King mackerel is a hot topic this time of year. With tournaments every weekend for a month and a half, the question’s not where are the fish but where are they this week and will they be in the same place next week? The annual migration is a bit of a mystery. Some believe the massive schools of the gulf king mackerel will migrate during the spring from their vacation in South Florida and the Keys to the north, with the larger females (30 pounds and up) leading the way. Past trips in the early spring prove some truth to this theory, with consistent catches of these larger fish well before their smaller schooling-size counterpart arrive in numbers. Others believe there are many different schools in the gulf. Some migrate west to east this time of year and end up in the bait-rich shallows near the coast. Since we often see catches of large fish in the offshore waters during the summer, this lends support to this theory. No matter which theory one believes, there are consistent factors that have to be present for these fish to be here. One is water temperature. Kings usually start showing up during the spring when the water reaches 68-70 degrees and will be here in big numbers when it reaches the mid 70s. The second factor is bait. If it’s scarce, then chances are the kingfish will be, too. On the beach, look for large schools of threadfin herring on the surface or schools of Spanish mackerel feeding on smaller fry baits. Offshore, schools of sardines and cigar minnows can have kings looking for a meal.
Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at (727) 642-3411 and fintasticinc.com.