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King fishing is a little different than anything else that we do. In the fall, which is the hot time to come for these lightning fast fish, we typically use live bait. Menhaden is the bait of choice. You may know them as bunker, and some people call them shad, but we affectionately refer to them as fatback. In the perfect situation, a cast net off the bow works well to catch them, but often we have to set a short piece of gill net to capture the bait needed for a day of mackerel fishing. I like to carry 80 or so baits with me, sometimes we wind up using most all of it.
Kings range in size from "snakes" to "smokers". My personal best has been 60 pounds, but my father brought in a 75 pounder once, and that's the biggest one I have ever seen. I'd have to say that in November, which I consider to be the hottest month for kings, our average size fish are 20-40 pounds. It's not uncommon for everyone in the party to catch a citation-sized fish, which is over 30. The federal limit on kings is three per person.
King mackerel are found around bottom structure, ledges, wrecks and any rough bottom that may hold some bait. Another good condition to find a quantity of kings around would be a color change, or temperature break. Bait seems to gather up along conditions such as these too. Most typically, we find our kings in the fall over bait marks on the bottom, usually croakers. Give me a cool, light Northeaster, clear 69-degree water, and a 20-foot deep croaker mark, and I'll show you some king fishing!
Most of our mackerel strikes are on the surface, and when I say surface strike, I mean out of control, crazy, skyrocket strikes that are just awesome to watch. These fish have very sharp teeth, so we normally use a light cable leader, to prevent cut offs. We fish with very small treble hooks, and light drag on our TLD 25s. The explosive strike is always followed by their signature "screaming drag" run. When you get over a good place of fish, its fairly common to hook one on every pole. King fishing is all stand up, so it is very "hands on". There's nothing like big fish on light tackle, and this is as good as it gets! It's not uncommon to catch kings during the winter and spring months, but they are usually smaller than the November "smokers".
Cleaning a king mackerel is very similar to cleaning a wahoo, in that you can have it steaked or filleted. I prefer to have them filleted; it just gives you more options. King mackerel is not quite as dry as wahoo, and a little oilier, so it does great on the grill, and I do enjoy it chunked up, battered, and deep-fried. If you like smoked seafood, I think king mackerel smokes about as good as any fish there is.
If you have never tried this dynamite fishing, you should give it a shot, I don't think you will be disappointed.