Mastering King Mackerel
A comprehensive how-to book featuring king mackerel by noted fisherman and author, Terry Lacoss. Techniques in this book can be applied to many offshore species.
The Southern Kingfish Association Presents KING M A C K E by Terry Lacoss R E L Author | Terry Lacoss Copy Editors | Loreen Berlin, Christine Rodenbaugh Art Director | Christine Rodenbaugh Illustrations | Alan Woolford, Christine Rodenbaugh Photography | Terry Lacoss, Jack Holmes, Christine Rodenbaugh, Daniel R. Finley, and Southern Kingfish Association Staff Cover | Alan Woolford - Kingfish Art Terry Lacoss - Photography Printed in the United States of America 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 First Printing Copyright ÂŠ2009 by Holmes Communications All Rights Reserved ISBN: 978-0-615-29669-2 2 MASTERING KING MACKEREL COLOPHON: Printed at Raintree Graphics, Jacksonville, Florida Cover: #130 Silk cover, printed 4-color process on a Komori 28P plus off-line UV gloss coating Interior: #80 silk text, printed 4/4 process on a Komori 28P Prepress: Nexus RIP, Esko-Artwork Systems | 200 line Paragon screening Titles: Trajan Pro Body copy: Adobe Caslon Pro Captions and callouts: Myriad Pro and Handwriting - Dakota Layout and design: Apple Mac Pro, Dual-Core Intel Xeon processor, 4 GB RAM using Adobe Creative Suite 3. The Southern Kingfish Association Presents KING M A C K E R 1 | THE ULTIMATE SALT WATER GAME FISH E L 3 Table of Contents CHAPTER 1 The Ultimate Saltwater Game Fish . . 9 CHAPTER 2 Where King Fishing Became Popular . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 CHAPTER 3 Kingfish Facts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 CHAPTER 4 Kingfish Tackle & Gear . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 CHAPTER 5 Keep Live Baits Alive and Supercharged. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 CHAPTER 6 Kingfish Boat Evolution . . . . . . . . . . 57 CHAPTER 7 Electronics, T-tops, Leaning Posts, Downriggers, Outriggers & Anchors . . . . . . . . . . . . 67 CHAPTER 8 Kingfish Structures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79 CHAPTER 9 Water Temperature & Clarity, Moon Phases, Tides, Charts & Satellites . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87 CHAPTER 10 Trolling Techniques for Kingfish . . 93 4 MASTERING KING MACKEREL CHAPTER 11 Kingfish Baits, Cast Netting & Jigging Baits . . . . 103 CHAPTER 12 Kingfish Leaders & Knots . . . . . . . 113 CHAPTER 13 Kingfish Lures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 127 CHAPTER 14 Chumming for King Mackerel . . 135 CHAPTER 15 Angling & Gaffing Techniques . . 145 CHAPTER 16 Favorite Kingfish Destinations . . 153 CHAPTER 17 Favorite Recipes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 169 CHAPTER 18 Sponsorship . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 177 CHAPTER 19 Tournament Etiquette . . . . . . . . . 181 CHAPTER 20 Conservation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 187 CHAPTER 21 Competitive King Fishing! The History of the SKA . . . . . . . . . 195 REFERENCE Glossary of Terms, Image Credits & Index . . . . . . . . . . 203 Please note: Most terms in italics are in the glossary on page 203. 1 | THE ULTIMATE SALT WATER GAME FISH 5 About the Author My ﬁrst encounter with king mackerel came while targeting summer tarpon at Northeast Florida’s, St. Mary’s shipping channel. I had spotted a smoker king feeding under a school of threadﬁn shad, just oﬀ the transom of my charter boat, the Amelia Angler. At that same moment, a charter client landed a four-pound blueﬁsh, which I hurriedly barbed and free-spooled smack into the school of terrorized baitﬁsh. Seconds later a 50-pound plus king mackerel chased the live blueﬁsh ﬁve to six feet into the air, catching its early morning meal in mid ﬂight. The king chopped the large blue into bloody chunks and, ﬁnally, the sharp treble hook found its grip. The bullet-like run of the wide shouldered kingﬁsh that followed quickly emptied the Penn International 4/0 ﬁshing reel and, at the same moment, the hook lost its grip. Till this day, I have never lost the memory of my ﬁrst experience with a saltwater game ﬁsh called the King. Since that memorable day, I often relive this story with ﬁshing friends. Which just goes to show, big ﬁsh that are lost often make the best catches! ©2009 Alan Woolford 6 MASTERING KING MACKEREL It was the summer of 1978. During the following ﬁshing seasons I began guiding exclusively for kingﬁsh from our Amelia Angler gift store and charter oﬃce located at Amelia Island Plantation. Sometime during the early 1980s, Jack Holmes called and asked me to write for the Southern Star boating and ﬁshing magazine. Later, my kingﬁsh articles have appeared in the SKA Angler magazine, Amelia Now, Florida Sportsman and the News Leader. In July of 1982, Billy Burbank and I competed in our ﬁrst kingﬁsh tournament, the 3rd Annual Golden Isles Kingﬁsh Tournament, and won the event. We weighed nine kingﬁsh ranging from 30 to 40 pounds and not only won 1st place honors, but captured nine of the top ten places. In those early days of king mackerel tournaments, only a handful of ﬁshermen knew how to chum and ﬁsh with live baits for kingﬁsh. It was too easy to run oﬀshore and troll spoons and ballyhoo! Since those early tournaments, kingﬁsh techniques, tackle, boats and motors have become very high-tech. In fact the entire saltwater ﬁshing industry has been strongly driven by the growing interests in king mackerel ﬁshing. A strong motivation for today’s popularity for king ﬁshing comes from Jack Holmes and members of the Southern Kingﬁsh Association. In the upcoming chapters of the Mastering King Mackerel, you will read how king ﬁshing became so popular, proven techniques, essential equipment, the lure of kingﬁsh tournaments and how key king mackerel ﬁshermen have contributed so much to saltwater’s most popular ﬁshery, king ﬁshing. —Terry Lacoss Author 1 | THE ULTIMATE SALT WATER GAME FISH 7 8 MASTERING KING MACKEREL 1 The Ultimate Saltwater Game Fish K ing mackerel have many similarities to a prizeﬁghter. Prizeﬁghters begin their career at the very bottom of the ranks, then work their way to the top. Prior to the 1980s, king mackerel also started at the very bottom of the game ﬁsh chain, then rapidly worked their way up the ladder, much like a prizeﬁghter. Today, king mackerel are not only a crowned champion, but are ﬁnally regarded as the most popular saltwater game ﬁsh by recreational ﬁshermen in both Atlantic and Gulf coast states. It’s hard to believe that saltwater ﬁshermen took so long to discover how great a ﬁghter the king mackerel really is. When targeted with light- to medium-weight ﬁshing tackle, the mighty king mackerel oﬀers a knockout ﬁght that often produces endless ﬁshing stories back on land. King mackerel ﬁshing gained rapidly in popularity beginning in the early 1980s, at the same time when competitive king mackerel ﬁshing also became popular. Skilled saltwater ﬁshermen soon learned that to catch tournament-winning king mackerel, they would need to back oﬀ their ﬁshing reel drag settings, while downsizing their ﬁshing tackle. Fishing with lighter drag settings, paired with lighter terminal saltwater ﬁshing tackle, allowed kingﬁsh to make multiple runs, often originating with a skyrocketing leap. “The strike of a kingﬁsh is a major reason why king ﬁshing is so popular today,” 1 | THE ULTIMATE SALT WATER GAME FISH 9 Joe McDonald comes to the scale at John’s Pass during a 1991 SKA tournament. NC City t Southport t Myrtle Beach SC TX LA Biloxi t t t Galveston t Savannah t St. Simons t Island t Jacksonville t Pensacola Mobile FL Fourchon popular in the fertile ﬁshing waters surrounding St. Petersburg, John’s Pass and Clearwater, Florida. Here these major ﬁshing ports attract king mackerel ﬁshermen year round, with some of the best kingﬁsh coming during the spring and fall ﬁshing seasons. Teamed with what many avid saltwater ﬁshermen believe holds some of the best king mackerel ﬁshing waters in the southeast, it was only ﬁtting that the sport of king mackerel angling originated in the baitﬁsh rich waters of Clearwater Beach, St. Petersburg, and Tampa Bay. King mackerel ﬁshing legend, Gene Turner, sparked the popularity of king mackerel ﬁshing, which soon became widespread throughout the southeast for both recreational and competitive saltwater ﬁshermen. Today there is a multitude of popular kingﬁsh destinations where king mackerel ﬁshing has become the number one targeted saltwater game ﬁsh. Arguably, Jacksonville, Florida today ranks right at the top as one of the South22 t Charleston GA AL M S MS t Mo Clearwater t t Canaveral east’s t Ft. Pierce more Sarasota t popular t N. Palm Beach kingﬁsh ports. Ft. Myers t Naples t t Miami The Greater Jacksonville KingKey West t ﬁsh Tournament & Festival annually runs the largest king mackerel ﬁshing tournament in the world. And on several occasions, has ﬁlled its maximum ﬁeld of 1,000 boats! The Jacksonville Kingﬁsh Tournament ﬁrst began in 1980 where literally hundreds of kingﬁsh boats would check out from the St. John’s inlet where tournament king mackerel could be found holding just oﬀ from the jetty rocks and along the beaches of the First Coast. Probably the key to its success, includes that small boats can enter the event where trophy king ﬁshing is available so close to the checkout. Other popular Florida kingﬁsh ports include Fernandina Beach, St. Augustine, Daytona Beach, Cape Canaveral, Fort Pierce, Miami, Key West, Marco Island, MASTERING KING MACKEREL King Mackerel Range in the Americas 34 MASTERING KING MACKEREL our live baits stayed alive all day. Our supercharged baits attracted a wide variety of strikes from deep water game ﬁsh, without the worry of our live baits dying!” I ﬁrst became aware of adding chemicals to keep both baitﬁsh and game ﬁsh alive in live wells and bait wells a few ﬁshing seasons ago when ﬁshing a redﬁsh tournament out of Venice, Louisiana. Both my son Terry David and I were waiting in a long line of backwater boats to weigh in our ﬁsh when I noticed the boat in front of ours was not rigged with a live well. Instead, the two ﬁshermen had rigged a 110-quart insulated cooler with an oxygen pump. A similar baitﬁsh chemical called Rejuvenate, had also been added to the saltwater in the cooler. When it was their turn to weigh in their two redﬁsh, they actually had a hard time catching the frisky reds from the small cooler. Eventually they dumped all of the water from the cooler along with the two super charged redﬁsh onto the ﬂoor of their bay boat in order to weigh the frisky redﬁsh! Obviously there are numerous saltwater ﬁshing boats that are equipped with small live bait wells giving ﬁshermen a diﬃcult time keeping their live baits alive for a full day of oﬀshore ﬁshing. Adding chemicals to rejuvenate baitﬁsh and to keep them shiny and frisky for a full day of ﬁshing is deﬁnitely a huge factor. 54 More importantly, with either an oxygen or re-circulator pump rigged to a live well, ﬁshermen won’t have to worry about their high speed pick up becoming clogged or, worse yet, developing an air lock. However, there is one factor that often doesn’t come to mind for many saltwater ﬁshermen. Baitﬁsh often school on the surface during the early morning hours and then migrate deeper where the water temperature may be a degree or two cooler. By pumping warm surface water into your livewell all day, you are actually slowly killing your baitﬁsh! It is important to make sure that your live bait well is insulated and, if it isn’t, add aftermarket insulation wherever possible. The next step is to ﬁll your bait well early MASTERING KING MACKEREL If you choose to target kings with live baits, learn how to maximize the vitality of those baits to attract a toothy smoker like this one. in the morning with clean saltwater just before you are going to catch your baitﬁsh. Once the baitﬁsh has been placed into the live bait well, turn on the oxygen or recirculator pump. You must note that some live bait ﬁshermen use both an oxygen pump and a re-circulator pump at the same time. There are re-circulator pumps on the market today that not only re-circulate the water in the live bait well, but they also pump in oxygen as well. After the baitﬁsh have been in the bait well for 15 minutes, pump out the old water and then pump in fresh salt- water. Baitﬁsh will often regurgitate when placed in conﬁned quarters and also take a rest stop, which completely pollutes the water where nothing could live! Once the bait well is ﬁlled with clean water, place the recommended amount of chemicals in the water and add a pound or two of ice. Turn on both the oxygen system and recirculating pump and you can spend the day ﬁshing instead of worrying about your live baits dying. Captain Joe Bruce employs yet another successful technique when keeping kingﬁsh baits in a small livewell. “Once the raw water saltwater pump has been turned on, I will set the timer to cut on and oﬀ every 15 minutes,” Joe Bruce said. “Next, I will turn on the oxygen system. By using a timer on my raw water saltwater pump, the saltwater in the livewell is changed every 15 minutes, while my oxygen system ensures that my livewell water has a fresh supply of oxygen.” Finally, some livewell pumps have cartridges that can be replaced quickly on the water when a livewell pump fails. However, I would also recommend when you purchase a new or even used kingﬁsh boat, to have two high speed pickups installed in the bottom of your kingﬁsh boat. Each livewell pump is plumbed separately to your livewell and ﬁtted with separate switches. This is an excellent insurance policy when one livewell pump stops working. While the better you and your kingﬁsh team becomes aware of how a successful livewell system works, the better your odds of catching the southeast’s favorite game ﬁsh, the speedy king mackerel! 5 | KEEP LIVE BAITS ALIVE AND SUPERCHARGED 55 money. Once a big king has found a big ledge, or particular hard bottom, the deep bottom structure soon becomes its permanent home.” Marcus Kennedy and his Kwazar ﬁshing team are recognized as one of the top kingﬁsh teams in the country with over 50 kingﬁsh tournament wins. Kennedy captains his tournament kingﬁsh boat, Kwazar, a 36-foot Yellowﬁn center console ﬁshing boat powered by triple Yamaha four stroke 250 hp outboards. His ﬁshing team also includes his wife Rene and son Tyler, who is an SKA four-time Junior Angler champion. “During the last SKA kingﬁsh tournament, we ran some 180 miles Mobile, to reach a red snapper ledge,” Alabama’s Kennedy said. “Our Yamaha Marcus Kennedy has a wealth of knowledge when powered Yellowﬁn is very fast it comes time for using his and also extremely dependable boat’s electronics to catch runo color machine becomes as well, this is crucial when big king mackerel like my eyes under the water. I making these long, oﬀshore this one. ﬁrst realized the beneﬁts of a runs.” good color machine while targeting “Although some king Elecbottom species including grouper and red mackerel ﬁshermen use the tronic equipment is a must snapper.” to find good “Today, I give a lot of my king mackerel fish! ﬁshing success to the many ﬁshing seasons that I have ﬁshed for red snapper. While many of the king mackerel ﬁshermen are targeting the obvious structures, such as oil rigs, I have used my knowledge of red snapper ﬁshing to catch tournament winning king mackerel. Red snapper typically are found on hard bottoms and holding close to and right on rock ledges. I have learned that big tournament size kings will also hold on these rock ledges and hard bottoms as well. These bottom structures are actually more dependable king mackerel structures than oil rigs when it comes to king mackerel that will put you in the 70 MASTERING KING MACKEREL Menhaden are a prime kingfish bait throughout the king mackerelâ€™s range. 106 MASTERING KING MACKEREL 102 MASTERING KING MACKEREL HAYWIRE TWIST Illustration 3 The final step in the haywire includes breaking off the tag end of the wire as close to the haywire as possible. Continue to hold the hook with your thumb and first finger of your left hand. Take the tag end of the wire between your thumb and first finger of your left hand and bend the wire into a 90-degree angle. Make sure that the 90-degree angle is at least an inch from the leader wire. 3 4 Illustration 4 Finally, by holding the tag end of the wire with your thumb and first finger of your right hand, push down on the wire towards the leader wire and bend first one way, then the next until the tag end wire breaks off close to the leader wire. You have just made a successful haywire connection. 5 Illustration 5 Finished haywire connection. The DUBRO E/Z Twist Pro, below, allows anyone to create custom wire leaders like a pro. Make multiple haywire twist or barrel wrap leaders in a short amount of time. More info: www.proseriesfishing.com 12 | KINGFISH LEADERS & KNOTS 123 As co-founder and Managing Partner of the Southern Kingfish Association for the past 19 years, I have seen the King Mackerel become the bass of the ocean. Terry Lacoss covers this great sport fish for both novice and advanced anglers with fun to read text and easy to understand diagrams. If you love saltwater fishing, this is a must-have reference book! —Jack Holmes ” ANOTHER GREAT BOOK FROM THE MASTER OF SALTWATER FISHING... TERRY LACOSS! “I have known Terry Lacoss for 30-years and I have come to the conclusion that he can catch anything that swims. Great person and a true ambassador to the sport of kingﬁshing.” —Dave Workman, Jr. Three-time SKA Angler of the Year “When I made the transition from freshwater to saltwater ﬁshing, Terry Lacoss was a big help in getting me started. Terry is one of the few ﬁshermen who has mastered a wide variety of both salt and freshwater ﬁshing game ﬁsh species. Terry is also very helpful in giving you the right ﬁshing information.” —Roland Martin Fishing with Roland Martin TV Show, Nine-time B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year “Terry Lacoss has been our Director of Fishing at Amelia Island Plantation since 1978. Terry’s ﬁshing articles and knowledge on just about every type of ﬁshing has been a huge asset in attracting both social and group business to our resort.” —Jack Healan President Amelia Island Plantation, Amelia Island, Florida Past Chairman: Florida Hotel & Motel Association “I have ﬁshed with a lot of guides on four continents, but you won’t ﬁnd a nicer person, better ﬁshing guide, or writer than Terry Lacoss.” —Harold Ensley Host Sportsman’s Friend TV Show, Member: National Fishing Hall of Fame