King Mackerel (Scomberomorus cavalla)
King mackerel is one of the most sought-after game fish species in the western Atlantic Ocean. Also referred to as “Kingfish” this fish has an elongated slender body that is shaped like a torpedo with a tapered head. The males are much smaller than the females so if you catch a large kingfish there’s a high probability that its a female. They can grow up to 93 lbs but the largest one ever caught in Key West was 71lbs. On the back of the kingfish, they are a bluish-green color that fades into a silver color on the side and bottom. Similar to other Mackerel species they have a lateral line and a row of small finlets behind the dorsal and anal fins. They have small razor sharp teeth and are very aggressive fish. When you catch a kingfish it is common for them to sprint at 40mph due to a slime there body produces when they get caught or are about to eat your bait. Although they are great tasting fish, any Mackerel over 30 inches has a high chance of containing elevated levels of mercury which can cause ciguatera. The babies grow very fast up to 1.5 inches a month and can reach 20 pounds after just one year. The minimum size limit is 24″ and the daily recreational bag limit is 2 per harvester except for in FL Monroe County Waters where the limit was increased to 3 per harvester.
How to catch King Mackerel in Miami
The most popular method of catching King Makeral is by trolling lures and dead bait. Similar to other members of the Makeral family they usually bite off the tail and then return to eat the rest of the fish. It is crucial that you use metal leaders as these fish have very sharp teeth and can cut through mono very easily. Another very important tip is to use two hooks on your setup, one in the front and one in the back. A kingfish lure attached to a dead bait can up the odds of you catching a King. If you’re not getting any bites while trolling try using a keeled trolling weight or a planer to get the bait down lower. Kite fishing is also popular among some Florida kingfish anglers. Live bait is also a very effective tactic to catch this amazing fish. They eat everything from blue runners, ballyhoo. If you feel a hit from a kingfish and you don’t hook them you should put your bait back in the water and let out some line because they usually come back to finish off the rest of your bait. They do not have much endurance but when they hit the bait they will sprint very quickly at high speeds and can empty 200 yards of line in a couple of seconds. We recommend anywhere between 30 to 50-pound braid or mono for your main line.
Where to fish for King Mackerel
During the wintertime, the cold waters up north bring the King Mackerel down south. Throughout winter the Florida Keys, Miami, and Palm Beach become more abundant with kings. The tiger of the seas prefers water temperatures above 68 degrees so during fall in Florida is the best time to hook one of these fun fighting fish. They can be found near shore in water up to 20ft and in offshore waters up to 500 ft. Large schools have been found to migrate along the Florida coast. the King Mackerel travel in schools so it’s not a rare occurrence to get bites on multiple lines while trolling over reefs. The kings even put on a show sometimes jumping as high as 10 feet in the air when they hit your bait. You can find kingfish near offshore structures, deep ledges, coral reefs, shipwrecks, and oil rigs. Another great tip is to look for birds diving into the water as the birds take advantage when the Kingfish scare the bait to the surface. There is plenty of baitfish in the area so Kingfish visit these spots frequently. An experienced kingfish charter in Miami is the best way to catch King Maceral. Kingfish can be caught off the Florida coast in Key West, Key Largo, Islamorada, Palm Beach, Jupiter, Destin, Stuart or even as far as Tampa.
Best time of the year for fishing King Mackerel in Miami
The best time of the year to fish for King Macks in Miami is during winter. The best time of the year is from December 1st through February 30th. Kingfish season in Florida is incredible. People from all over the world come to fish the waters of the Atlantic. From the keys all the way to West Palm Beach there are plenty of King Mackerel to catch. The average size for the King Mackerel you’ll catch is usually around 20-70 pounds. You can also catch them year round sporadically off deep wrecks or reefs in South Florida. When the weather is cooler it also makes fishing for long periods less tiring.
The best bait to catch King Mackerel
Slow trolling or freelining with live baits like pogies, cigar minnows, blue runners, herring, Spanish sardine, squid, ballyhoo, and mullet are a proven way to catch Kingfish in Florida. Bluerunners are one of the most coveted live bait because they are very hardy fish that will stay alive for a long time and swim hard. Make sure to use 2 hooks when rigging your live ballyhoo so that regardless of where the fish strikes you’ll get a hookup. In general, the bigger the bait the bigger the fish you will get but you should try going to something a little smaller if you don’t get any bites with the big bate. Frozen baits such as ballyhoo, squid, and mullet also make good trolling baits. Add a tuna feather on top and you’ll increase your odds of reeling in the big one. Trolling lures is another popular method to catch Mackerel. You can also catch King Mackerel using lures such as the Rapala CountDown Magnum(looks like a bonito), Guides Secret Bunka Boy Fishing Lure, Tuna Feather, C&H King Buster, and a trusty old salty planer attached to a drone spoon. Kings primarily feed on baitfish so trolling with several rods can increase your chances of catching a big King in Miami. If there are other baitfish nearby the Kingfish will go after your bait because it is slower and easier for them to catch.
Is King Mackerel good eating?
Although they are not considered the best fish to eat King Mackeral can be tasty if prepared properly. This fish can spoil quickly so make sure to eat it on the day you catch it or throw it in the freezer to eat it later. They provide oily and thick fillets that are best prepared by smoking at low temperatures, poaching or on the grill with low to medium heat. They have a strong fish taste so if you love fish then you’ll love King Mackerel. You can prepare them in several ways but the most common method is to throw some olive oil and seasoning on it and grill it for a couple of minutes. They are a rich source of protein and have large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. These fish are known to contain methylmercury, especially the bigger ones so children and pregnant or nursing mothers should avoid eating King Mackerel to avoid mercury poisoning according to the Food and Drug Administration.
Florida King Mackerel fishing regulations
The King Makeral needs to be at least 24 inches long so you can keep it. There is also a daily limit of 2 King Mackerel per person in the Atlantic Ocean and 3 per person in Gulf and Monrow County Waters. There is no closed season so they can be caught year round. A current Florida saltwater fishing license is required to fish for all types of saltwater species in Florida. You can obtain a license from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission by going online, calling or going to a bait and tackle shop.