Home Drifting Easy - Fishing Tips Catching kingfish in the surf....
Catching kingfish in the surf....

“What are these kingfish in the surf I’m hearing about?”

Kingfish, whiting, sea mullet, roundheads… It depends on where you are from
what you call them. They don’t get real big but give a good fight and are
darn good to eat! There is a Northern variety of kingfish and a Southern
variety of kingfish. They are similar in looks and anglers can often times
catch both varieties at the same time.

The Northern kingfish has a long spine on the first dorsal fin and irregular
bars along the body. Northern kingfish have pronounced markings along with a
stripe behind the pectoral fin that make a perfect “V”.

The Southern kingfish does not have the long spine on the first dorsal fin.
The stripes are not as pronounced and do not make a “V.” Generally, they
are lighter in color and anglers sometimes mix them up with a croaker.

Kingfish have a barbell beneath the chin, and the mouth is down turned.
Unlike a croaker, the body is smooth. Kingfish are typically 10 to 14
inches with a large one being over a pound. Records have been made with
kingfish over 2 pounds and one was caught in a commercial net that went over
3 pounds. But that is rare! Kingfish are typically ½ to 1-½ pounds. They are
short lived, with most kingfish living only 2 to 3 years.

Kingfish have white delicate meat and are one of my very favorite fish to
eat. In our area, most are caught in the surf with a few caught in the
inlet, Oceanic Pier, or bay just behind Assateague along the sandy beaches.
In Virginia, anglers catch them in the bay while they are flounder, croaker
or drum fishing.

“How do I catch them in the surf?”

First of all, you need to scale way down on your hook size. Kingfish have
small mouths and take a small bait. Size #6 snelled hooks on a top and
bottom work just fine for kingfish. In the surf, most anglers use small surf
floats to keep the bait a little off the bottom away from the crabs. If you
keep your bait moving a little, you can skip the floats and use hooks with
spinner blades and beads. Some anglers even like to use small circle hooks.
Then the kingfish can hook itself!

There are several rigs on the market that are already rigged up, pre-made
and “ready-to-go.” Sea Striker makes two of the most popular rigs in our
area. One is the SSSKF Kingfish/pan fish surf rig made with #8 long shank
hooks with cigar shaped surf floats. The other is a SSSKF-2 Spot, King and
Mullet Rig made with size #6 gold wide gap hooks. I especially like this
rig! Once the kingfish are hooked, they tend to stay hooked!

There are lots of rigs on the market, plus Dale Timmons of Assateague Rig
Company makes some up-scale versions with quality hooks and plastic coated
cork balls. Many of the tackle stores also make their own versions of

Again, a simple top and bottom rig with two size #6 bear paw spinner hooks
work great too. The main thing is to have the right bait and be fishing in
the right place!

“The sun hurts their eyes…” I think Dave Swenson the Critter Gitter said
that last year about king fishing in the surf on Assateague. Have you ever
gone surf fishing, and get your gear all out in the water by 9 A.M. and bam,
bam, bam…. The fish are biting. And then by 10 or 10:30 the sun comes out
intensely and all the action stops until about 4 or 5 o’clock, just when you’re
packing up to go home!!!??

Fish tend to feed best close to shore early in the morning and then again
around dusk. This is especially true when it comes to catching kingfish. If
you have an overcast day or a day with the fog hanging over the water, you
can catch them all day. But those summer days of intense heat and sun, it’s
best to get an early start or go at the end of the day until dark. Anglers
can also catch them after dark.

Kingfish don’t mind a little rough water either. A little Northeast or
Southeast chop will encourage the bite. Looks for a drop off, rip, deep
edge of a sand bar. I always look for a rip close to a drop off or some
backwash. (A trail of sandy water sucked out to the deeper water). Like
stripers, kingfish are not always that far out there. Sometimes they are
right there on the “drop off,” feeding on food that is churned up by the
waves. What I do, is cast out and then slowly bump in my rig and sinker
along the bottom. When king fishing I use the regular pryamid sinker as
opposed to the hurricane type sinker so it bumps in more smoothly. If it’s
real calm you can even get away with a bank type sinker at times.

OK. Once you start getting some hits, cast in that same spot and leave it
sit five minutes before reeling it back in. Incoming to high tide, the
kingfish can be in closer. Outgoing to a lower tide, the kingfish can hang
out there further.

The bait!!!!

In their natural environment, kingfish are bottom feeders that eat shrimp,
small clams, worms, young fish, crabs and any kind of crustaceans. Studies
indicate that kingfish rely on their sense of smell and sensors rather than
sight to find their food.

The all time favorite bait is bloodworm or Fishbite Alternative Bloodworm
bait. Combination baits are great. Use a little piece of bloodworm or fake
bloodworm with a little strip of fresh bunker or fillet off a finger mullet.
A fresh spot fillet with a piece of bloodworm or fake bloodworm is great.
Shrimp makes a great kingfish bait, especially if the kingfish are of the
southern variety. Sometimes good old fashion box squid works well. (Use the
box stuff, not that thick pre-cut kind you use for flounder fishing….)
Kingfish like fresh peelers as well if you can get your hands on them. If
you fish after dark, skip the worms and uses cut bait or peelers.

Kingfish hit hard, and sometimes run to the beach. If you get a good hit
and then the line goes slack. Starting cranking!

“What kind of rod and reel should I use?”

These fish aren’t huge so you get much more action out of an 8 to 9 foot
medium-action rod and reel. The reel doesn’t have to have any more than 12
or 15- pound test line on it. Some anglers even get away with a 7-foot rod
if it’s calm. If you plan to fish in the summer a lot for these types of
pan fish and want to invest in a nice light surf rod, look into the Daiwa
Emcast rods (8 to 9 foot) or the Sea Striker BeachRunner rods in the 8 to 9
foot lengths.

Reel wise, a 50 or 55 size Okuma, a 5000 size Penn, or a 6000 Shimano are a
few choices. If you like the Spectra lines such as Power Pro, tie in some 20
to 30 pound for a real sensitive feel.

If you are on a vacation budget, the 8-foot inexpensive combos for 29.99 to
49.99 for a rod, reel and line will do you just fine. Okuma makes an “Elite’
series that is not bad at all for the money!

Kingfish are great fun to catch and really good to eat. Simply scale,
fillet, pan or deep-fry and enjoy…. The meat is white, delicate, with
absolutely no dark fishy taste.
There’s no size or creel limit on kingfish. Keep what you want to eat and
release the rest. (Or bring them into me!!!)

Good fishing….

Need bait and tackle? Come see us at Oyster Bay Tackle, Ocean City, Maryland (410-524-3433) or Fenwick Tackle, Fenwick Island, Delaware (302-539-7766), OR Shop Online!

Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 March 2011 01:02