Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Rigging for King Mackerel : Part Two

In part one of this series we went over some of the bare bones basics of rigging for Kings from a pier. Today I'm going to go into some of the other basics you will need to know , should you ever decide to target these fish.

Bait is always on my mind when fishing for Kings. They are a large predatory fish and because of this it is possible to catch them on a wide variety of bait. My bait of choice has always been small bluefish somewhere in the range of 8-12 inches. Blues are a hardier bait than many of the other popular fish used and this is important because you will generally have better luck with a lively bait in the water. Other options are spots , small Spanish mackerel and pinfish. Always make sure you are using a legal catch for bait.

Once you have your rig baited and in the water it's a good idea to catch a few extra baits and put them in reserve because if several kings come in you will have a hard time catching bait. While I have fished a few piers that have a community bait tank you can use to keep bait alive , this is the exception rather than the rule. The easiest way to keep bait alive is to put them in a five gallon bucket drilled with 3/4 to 1 inch holes with a lid. After putting a fish in the bucket , secure the lid tightly and lower it into the water on a stout piece of rope. I like my bait bucket to be around halfway submerged. Any deeper and the waves will wreck havoc on the bait inside , shallower and there may not be enough fresh water getting in to keep your bait alive. Most piers that allow King fishing don't mind if you tie a bait bucket to the railing , but it's always a good idea to make sure.

After you've hooked a big King and played him to the bottom of the pier getting him on deck becomes an issue. Pier nets can be used , but Kings can often be too big to get into a net. The most common method used is a Rope Gaff which is lowered beside the fish and jerked quickly upwards and into the fish. There are several different designs of rope gaff. Some people prefer a barbed gaff , but if you don't hit the fish just right and with enough force to bury the barb , bad things can happen. There is no real way to practice gaffing fish this way , so if you are unsure of yourself ask for help. Most people will be happy to help you land your catch. Just be sure about the rules as it's not always legal to gaff certain species or certain size fish.

Happy Hump Day!


  1. JM, interesting tidbit on your bait tank. When pier fishing, I use a standard 5 gal bucket too, but I have an aerator (battery operated) that I use. Even then though, baits don't seem to last long. How high is your pier above the water?

  2. Most of the piers here in the East are a good 20 ft. off of the water. We'll sometimes use a bait bucket and an aerator with small bait , but the big baits used for Kings would only last a few minutes in that situation. King fishermen can come up with some crazy stuff. I saw one guy a few years back that had two laundry baskets bolted together to keep his bait in.

  3. One other thing Salty , you have to pay attention to which way the current is headed to know which side of the pier to hang your bucket from.

  4. I don't know nothing about the fishing-but looks like good eating : )

    Nice Blog!


  5. Very COOL stuff!! I have always LOVED the stuff the guys walking the planks come up with for the various types of fishing they do. LOVE THE BAITWELL!!!

  6. Thanks Capt Paul! Most plankers are fairly innovative. It always amazes me to talk to the old timers who have caught monster sharks and tarpon from the planks.

  7. If I was to carry the laundry basket "bait well" out to the pier at my home pier of Venice Beach, there are so many whack jobs out there I probably wouldn't get a second look ;-)

  8. Salty , Surprisingly the laundry basket bait well was nicely made. He had it bolted together around the rim of the baskets and had cut a "hatch" out of the top of it. I would use one but it was a little big for my taste.

    I've heard stories about Venice Beach....


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