Fishing for Kingfish in Florida

Kingfish are a type of king mackerel and can be found in waters all over the world. In the central west region of Florida, kingfish migrate through our area in the spring and fall when there is an abundance of bait and the water temperature is 72-78 degrees. Florida is one of the best places in the world to catch a Kingfish!

Charter fishing boats will often take you out on day trips to the kingfish grounds where they're most commonly found so that you can get out there and catch your own king!

In this blog post, we have provided all of the kingfish fishing tips and tricks that we have acquired from king fishing over the years:

What are Kingfish?

In Florida, the term "kingfish" typically refers to the King Mackerel, a popular target for both recreational and commercial fishermen due to its size, speed, and the challenge it presents. Kingfish, also known as king mackerel, kingies, and kingfish king, are all common names for fish of the family Scombridae. They are called kingfish because they are the biggest fish in the mackerel family and also the most aggressive.

The kingfish's name comes from its long dorsal fin and coloring. They have a blue color, with a long forked tail and a tall dorsal fin. Normally a kingfish weighs between 5 and 15 pounds, at this size they are generally called "schoolie", although kingfish have reached weights over 60 pounds. When a kingfish weighs over 30lb is called a smoker because the reels smokes as the fish runs and peels line off against the drag. A typical tournament-winning kingfish offshore St. Petersburg is 40-60lb.

They are considered pelagic fish that lives in large schools from occasionally inshore to waters offshore.

They have oily meat and therefore are best smoked and make great fish dip. Grilled kingfish over fire covered in salad dressing is also very popular. Kingfish also makes great sushi if prepared correctly.

Man on a boat holding a large kingfish, showcasing a successful catch while fishing for kingfish with the ocean in the background

Where do Kingfish live?

Kingfish can be found in Florida waters all year and are constantly on the move to feed on baitfish. They can be found in the gulf of Mexico hanging around structure, reefs, springs and wrecks at depths of 10-400 ft.

What to know before you go out on a fishing charter for kingfish

When kingfish are in Florida waters, fishing charters begin to take trips offshore to kingfish grounds so that anglers can get the best possible chance at catching them. Anglers will go out on a king fishery for anywhere from 4-8 hours each trip.

This is a lot of time to be on the water and, therefore, king fishing trips require advanced planning.

Charters can fill up months in advance, so make sure that you book your trip early if you're thinking about king fishing.

Before booking your king fishing trip, make sure that you contact the boat owner to verify where they will fish depending on water temperature and kingfish migration patterns. Most guides have a wealth of king fishing knowledge, including information about kingfish migrations and locations. Be sure to check the king mackerel size limit and other saltwater fishing regulatons in your area before you book tours, but a good fishing charter captain will have this already planned out for you.

Keep in mind that kingfish season often extends through summer and winter, so kingfish guides will still be out on the water year round, even if kingfish are not as prevalent.

Man on a boat holding a large kingfish, showcasing a successful catch while fishing for kingfish with the ocean in the background

Tips & Tricks on how to catch a Kingfish

Kingfish anglers usually use a stinger rig or a long shank hook due to the sharp teeth of kingfish. Trolling planer and spoons or different colored trolling plugs that dive to different depths are also popular in catching these beautiful fish.

Once you get out onto the open water with your captain, they can help you decide what king fishing equipment will be best for your trip.

Kingfish will often strike at and swallow the bait whole. This means that king fishing lures must have hooks large enough to hold a kingfish without breaking off or getting swallowed by the kingfish.

Kingfish will also commonly skyrocket on baits and will display an acrobatic show and aggressively explode on baits - sometimes they will also buzz bait in half and then circle back around to eat the other half of the wounded baitfish.

King fishing lures also include kingfish topwater baits, king mackerel live bait rigs, kingfish trolling plugs, kingfish soft plastic lures, and more.

As with all types of sport fishing, fishing charter captains have their preferred king fishing techniques.

Man sitting on a boat holding a large kingfish, showcasing a successful catch while fishing for kingfish with the ocean in the background


When kingfish are in Florida waters, a charter boat is the best way to catch one of these beautiful and powerful fish. These kings live in the gulf of Mexico all year round, but the peak times to go fishing for these trophy fish are in the spring and fall.

If you're thinking about booking a king fishing trip soon, contact us for the best St. Petersburg fishing charter! At Reel Coquina will have you reeling in the sport fish of your dreams!