the fall for the kings off our beaches, but if the wind, bait and water temps stack up right it can make for some of the most exhilarating kayak fishing you can do in our area
To me, these fish are only second to the tarpon in pure adrenaline rush for gulf kayak fisherman. In fact, in my opinion, their strike is more violont/intense then the real king of the beach, the tarpon, especially when they skyrocket out of the water on a live spanish mackerel slow trolled behind the kayak.
I had a trip this fall during which I had two of my most epic bites ever for kings, and they happen within 15 minutes of each other. The first came after trolling a 10 inch blue runner for two hours. I had almost given up hope on the big blue(my favorite bait is a 12 in mackerel) and was bringing it in to check it out. All of the sudden I felt a huge explosion on my bait. I looked back and saw the king make a second pass on the blue runner. Then seconds later he came back, coming completely out of the water to inhale my bait. He then he splashed down and reached full speed instantaneously. I was speechless and frozen with my heart pounding out of my chest, not just from the bite, but by the shear size and girth of this fish. From my estimates it was easily 40lbs if not more. The problem that I ran into was that I had tightened the drag to much when I was retrieving the bait, With all the furry of the strike had forgotten to back it down. This is helped dislodge the stinger from the kings mouth after about 5 seconds of his run. All I got back was the head with a fowled up stinger rig and one amazing adrenaline rushes.
I mulled over loosing this fish and how I had lost him for a few moments. I decided I could only shake it off by getting back to catching some more bait and maybe get another chance. I became more optimistic when I got my favorite bait, a perfect size mackerel. Fifteen minutes later got my second chance under eerily similar circumstances. I was bringing the mackerel in to check the bait and just like before, a king come up and inhaled it, but this time i had learned my lesson and had kept a loose drag. This king was nowhere near the size of the one I had lost but still in the 25-30lbs class and a trophy fish. This bite happened about 10 yds from me and as the king launched out of the water, I could see his mouth was clamped shut on my wire leader and could vividly see bloody water slowly dripping from his razor sharp white teeth. After he splashed down, there was a moment of silence which seemed like an eternity. This agonizing silence was shattered by the screaming drag. He gave me an awesome initial long run and then finished with a tough battle around crab bouyes. I was able to coax the fish all the way to the beach and land it from shore. A crowd had gathered to see this formidable fish. I got them to take some pictures, revived her and sent her on her way. The king is not the most beautiful fish, but i love their toothy grin, their lateral line and their holographic skin tone which lights up greenish yellow when the sun light hits it just right.
When I wasn’t storming the beach for kings, I had some nice redfish action back on my usual fall and winter grass flats and docks. Most of the snook action came from “peanuts” and not the slot or over slot fish, but they are fun non the less.
As more cold fronts come in, I will put away my beach gear for a few months and focus exclusively on the back water species of snook, reds, drum, sheepies and jouvie tarpon, but with each passing front, in the back of my mind I will be looking forward to the upcoming spring kingfish run and more epic bites.