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King Mackerel Fishing in the Gulf

King Mackerel Fishing in the Gulf

The King Mackerel Are Coming! King Fishing in the Gulf of Mexico

If you live or spend time on Florida’s Gulf Coast, you’re now in the thick of king mackerel fishing season. Grab your gear and head out on the water to catch some of our most spectacular game fish!

King mackerel, otherwise known as kingfish, or just kings for short, are the largest and most aggressive of the mackerels. They have a distinctive tall dorsal fin, a blue-green shimmer, and can range from a few pounds up to six feet long, with the state and world record weighing in at 97.8 pounds! Those that weigh in at over 30 pounds are fondly called “smokers” due to how fast they hit and run, peeling the line against the drag.

Kingfish are attracted to waters that range from 68 to 72 degrees, so water temperature dictates their migratory patterns. While they live in the gulf year-round, peak fishing opportunities are in the spring and fall. This time of year, many charters and some major tournaments in the area are totally dedicated to the exhilarating experience of fishing for king mackerel.

Where to Fish For Kings

These large predators are some of the most abundant game fish caught in the Gulf of Mexico and will put up quite a fight when hooked. Fortunately, you don’t need to go far offshore to find them. They can typically be found in our shallow coastal waters, off the beach, or in a variety of habitats such as under piers, rocks, walls, and channels, providing great fishing adventures for all levels of anglers.

As with most fish, you only have to look for their food source to find them. Kingfish often make themselves known by jumping straight out of the water as they feed on bait fish. Keep watch for these explosive jumps or watch for shorebirds diving for bait fish on the surface. This is a good indication that there are predatory kingfish just below.

Gearing Up

Kingfish aren’t docile creatures. They’re fighters and equipped with razor-sharp teeth. Consequently, you’ll need gear that can withstand the fight and the aggressive bites. Anglers going for kings will need a stout rod and a reel big enough to accommodate enough line to survive its notorious screaming runs.

Kings aren’t fussy eaters, either, and they will go for live or dead bait as well as large plugs, spoons, and jigs. For live bait, you’ll need longer shank hooks or stinger rigs to withstand the king’s sharp teeth. While they can also be caught on artificial lures, they will need to be flashy enough to attract them. Kingfish often swallow bait whole, so if you’re using artificial lures, you’ll need ones with large enough hooks to hold onto the fish without breaking off.

Are You Ready for King Mackerel Season?

Whether you’re headed out on your own boat, booking a fishing trip with a charter enterprise, or going for tournament winnings, you want to ensure that you’ll be ready for the moment you catch a king’s attention. We can help.

At Reef & Reel, we are Pinellas County’s biggest fishing outfitter. We offer an extensive line of rods, reels, tackle, apparel, and other products to support your fishing lifestyle. Check out our huge inventory at or swing by our store on Tyrone Blvd. in St. Pete for the best selection of fishing gear and apparel on Florida’s west coast.

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