Catching Kingfish Off Cape Canaveral, Florida

When king mackerel swarm in the Atlantic off north-central Florida, sport fishermen can have a field day.

When king mackerel are, as anglers say in Australia, on the chew, those equipped with suitably light tackle can enjoy outstanding action. And on a day in early March out of Port Canaveral on Florida's north-central coast, we found the kings in good supply. Led by local charter captain Kyle Kosiba, Sport Fishing teamed up with Columbia Sportswear and SeaVee Boats on a 370Z powered by triple Yamaha 350s, with Eric Castillo at the helm. These images offer a timeline-based record of our kingfish day off Canaveral.

What it's all about - One in the boat and two hooked up. The waters off Cape Canaveral are prime feeding grounds for migrating schools of mackerel.

Catching Kingfish Off Cape Canaveral, Florida
Catching Kingfish Off Cape Canaveral, FloridaJon Whittle / Sport Fishing

5:40 a.m. - Ready to go. Our 37-foot SeaVee with Eric Castillo at the helm sits at Bluepoints Marina.

Catching Kingfish Off Cape Canaveral, Florida
Catching Kingfish Off Cape Canaveral, FloridaJon Whittle / Sport Fishing

6:50 a.m. - Bait stop. The cast net opens wide for Capt. Kyle Kosiba off Cocoa Beach.

Catching Kingfish Off Cape Canaveral, Florida
Catching Kingfish Off Cape Canaveral, FloridaDoug Olander / Sport Fishing

6:55 a.m. - Success: Though the small pogies (menhaden) weren't as thick here as they had been the day before, according to Kosiba, over a series of throws, we managed to sufficiently fill the generous transom-corner bait wells on the SeaVee.

Catching Kingfish Off Cape Canaveral, Florida
Catching Kingfish Off Cape Canaveral, FloridaDoug Olander / Sport Fishing

7:20 a.m. - A bait fit for a king: A small ribbonfish (cutlassfish) came up in the cast net. Cutlassfish make particularly tempting baits for king mackerel. Unfortunately for Kosiba, a more unwelcome animal also turned up in the net: a Portuguese man of war. By the time he realized that, the invisible tentacle threads had already done their work and he lived the rest of the day with aching hands.

Catching Kingfish Off Cape Canaveral, Florida
Catching Kingfish Off Cape Canaveral, FloridaDoug Olander / Sport Fishing

8:05 a.m. - Time to fish. Rodney Sahr, Columbia's Southeast Sales Rep, likes to fish two baits, both nose-hooked with small trebles on a wire trace.

Catching Kingfish Off Cape Canaveral, Florida
Catching Kingfish Off Cape Canaveral, FloridaDoug Olander / Sport Fishing

8:35 a.m. - After picking up a couple singles, four rods go off at once. One lost and three just about to the boat, with the best fish of the three going to SeaVee's John Caballero (far right).

Catching Kingfish Off Cape Canaveral, Florida
Catching Kingfish Off Cape Canaveral, FloridaDoug Olander / Sport Fishing

10:10 a.m. - Sahr deals with a feisty king, having caught several already.

Catching Kingfish Off Cape Canaveral, Florida
Catching Kingfish Off Cape Canaveral, FloridaDoug Olander / Sport Fishing

10:35 a.m. - Kosiba nails a nice king for Sport Fishing publisher Scott Salyers.

Catching Kingfish Off Cape Canaveral, Florida
Catching Kingfish Off Cape Canaveral, FloridaDoug Olander / Sport Fishing

10:40 a.m. - Kosiba puts Salyers' kingfish in pose mode. The skipper uses the two-hook treble rig, nose-hooking the pogy with the leading hook and putting one tine of the trailing hook into the pogy's back.

Catching Kingfish Off Cape Canaveral, Florida
Catching Kingfish Off Cape Canaveral, FloridaDoug Olander / Sport Fishing

10:50 a.m. - Sahr is on again, pulling a king into gaff range, as Salyers, in the port corner, cranks in a bait that was hit.

Catching Kingfish Off Cape Canaveral, Florida
Catching Kingfish Off Cape Canaveral, FloridaJon Whittle / Sport Fishing

10:52 a.m. - How is that even possible? How can a king slice through a menhaden as happened here, and manage to not get hooked? Happens all the time!

Catching Kingfish Off Cape Canaveral, Florida
Catching Kingfish Off Cape Canaveral, FloridaJon Whittle / Sport Fishing

11:15 a.m. - Brent Brauner, PFG marketing manager for Columbia, flew down from Oregon looking for fast fishing offshore, which he found, and for a peek at the sun, which on this afternoon didn't reveal itself.

Catching Kingfish Off Cape Canaveral, Florida
Catching Kingfish Off Cape Canaveral, FloridaJon Whittle / Jon Whittle

11:40 a.m. - The word is out. Well-known kingfish hangouts, like popular Pelican Flats, attract bait, kings and boats.

Catching Kingfish Off Cape Canaveral, Florida
Catching Kingfish Off Cape Canaveral, FloridaJon Whittle / Sport Fishing

12:10 p.m. - Good time to head farther north for some lonelier fishing grounds. Pushed by more than 1,000 horses, Castillo's SeaVee slices through the chop at a breathtaking pace.

Catching Kingfish Off Cape Canaveral, Florida
Catching Kingfish Off Cape Canaveral, FloridaJon Whittle / Sport Fishing

12:55 p.m. - It's not easy being a greenie - as threadfin herring are widely known. We got into big schools of these baitfish while moving between areas.

Catching Kingfish Off Cape Canaveral, Florida
Catching Kingfish Off Cape Canaveral, FloridaDoug Olander / Sport Fishing

1:25 p.m. - Hoping to smoke out the big kings we seek some bigger baits. We hadn't put anything more than 30 pounds or so on deck and Kosiba professed no doubt to 40- to 60-pound fish being about. We stopped to sabiki small bluefish (left) and blue runners (right).

Catching Kingfish Off Cape Canaveral, Florida
Catching Kingfish Off Cape Canaveral, FloridaDoug Olander / Sport Fishing

1:40 p.m. - And there's no better way to fish a live runner or bluefish than dangling it from a kite. Though kites haven't caught on this far north in Florida for kings in a big way, they certainly work as we proved on this day.

Catching Kingfish Off Cape Canaveral, Florida
Catching Kingfish Off Cape Canaveral, FloridaJon Whittle / Sport Fishing

2:30 p.m. - Big baits pay off. Not quite a smoker, but Salyers' king was well above the average size.

Catching Kingfish Off Cape Canaveral, Florida
Catching Kingfish Off Cape Canaveral, FloridaDoug Olander / Sport Fishing

3:15 p.m. - Last fish of the day, worth a smile for the author. Definitely not a trophy but on the tiny high-speed conventional reel with 20-pound braid, this fish took off on a screaming wahoo-like run and offered one of the more exciting fights of the day. Moral: Stick to light gear and max out the fun quotient on kingfish!

Catching Kingfish Off Cape Canaveral, Florida
Catching Kingfish Off Cape Canaveral, FloridaScott Salyers / Sport Fishing