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Kingfish Surf Fishing: Know the Basics

Kingfish love the deep, ocean water. But that doesn’t mean you can’t catching kingfish surf fishing. Read this article to discover how to lure a kingfish out of the deep blue, into the shallows, and onto your dinner plate. 

The beautiful Kingfish, which also goes by the name of King Mackerel (in Northern America anyway), is a popular fish amongst fishermen. The King Mackerel, or the Kingfish, can be found in abundance in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. They can reach a size of 72 inches (180cm) and are a decent catch to enjoy a meal. Not only do they reach a generous size, but they are relatively easy to prepare, cook, and enjoy as well. 

Author Note: Kingfish are not known to be the easiest fish to catch from the shore, but, you will find it less challenging with the right gear. And by gear, we mean the right bait, rod, and line.

But remember- before you go out to catch your dinner, every area will have their own local laws regarding fishing, what fish you are permitted to catch, how many you may catch, and the minimum size. These laws are there to protect the species so that we may enjoy them for years to come- so be sure that you respect them. 

Let’s begin with the gear…

Rods for Catching Kingfish Surf Fishing

Your rod should be a medium-heavy surf fishing rod and at least 7 ft in length. Having this type of rod will enable you to catch and reel in the larger, more mature Kingfish from the shore without being concerned about putting too much strain on the rod.

Don’t be afraid to put more than one rod out for catching Kingfish in the surf- you’ll have a higher chance of success if you have multiple rods. 

Quick Tip: What does a medium to heavy rod mean? All this means there is the amount of bend your rod goes through when reeling in a fish. Lighter rods will bend more, and potentially snap if the rod is too light. 

Reel for Catching Kingfish Surf Fishing

Huge Wahoo fish

You can use a conventional reel for your Kingfish fishing. The trick is to seek out a reel that is specifically made for saltwater fishing.

To minimize the chances of breaking your line, your reel should be able to hold 250 yards of line (at least). Ensure that you tighten the screw on the reel so that it doesn’t come loose when you’re reeling in the catch of a lifetime! 

Alternatively, a saltwater spinning reel or surf fishing reel can be used. However, bear in mind that a spinning reel does have a higher chance of breaking (this is primarily due to the fact that it has more moving parts, and therefore more potential for damage). 

Line for Catching Kingfish Surf Fishing

Although we already touched on the line in the above paragraph, we’d like to give you some extra information on what type of line you should use. So, you already know that your line should be at least 250 yards long when fishing for Kingfish off the shore. The line should also have a 20 pound weight test (at least).

This weight will be (or should be, at least) listed on the line packaging. If you are buying online, the item description should contain this information as well. The weight listed refers to the amount of weight the line can hold before it begins to strain and more than likely snap.

Author Note: The average Kingfish weighs between 20 and 25 pounds, so you should aim for a line that is at least 20 pounds, but preferably a little bit higher. You want to support the fish that you catch, and you most probably want to catch a big one too.

At this point, your reel should be attached to your rod, so spooling the line onto the reel is one of the final steps before you are ready to cast into the sea from the shore. If you prefer, you can use a heavier line- but it is good to keep your line weight similar to the fish you are targeting. 

Many people are concerned about whether they should be using the braided or the mono fishing line. When fishing for Kingfish from the shore, either line type will do- you choose!

Hooks for Catching Kingfish from the Shore

kingfish close up

Your hook of choice should be a 2-hook leader. Attach your hook to the end of your line, and a leader should be used as well. We like using a barbed single hook for Kingfish.

What is a Leader?

A leader is essential for success and should be a length of wire that can be useful for securing your bait and your hook together. A leader is useful as it can be effective for preventing the fish from breaking the line. 

How to Choose a Kingfish Leader

The leader is a nylon braided line that should be able to carry enough weight to prevent snapping. The line should have a weight test of around 45 pounds, and this should be able to bear the weight of the fish you want to catch. We recommend using a dedicated Kingfish rig. Check out our article on how to make Kingfish rigs for more info.

You should prepare the leader by cutting it to a length of 3 feet. After cutting the braided nylon leader, you should tie a J shaped hook onto the leader’s end. Once you have done that, you can then measure a 4-inch long section of wire and attach one J – shaped hook onto it. The leader can then be tied to the main fishing line. 

Quick Tip: The Kingfish is known for excellent eyesight and can detect the glinting metallic under the water- so avoid leaders that are metallic and therefore will have a shiny finish that may keep the Kingfish at bay. This is also true when fishing for kingfish from a pier

Bait for Catching Kingfish Surf Fishing

several kingfish on the beach

Although it could be disputed, live bait is the most effective for catching yourself a Kingfish. Kingfish are predators as well and enjoy baitfish like sardines or even grunt. Using these types of fish as live bait, you can enhance your chances of landing a kingfish while surf fishing. Check out our guide on how to hook mullet to see how you can rig them.

How Big Should My Live Bait Be? 

Your live bait should be about 6 inches long- the bigger your bait, the bigger the fish you can attract. When you are standing on the shore trying to catch a kingfish with live bait, preparation is the biggest key to your success.

Therefore you should keep a live well close at hand and make sure it has baitfish in it ready to be used as replacements in case you need them. 

Where Do I Get Live Bait Fish From?

Well, the sea is full of live baitfish! You can either catch them yourself in a baitfish trap or you can make your life a little easier by buying baitfish from a tackle store. 

Quick Tip: Do you prefer fishing with lures? Then you should use artificial spoons about 6 inches in size or artificial ribbon fish to attract the Kingfish. 

Find Your Ideal Timing

When fishing for King Mackerel or Kingfish, the best times of the year are between June and October. This is because the Kingfish becomes more active as the water begins to warm up. The Gulf of Mexico typically begins to get warmer in the middle of June, so this is a great time to fish for Kingfish from the Gulf of Mexico’s surf. 

What Time of the Day Should I Fish for Kingfish?

giant kingfish caught on boat

Kingfish are known to be active throughout the day, and so you can enjoy your fishing at most times of the day. Or, you can spend the whole day, from sunup to sundown, enjoying your time fishing for Kingfish on the shore. 

How to Find the Ideal Spot

If you are in a new area or on holiday, you will have to do some research. This can be done online, or you can be a bit more personal and chat with the surrounding locals.

Fishing tackle stores are generally the best place to get first-hand information about fishing spots and trends. Similarly, if you know anyone living in or near the area that you want to catch Kingfish, you should ask them for tips. 

Quick Tip: Scan the sea for groups of boats that have assembled in one specific area. This might be because they have stumbled upon a fishing hotspot!

Use Sonar Tools for Fishing in the Surf

Don’t be afraid of technology- embrace it instead. Sonar devices are ideal for surf fishing as they can detect activity and structures hidden from sight above the water. They can also help you to locate schools of fish underwater where your natural sight can’t reach.

Fishing for Kingfish from the shore can be tricky, especially because they prefer open water. Use your sonar device to locate these beautiful fish out in the deep, open water. The sonar can be your underwater vision here, and you can use it to get familiar with the sandy floor deep beneath you.

The ocean floor layout can be useful because you can spot any structures such as reefs or underwater shelves. These are the type of structures where it is common to find Kingfish because their favorite food, the type of baitfish you should be using, will generally live in these types of areas.

And where there’s a natural food source in the form of baitfish, there will most likely be a large school of Kingfish nearby. 

Where to Get Sonar Devices for Surf Fishing

Buying a sonar device for fishing has never been easier. Whether you look at a local store or buy online, it is easy to find fish finders. Just be aware of larger surf as the waves could damage your sonar device (among other things) if not navigated correctly. 

Quick Tip: Seabirds share a similar palette to the Kingfish, so where there are sea birds finding prey, you’d most likely find a kingfish not too far off. If seabirds are circling over a particular area in the sea, they could be giving you inside information on where you could hook a Kingfish. 


We hope you found this article on kingfish surf fishing useful and informative. Looking for more tips on the best Kingfish lures? Check out our best lures for Kingfish guide. If you end up catching a massive kingfish using some of our tips, let us know about it in the comments below.

Happy Hunting!


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