The fall air, with the passing of Hurricane Michael, is finally starting to cut through the thick summer heat and with it comes an abundance of fishing options. As the water temperature starts to fall out of the 80’s and approaches the mid 70’s, big Smoker Kings and Spanish Mackerel will invade the beaches, reefs, shipping channel, and Tampa Bay looking for the right bait. The beautiful thing about this fishery in the fall is that the hordes of bait fish are already here and that makes finding fish a little easier. When trying to locate fish there are a few crucial conditions you will need to find first.
Clean water is the first. Macs do not like dirty or stained water, they are a visual predator that like to use their speed to ambush pray from underneath.
The next is structure. Structure will help hold bait in an area which will in turn keep the fish around and feeding. Big Kingfish are especially fond of structure because it holds their favorite food Spanish Mackerel. There are many types of structure from hard bottom, reefs, wrecks, ledges, channel markers, and large container ships that have been at anchor for a few days. You can do some research before you go on www.marinetraffic.com. This site gives you names, location and information on ships and lets you know which have been on anchor for a while.
Looking For The Right Bait
Most important is bait. Bait comes in all shapes and sizes but there are some that just drive big kings and Spanish crazy.
Large Spanish Mackerel love 4 to 5-inch live pilchards or Spanish sardines. I like to fish them on 4000 size spinning reels loaded with 10-pound mono with 30-pound fluorocarbon leader and a long shank 2/0 hook. Using fluorocarbon leader instead of wire will improve your bites and the long shank of the hook will help guard the leader from their teeth.
Big Kings love the right bait and that means – big baits. If you are looking for a stud kingfish to put you on the board at The King of the Beach, big baits will help you key in on larger fish. Spanish maceral, ladyfish, mullet, silver trout, bluefish, and 12” blue runners are prime baits. Mullet, ladyfish, and runners can be caught a few days ahead of time and kept in a large bait pen if their well-fed. Others must be caught on site and Spanish need to be caught and put back out immediately as they will quickly die in a well. Make sure to use #3 or #4 wire with a 2/0 nose (J hook) and two #4 4x strong stinger (treble) hooks that cover ¾ of the bait you are using. If you do get the big hit make sure that everyone on your team has a job to do, clearing lines, downriggers, securing hooks and do not forget to take the safety tube off the end of the gaff. Good luck and enjoy some world class drag screaming action right in our back yard.