Last year, federal fisheries regulators raised the king mackerel bag limit from two to three. We were told the reason was the stock was being underutilized — in other words, too few were being harvested. Anglers were encouraged to go out and kill more kingfish.
Now, I’m not saying that the preceding has anything to do with the following, but: Locally, our kingfish action has been fair to partly lousy over the past couple seasons. Hmm.
For most of us, kings are very much seasonal fish. We get them in our coastal waters in fall when they head south and again in spring when they head north. Every season is different. Sometimes they hang out for a week; sometimes for three months. Sometimes they show up in massive numbers; sometimes we see just a trickle.
The two main factors are water temperature and baitfish populations. Kingfish are a little like the Goldilocks of the sea — things have to be just right. If the water is too warm or too cool, we see very few of them. If the bait schools are thin or absent, we may see no kings at all.
But they still have to migrate north and south. Those relatively few among us who spend lots of time farther out to sea (somewhere in the range of roughly 30 to 80 miles out) will have a much better chance of hooking kings consistently during spring and fall.
In fact, they may see fish out in the open Gulf at any time of year. In deeper water, kings can migrate up or down to find their preferred temperature. Out there, food availability is the real driving force.
King macks are excellent gamefish and not at all bad to eat (so long as you don’t mind the taste of mercury), so they are popular targets. As we are now aware of autumn just ‘round the corner, there will certainly be at least a couple columns concerning these fish in upcoming editions. Those will be full of how-to advice, so I won’t offer any here.
What I do want to relate is that our illustrious fisheries regulators seem to have realized they don’t know everything about everything, and they’ve sent out the following appeal:
The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council would like to gain a better understanding of king mackerel in the Gulf of Mexico. It is seeking information from anglers and divers about trends or “strange things” that scientists and managers may need to know.
A scientific stock assessment of king mackerel is currently underway, and the Council would like to know if you have noticed anything “fishy” about king mackerel, or kingfish fishing, in recent years. The information provided will help inform scientists and managers as they formulate a current understanding of the king mackerel stock.
Please visit our “Something’s Fishy with Kingfish” tool at http://bit.ly/2lDo93X before Oct. 4 to report anything you’ve noticed about king mackerel in the Gulf of Mexico.
So if you have any useful information to share, please do. In the meantime, I hope you’ll say a silent prayer to your deity of choice requesting a good kingfish run this fall. The snook spawned plentifully this year, the tarpon showed up in great numbers, and the redfish have made a sudden reappearance. Let’s see if we can’t keep the streak going.
Contact Capt. Josh Olive at 941-276-9657 or Publisher@WaterLineWeekly.com.