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Tips & Tactics: Kings of the South

Grant’s kingfish flies – Grant Gisondo photo

Grant on his 28-footer

Information!

SIDEBAR: Grant Gisondo grew up on the beaches and bays of Long Island, New York where year round boating, fishing and surfing captured his soul and made him a lifelong saltwater sport fisherman and conservationist. Grant’s relocating to South Florida for college was no fluke. South Florida offered year round, big fish fishing and boating that matched Grant’s avocations. When it came decision time after graduating – he was staying put and planned out his professional career and became a lawyer practicing in West Palm Beach, Florida. Today, when Grant is not in court he is either offshore fishing, on the beach with a fly rod or cruising with his wife Nicole on their 28-foot center console named M’Ocean Grant’D.

By Grant Gisondo.

Capt. Dino with a nice king – Only On A fly photo

In Southeast Florida, there’s something about a spring morning that fisherman just love. The cold fronts have passed, the wind has settled and the Atlantic Ocean in South Florida turns from cobalt blue to turquoise. Spring and summer for some means working in the garden or spending afternoons in the park, but for me spring means kingfish. On a typical day I clear Jupiter Inlet at 7:00AM – heading southeast on calm spring or morning. The sun and temperature rise slowly and burn the dew from M’Ocean Grant’D, my 28-foot center console. I pull back the throttles in 100-feet of water – not far from Juno Pier. The Garmin sounder immediately turns red with blobs of fish 70-feet below. They’re home, I say to myself.

Setting Up

I set up a slow drift, reach for my favorite 9-weight matched with a Sea Level Extreme reel and a full sinking line, make a short cast up current and pull out about 70-feet of line and patiently wait for the fly to sink. As soon as my line comes taught against the current, I begin a fast single-handed retrieve. Wham, the line peels through my hands as I dance around deck clearing the line from my stripping basket – the reel screams and the fish makes a run towards Bimini. Fifteen minutes later, a 14-pound Kingfish is released.

How to

My friend Andy with a nice king - Only On A fly photo

To me, this type of fly fishing is addictive, but it does not require expert level fly fishing skills. In fact, you don’t even need to be a proficient fly caster to catch plenty of fish. Here’s what you need in the way of equipment. I highly recommend using a 9- up to 12-weight fly rods and it is an absolute must that you own a high quality fly reel that has a smooth, strong drag. Kings can literally make your reel smoke. Their power and speed are unbelievable – thus they’re called “smoker kings.” Typically, I carry two rods, a 9- and a 10-weight which serves two needs. I have a back up in case a rod breaks and if the size of the fish schools change, I’m ready. I also recommend full, fast sinking fly line matched to the weight of the fly rod. This will help keep your fly in the strike zone. Intermediate lines, although great for surf casting, do not sink fast enough with a drifting boat to keep your fly in the target zone of 50-80 feet.

Go Big For Kings

Another nice king -  Only On A fly photo

Big flies I’ve found that kingfish prefer flies from 6- to 8-inches long. I prefer to tie my own kingfish flies and use Super Hair tied on Eagle Claw 254 SS 3/0 hooks. The most productive colors are pink and white, chartreuse and white, and all white. The flies need some flash, but less is better than more.

Two trademarks of a good kingfish fly are large dome eyes and solid epoxy heads which aid in getting the fly to sink quickly. I’d be happy to get you started with the right flies – go to my website and check out the kingfish flies (www.moceangratdfishing.yolasite.com). A must for the boat I highly recommend using some type of a stripping basket. There are many on the market, but they’re so simple to make that I built my own. Keeping your fly line neatly contained will greatly decrease the chances of a fast moving fly line wrapping around a cleat or your feet. It still happens, but much less since I made a stripping basket a must for every trip.

Leaders

A bonus catch, an albie - Only On A fly photo

The leader is also a simple setup; starting with 6-inches of 50-pound mono with a loop, tie about 5-feet of fluorocarbon in anywhere from 20- to 40-pound test to the mono loop using an Improved Clinch Knot (some captains prefer a loop to loop connection), then tie the fluorocarbon to an 80-pound test swivel using an Improved Clinch Knot – followed by 6- to 8-inches of either #4 to #6 coffee colored stainless steel wire bite guard (#4 wire is rated at around 38-pound test and #6 at around 59-pounds). The wire and is tied to the swivel with a Haywire Twist and the fly is also attached to the wire using a Haywire Twist. Kingfish have razor sharp teeth so the wire tippet is an essential ingredient. If I’m alone on the boat I find that with a 6-foot leader, as compared to say a 9-foot leader, makes landing fish much easier.

The Cast

Typically, I cast about 20- to 30-feet up current and peel out 80- or 100-feet of line. Once the line becomes taught against the drifting boat, I begin my retrieve. You’ll need to find out at what speed the fish will strike. It won’t be the same everyday – so vary your retrieves when you begin each outing, try single handed retrieves and two-handed retrieves until you discover the speed the fish will strike at. Kingfish are found in a very wide area on both coasts of Florida and all the way down to Key West.

My friend Martin’s first ever king on a fly – Gisondo photo

Where I Fish

Off of Jupiter and Palm Beach where I always fish, I begin my drifts from 150-feet of water through 70-feet of water, but tend to spend most of my time in about 90- to 100-feet of water. Some captains like to run their boats over the target areas and wait for activity, however I prefer to find a spot that has a decent current, clean water to start my chum aided drift. In the depths previously mentioned, you’re not only likely to find kingfish, but also albie’s, tuna, dolphin and wahoo.

Spot On

Two of my favorite locations are directly off of Juno Pier and out front of the world famous Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach. King fishing is a great way for newcomers and seasoned fly anglers alike to have a lot of fun and get into some reel screaming action. I truly hope that this spring and summer you have a chance to enjoy some South Florida’s great game fish fisheries.

Information!

Hi speed chase – a bonus hookup with a dolphinfish – Dave Henry photo 

Best Bet Captains

Here’s four of the best offshore fly fishing captains in the Palm Beach area: Capt. Dino  www.onlyonafly.com); Capt. Scott Hamilton (www.flyfishingextremes.com); Capt. Ron Doerr (561) 512-5560 / www.captainronbiteme.com); and Capt Steve Anderson (561) 602-2371) andsteve1@bellsouth.net). If you have general questions about  fly Fishing for kingfish, you can contact Grant at moceangrantd@gmail.com

You can contact Grant through his website  www.moceangrantdfishing.yolasite.com or email him at (moceangrantd@gmail.com).

BON APPETITE

Maligned for their oiliness and being too fishy, mackerels can easily overcome a reluctant diner with this simple Jack Jones recipe.

1 cup Bisquick

cup cornmeal

1 tsp. salt

.tsp. pepper

6 ounces beer

2 lbs fish fillets

Oil (for frying)

Cayenne powder to taste

Fresh lemon to taste

Note: Cut fillets so that they’re not over 1 1/2-inches thick.

NOTE: The thinner filets will be better tasting.

Heat oil to 375 degrees F.

Combine dry ingredients > add

beer to get a sticky consistency for dipping.

Salt fish > dip in batter > Deep fry until fish is golden brown.

The crust will be light and fluffy.

–S.C.

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