August Is the Best Month

          August is a great time to target king mackerel in the Central East Region. The fish average around 20 pounds or more, and there are some real slobs mixed in as well. This is when the fish are spawning and are feeding on the bait pods close to shore and the silver mullet migrating down the beach.

For baits, a silver mullet or live menhaden slow trolled in less than 40 feet of water right along the beaches is hard to beat. It’s a little late for the menhaden pods on the beach (some years they dry up mid-August, and some years they’re still around), but if they dry up, the silver mullet usually arrive.

I like 7-foot soft-tipped live bait rods with 20- or 25-pound Sufix monofilament main line and the standard #4 or #5 wire rigged with a stinger hook. For hooks, I like the VMC 9626 Black nickel colored treble hook, which is a 4X strong #4 treble so a big fish can’t straighten it out. On mullet, I like to use a #2 treble.

The water is that green color where you can see four or five feet down outside, but a lot of the 40-plus pound fish like to get in that dirty water just outside the breakers, so don’t be afraid to pull your baits real close to shore. We catch a lot of kings in less than 20 feet of water and those fish that feed right outside the breakers for some reason have a tendency to feed right at the beginning of the incoming tide.

When you’re fishing in tight to the beach in less than 20 feet of water, use your electric trolling motor if you have one. It eliminates the engine sound a lot, and you’ll get more bites from the bigger, smarter fish. A lot of times I’m tarpon fishing along the beach on the troller and catch big kings in the same area.

Moon phase seems to be the biggest factor when the fish are feeding. When king mackerel fishing, I like to follow the solunar periods and target the fish so that I am in my best location when the moon is in a major period (directly above or below the earth).

Softer Bites

I don’t usually pull a downrigger in less than 35 feet of water, but if you’re up in Canaveral, you can troll ribbonfish on downriggers along the outside edge of the ship channel. The ship channel is about 40 feet deep, so set your downrigger depth at 30 feet. We get a lot of real nice kings doing that in August.

Kings act very particular in August. For instance, on the mullet you get a skyrocketing bite, whereas on the menhaden it’s a very soft bite. In fact, sometimes I even drop to a #6 treble hook on the trailer hook when using menhaden.

Set your drags light so that you have just enough drag pressure to bend the rod. You don’t want a tight drag because if the fish is foul-hooked in the skin, you tear the hook out. You want the fish to make its long initial run with minimal drag, then run up on the fish to get all your line back and gingerly work it to the surface. Be ready to gaff it immediately, because sometimes the fish come right up next to the boat after that first run. If you can sting it, take the shot.

What you notice about these fish is that their mouths are very sore. I’m not sure why, but it’s almost as if they put so much into egg production that their teeth almost start to fall out or get loose. It’s weird. I think that’s one of the reasons for the softer bites some days.

Tight Lines and Good Fishing,
Captain Rick Murphy