Home Drifting Easy - Fishing Tips How do you catch kingfish int the surf? What do you use for bait?
How do you catch kingfish int the surf? What do you use for bait?

“I hear anglers are catching kingfish in the surf. How do you catch them?
What do you use for bait?”

Kingfish are known by several names. Anglers down south call them sea
mullet. Up north many people call them “whiting.” Around here, we usually
call them kingfish. These are not to be confused with king mackerel, which
are large toothy critters we catch offshore. These are small fish with
turned down mouths. They rarely get much over 2 pounds and are grayish in
color. There are actually two different varieties of kingfish we catch in
our area. There is the Northern Kingfish that has distinct black bands (6 to
8 broad slanting lateral bars) across their body and they also have a higher
dorsal fin. The Southern Kingfish is lighter in color, an almost dull
silvery color, and has less distinct black bands. The bands almost blend in
with the body. Both have a barbel under their chins. They do not have any
teeth to speak of.

Pic- www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw/artkingfish.htm

Kingfish feed on little clams, crabs, shrimp, worms, young fish, small
mollusks, sand crabs, and other small crustaceans. They feed in fairly
shallow water and have quite small mouths. In our area, kingfish are mostly
caught in the surf. We rarely catch them in the bay. So if you want to catch
kingfish, you need to take up surf fishing or fish the Ocean Pier!

“What kind of rod and reel do I need?”

Kingfish are small, in the 8 to 16-inch size range. Rarely do they get over
2 pounds. In fact, a pound fish is a big one! You do not need a big heavy
surf rod. You are better off with an 8 or 9-foot medium action surf rod with
a medium sized surf reel spooled with 12 to 15-pound test. Higher quality
surf rods with more graphite in them such as the Sea Striker Beach Runner,
Daiwa Sealine X, Tica, or St. Croix gives you a much better “feel” than a
less expensive rod. They are also “lighter” in the hand. I like to use the
new Spectra Line such as Power Pro as the line itself is very sensitive and
you can feel the subtle “pick ups” of the kings.

But, if you are on the bargain basement budget, don’t despair. Just buy one
of those $30 to $50 set-up combos in the 8 to 9 foot range and you’ll be
fine. (You may want to change the line if it is too heavy.) You can even get
away with a 7-foot combo if the ocean is not too rough.

“Where do I cast?”

Kingfish are in close. My technique is to cast out as far as I can, then
reel in extremely slow back in towards shore. Often times the kings will
bite as you drag it in close to the initial drop off close to shore. Once I
figure out where I am getting the bites, I cast in that direction. On the
highest tides, they tend to be close to shore. On the low tide or outgoing
tide, they tend to be further out. If there is an outer bar, try to cast on
top of it and let the bait drop off the bar into the deeper water slough.

“What kind of rig should I use?”

Kings have small mouths so you need small hooks! Anglers usually use a size
#6 or #8 hook with small Styrofoam or cork floats next to the hooks.
Pre-made kingfish rigs are readily available at most bait and tackle stores.
Sea Striker makes two kingfish rigs that are quite popular in our area. The
Sea Striker SSSKF “Spot and Kingfish Rig” is tied with 40 pound mono with
one fluorescent red and one fluorescent yellow 1-inch float with long shank
#6 nickel hooks, nickel barrel swivel at one end and mono loop for the
sinker at other end. The other rig, which I like even better, is a SSSKF-2
“Spot, King and Mullet Rig”. It is a double drop rig made with half-inch
ball floats that keep the bait off the bottom. The rig has #6 gold-plated
wide gap hooks and a snap for the sinker.

There are also custom rigs that some tackle stores make with round cork
balls that are coated with a plastic material so the crabs cannot chew
through them. These are good to use in the summer when the crabs are
troublesome. Use a pyramid or hurricane type sinker in the 2 to 3-ounce
range if it is calm. Use more if it is rough. Use just enough sinker weigh
to barely hold bottom.

Some anglers simply use a wire top and bottom rig with two spinner hooks
attached. If you use this rig with no floats, you need to keep it moving all
the time.

“Can I catch them just anywhere in the surf?”

Sure, but it is best to look for some sort of drop off, rip, or slough.
Kingfish like a little rough water, so don’t be afraid to fish right in the
wash. Again, keep it moving slightly and you’ll cover more territory. Dawn
and dusk is a good time to fish for kings. Any kind of easterly breeze is
good. They’ll bite in a dirty surf, but they’ll bite even better in a clean
surf. Assateague Island and The Delaware Seashore State Park sees numbers of
kingfish. 3-R’s Road, which is just south of Indian River Inlet has a quick
drop-off and is a popular kingfish hole.

“What kind of bait should I use?”

Kingfish love bloodworms, but will take little strips of squid, mullet, or
fresh bunker. Shrimp also works for the kings, especially the Southern
Kings. If you have fresh peeler crab, this will also work. Many anglers use
a combination bait of a piece of bloodworm threaded on the hook tipped with
a small strip of some kind of cut bait such as squid, bunker, mullet or
spot. (Use fresh bunker if it is available.) If you use pre-cut squid
strips, cut them into smaller strips. You just want a small strip of bait no
longer than half an inch.

“Bloodworms are so expensive and messy too! Sometimes the tackle stores are
out of them!”

There is a new product out on the market that is totally revolutionary. It
is the Fishbites Bloodworm Alternative and it works as well (or maybe even
better than) bloodworms for kingfish.

Dr. William Carr invented Fishbites. It is a synthetic alternative to
natural cut bait. It dissolves in water releasing feeding stimulants. The
fish track those stimulants and when they bite down on Fishbites, they also
get the flavor and the flesh-like texture of natural bait.

There are several varieties and flavors of Fishbites but the new bloodworm
“Fishbites Bag O’Worms Bloodworm” is really working for kingfish. There are
5 bait strips in the package and the angler simply cuts a piece of the strip
off and attaches it to the hook. I’ve tried them myself on kingfish on
Assateague and they definitely work. They are clean, you don’t have to
refrigerate them unless you want to store them for months, and you can even
walk around with them in your pocket. You wouldn’t want to do that with
bloodworms or that dyed squid strips anglers were trying last year!

The Fishbites are bonded on a light piece of mesh that stays on the hook
fairly well. In my opinion, they stay on the hook better and last longer
than bloodworm. I am very impressed with this new bait.

Kings are hard fighters for their size. Keep your rod in your hand. When you
feel them bite, set the hook and start reeling. Sometimes they head right
towards shore so you think they are gone but they are not! Kingfish are very
tasty as well. There’s no size limit on them and they freeze well. Good
fighter, good eater… what more could you want! Good fishing…