Kingfish are scarce around North Florida. Just as happened last year, and upwelling, or cold-water thermocline invaded the area. Water temperatures that should be on the mid-eighties along the beaches are running in the low seventies. As a result, bait is scarce and fish are even scarcer (if that is a word I can use!).
North and south of Jacksonville, surf temperatures begin rising. Around Flagler Beach to the south and Cumberland Island to the north, they have climbed to the high seventies. Farther north and south, they are in the eighties, more normal for this time of year.
Normally, the big kings would be as close in as one mile from the beach in a spawning mode. Plentiful bait in the surf and warm water temperatures usually keep these fish in the area for the better part of July. Right now the water does not reach eighty degrees until you reach forty to forty-five miles offshore.
Unless the water warms quickly, which is now very unlikely, two things are going to happen. First, the winning fish will come from either far offshore from Jacksonville, or from 100 miles to the north or south. Second, because of the distances involved, anglers in smaller boats will be at a definite disadvantage. They cant run that far to find fish.
Entries to the tournament, billed as the largest fishing tournament in the United States, are well below the normal 1000 boats. Small boaters often watch the weather and the fishing forecast and sign up at the last minute. This year the cold water, lack of fish, and forecasted wind will keep many of them at the dock watching.
My prediction is that the winning fish will be brought in from the Cape Canaveral area, a 200 mile round trip. Time will tell, and I will update you all with more information as I receive it.