Fishing for Kingfish

Kingfish are often biting when nothing else is. Some people refer to them as the panfish of the Atlantic Surf but Kingfish may also be caught in coastal bays and estuaries..

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Other common names : whiting,sea mullet, sand mullet

The kingfish is a relatively small fish with an average length of 10 to 15 inches although it can sometimes grow to 18 inches. It has a small down turned mouth with small chin barbel. There is a long spine which projects from the front of the dorsal fin.

Although there is no size or creel limit currently for Kingfish, I don't keep any fish smaller than 10 inches. There are two species of Kingfish, the Northern and Southern. They are very similar in appearance and their territories overlap.

Southern Kingfish

Menticirrhus americanus

The Southern kingfish is silvery in color with bars absent or light and indistinct.

The Southern species ranges in the Atlantic from Southern New England to Florida.

Northern Kingfish

Menticirrhus saxatilis

The Northern Kingfish can be differentiated from the Southern species by it's is darker coloration as well as it's pronounced bar or stripe markings. They can be found in the Atlantic Ocean from Maine to Florida and the Gulf of Mexico.

Kingfish are most often are caught in the surf on the rising tide particulary when the sun is low on the horizon or it is overcast. Under these conditions they may well be feeding surprisingly close to the shore, well within range of even the shortest freshwater rod.

They are bottom feeders that feed on aquatic worms, small fish, baby clams, sand fleas and other crustaceans. They tend to school so if you catch one then you will likely catch several others in the same place. Fishing is generally good from April through October.

The best baits for these fish are bloodworms,small pieces of squid or clams, if the water temperature is above 60 degrees you might consider Fishbites Artificial Bloodworms which don't need to be be refrigerated. Their small mouths dictate the use of small hooks, size 6 is perhaps the most popular size hook used but 8's will work as well.

Line weights of 10 to 15 pounds are about ideal for these fish in the surf but you will still can catch them even if your reel is spooled with a heavier 20 pound line.
Within coastal bays lighter lines can be used to increase casting distances.

Cooking Kingfish

Kingfish have a delicate white meat that is very good, pan fried of baked. They can be cooked whole or filleted. Any cooking method that works for trout will work fine for kingfish.