Kingfish can be caught from the surf to the Gulfstream as far as 80 miles offshore. Many are caught every year from the long fishing piers up and down the coast. The "king" fishermen on the piers are easy to spot - all the way on the end of the pier fishing with live bait such as bluefish or blue runners.
Fishing methods differ from South Florida to New England to Texas, and all of them seem to work. My favorite method is to slow troll a live menhaden shad (pogie) either on a downrigger or just free-lined. I usually have some of both. Ribbonfish are also great bait trolled, but they are harder to come by and take a lot of care. Specially made ribbonfish rigs allow the bait to be trolled much like any other offshore rigged bait.
The season for kings in South Florida is winter. Beginning in the spring, kings migrate up the east coast, and the tournament trails follow them closely. Like professional freshwater bass fishermen, there are many full time kingfish pros that follow the kingfish circuit.
Some of the tournaments coming up in the next months include the Greater Jacksonville Kingfish Tournament, the Southern Kingfish Association Trail, the U. S. Open Kingfish Tournament. All of the big tournaments are now practicing good conservation. Gone are the days where total aggregate weight won the tournament. And therefore gone are the days where thousands of fish came to the dock, many to be simply thrown away. Today, the largest fish wins, and there are restrictions on how many fish one boat can bring in to weigh.
Kingfish are great eating steaked or filleted until you get to fish over about 15 pounds. The heavy iodine and oil content make for a strong flavor on the bigger fish. So, most anglers will have the larger fish smoked, and I am here to tell you it is great! That is where we get the term "smoker" king, and that's the ones everyone is after!!