September Kingfish by Tony Hong. September marks a change in season. For the fisherman, it may mean changing gears from targeting one species to the next. From Fluke to Stripers for most of us surfcasters. But between that transitional stage -depending on weather, water temp, baitfish, etc...there are other fish to target. Northern Kingfish. Small in stature, but big in fun factor. These little guys are under the radar to many of us, and are usually caught by accident.
You first have to know where they are. You can find them in the bays, inlets, and beaches in late summer, but your best bet is in the surf. Their nick name is "Surfkings" and for good reason. They thrive in the breaking surf where they feed on sand fleas, crustaceans, sea worms, and even small baitfish that get dislodged, tossed, and disoriented in the crashing surf. They are not far from shore, usually just a stones throw away. Action could be non-stop for hours.
The bait. I'm not much of a bait guy, but real/cut bait is what you need. I've done well with sandworms, clam or squid, but you can use all sorts of bait including shrimp, sand fleas, cut fish.
The best in my opinion is Bloodworms, hands down. Although pricey, they get the job done and you won't need a lot. Two people can share a dozen worms all day long as you only need an inch of bait and bloodworms last much longer than sand worms. On the artificial side, well, not much except Fish-Bites in bloodworm flavor have done well when they are not really finicky. But fish-bites paired with real bait is an absolutely killer combo.
The Rig and Setup. I have a rod especially for kingfish. It's a Cabelas ultra light 8.5' spinning rod. It's basically a wet noodle. You can use anything from 6.5' to 9' but make sure is light in power and most freshwater rods will do fine. You don't want to muscle them in, make it a sport! They will eagerly entertain. Reels should also be on the small side. A 2500 -4000 size. I normally use a 2500 or 3000 or smaller. Line- 10 lb braid for main line and 8 - 14 lb leader. Mono is fine. Rig- I found the simple hi lo rig with dropper loop or double dropper works well. I like the loop about 6" over the sinker. They are most comfortable close to the ground so the hooks should be close to bottom where they're looking for food. Hooks should be small, they do not have large mouths and they usually hook themselves. They do not swallow their food whole as they need to grind it in their mouths first so gut hooking is very rare. The smallest porgy hooks should work well. Once you cast it out there, there really isn't much you have to do, maybe give it a hop here and there but really do not have to jig for them. My only advice is to give it a hop here and there and retrieve at a snails pace. Once you feel them strike all you need is a wrist hook set. Nothing over powering.
Table Fare. Very delicate mild, white meat. Makes for very good eating. Cut the head, and gut them. Roll them with your favourite flour, batter, breadcrumb or cornmeal. Fry them in bacon fat or deep fry. Delicious. There is no limits or regulations on kingfish. If you're going to keep some, throw back the under 10" fish. The good ones are 12"-14" and please only take what you will eat. Because they are not regulated does not mean we should abuse them. I hope many of you guys will give them a shot.
Kingfish Caught at Jones Beach by Author Tony Hong