Drift Fishing for Kings – Fort Pierce, FLorida
Were in 18 to 30 feet of water just north of the Fort Pierce Inlet and the schools of menhaden are boiling around us, I can clearly see the dark clouds of bait fish just holding below the surface from my vantage point in the tuna tower. We have four spinning rods out each with 30 inches of light wire leader and a live bait circle hook with a live bait holding just on the surface. We are drift fishing live bait for Kings. It’s summer and the bait schools are holding in the shallow waters just off the beach. The boat is kept running and either the port or the starboard engine is engage momentarily to keep the baits on the surface and away from the boat. The baitwell is full of live bait fish and the dead ones are picked out and cut up for chum, tossed a few pieces at a time over the side to make a chum trail. From my vantage in the tower I keep an eye on the schools of bait fish and call down for the boys to reel in the baits when we get to far from the bait schools and the action cools down. We don’t need a depth sounder, everything is done by eye from the surface up in the tower.
As we run low on live bait we pull in the rods and pull out the sabiki rigs. I look for the nearest bait pod and we back down on it as gently as possible so as to not spook the school. The boys drop the sabiki down and a with a gentle bump up about half way down the rig will load up and there will be anywhere from an average of three to a dozen beautiful live and fresh baits for the live well. ten minutes of this and we are ready to get back into the business of catching Kings.
This is really enjoyable fishing, the boat is still for the most part, the radio is playing anybodies tunes, the beer is flowing and lunch is out. For the most part the baits can be clearly seen as they track just on or below the surface. Using medium to light tackle there is always tension on the line and you can tell when the bait becomes nervous, they can sense when a big King is in the near vicinity. The Kings will slash at the bait from an ambush below and up- sometime skyrocketing eight feet in the air. Some of these guys are huge, as much as 50 to 60 pounds for the giants, and the average fish is a respectable 30 pounds and up. You won’t find any small Kings running with the big boys, they tend to school by size, it keeps the cannibalism down. There is no gently bite, the Kings slam the bait and rip it off like a freight train. On the rare occasion we keep getting cut off, meaning the bait is hit just behind the gills leaving the head and hook intact, we will re rig and add a trailing stinger hook, this comes off the eye of the main circle hook that is thread through the eyes or nose.
Check out the pictures above, if you haven’t tried inshore drift fishing for Kings you are really missing it. It’s easy and can be very productive, but live bait is a must and you must know how to catch them, and how to keep them alive on the boat, so if that is a weak point for you, spend a day learning how first and then you can use these baits for bottom fishing and slow troll drift fishing.
Tight lines always!!