Keys to Catching Kingfish Near Tampa Bay

Bridget Krasowsky's Kingfish
Bridget Krasowsky’s Kingfish
Kingfish are one of the most desirable target fish in Tampa Bay and spring is the best time to catch them. As the water rises to a near-perfect temperature, these big traveling fish make it into the Bay on their way north. At Lands End Marina, members of our staff are experienced king fishermen and past tournament winners. Here are our tips for landing a 30-, 40-, or 50-pound king during your next trip out on the water.

Water Temp and Season

Kingfish move when the water warms up, and the window of opportunity opens when water temps are between 72 and 78 degrees. Warmer water means bait schools are moving north and the kings are following the bait.


The ideal trolling speed for kingfish is around two to just under four miles an hour. Trolling at different depths can help to find the zone that the fish are in. Baits can be trolled on the surface and spoons or diving plugs can be trolled to get deeper in the water column. Troll over structure or around the edges of bait schools. Add a stinger rig to your bait. A stinger rig consists of a short piece of wire with a hook buried in the back of a fresh or live bait. This is done to increase the hook up rate on short striking fish. Wire to the eye of the hook

Drifting or Anchoring

Even though kingfish are on the move, making their way north in the spring and south in the fall, it doesn’t mean they don’t pause along the way. Anchoring up or drifting over a reef and chumming heavily can be another productive way of catching kings. Here again vary the depths you present your baits at to find where the fish are hanging in the water column. Bait choices can include whitebait, mullet, small Spanish mackerel and blue runners. Don’t forget to add a flatline to your spread.

  • Use wire wisely. Kings have sharp teeth. Without a little wire in front of the hook you run the risk of being cut off. Too much wire and the fish will see the wire and may not hit the bait.
  • Big fish hit big baits. If you are after a Smoker and want to weed out the snakes try going to bigger bait.
[addthis tool="addthis_inline_share_toolbox_vm64"]