Palm Beach Post Article by Willie Howard Published in the Palm Beach Post
Tom Cat Charter Catches Prey
A search for kingfish leads three anglers to deep-sea surprises.
'TEQUESTA - Charter captain Tom Schwier has fished the ocean off Palm Beach County for seven years, long enough to know that when the thermometer is pushing 90 degrees in early June and only a few clouds are blocking the sun, it's smart to fish early or late and hide from the heat during the middle of the day.
He had no luck earlier in the day finding live bait, so the three anglers fished with simple drift-boat rigs - dead sardines on triple 7/0 hooks tied to 80-pound-test monofilament leader with quarter-and eighth-ounce egg sinkers above the hooks.
As most people were driving home from work, Schwier and his friends were just beginning their fishing trip. After Schwier stopped the boat in 130 feet south of Jupiter Inlet, the three anglers pitched sardines and watched them disappear into murky water. The spot looked promising because a kingfish went airborne near the boat just before the three friends started fishing. But reality set in quickly. Within five minutes, they pulled up two bonitos and two large blue runners and lost another fish to a shark that whipped up a patch of white water when it struck the hooked fish near the surface.
"Let's make a move" Schwier said, firing up the engine. After clearing the lines} we ran south and stopped in 95 feet just north of the Juno Beach Pier. Sardines went over, and within five minutes, two kingfish in the 10- to IS-pound range were in the fish box. As the three men fished, they watched flying fish break the surface and rise quickly 6 feet above the waves before making banked turns and gliding over the waves beside the boat. The north-flowing
Several more kingfish took the triple-hooked sardines on two more drifts before dark. When a shark took one of the baits, Watson fought it for three to four minutes before deciding it wasn't a cobia. He tightened the drag, plucked the taut line like a guitar string and let the powerful pull of the beast below break the line. Schwier brought the next kingfish to the boat quickly, realizing that a shark might be lurking below.
"You can't fight them too long," Schwier said of the kings, which he fights with a somewhat tight drag. During the final drift, just after sunset, the western sky turned burnt orange, and the boat stereo blurted our Jimmy Hendrix's Purple Haze. "It's the magic hour," Schwier said as Gills and Watson fought a double header. Just after dark, as we were preparing to secure the lines for the ride back to Jupiter Inlet, Watson hooked a fish that jumped near the boat reveal its identity, a sailfish. After several jumps in the dark, Watson brought the sailfish alongside the Tom Cat. Here the hooks were removed, he and Schwier held the sailfish for a few seconds for photos before returning it to the water.
The waters off Jupiter have had kingfish since last month. The kingfish divisions of several spring tournaments were won with chubby kings taken on live bait in the waters from
Where to fish: Kingfish have been scattered along the coasts of
When to fish: The low-light hours of the early morning and late afternoon tend to produce the most kingfish bites.
Fishing methods: Dead sardines woven onto triple hooks tied to 50- to 80pound-test leader work for kingfish. Some anglers use lighter leader when the water is clear, but doing so risks having leaders severed by toothy kingfish. Live blue runners and goggle-eyes are often used to catch larger kingfish in tournaments.
As live bait becomes more plentiful this summer, try sardines or greenies (threadfin herring) on live bait hooks rigged with 4 to 6 inches of fishing wire for smaller kingfish that make good table fare.
Limits: -Minimum size 24 inches to the fork of the tail.
Daily bag limit two kingfish.
Safety: Keep hands and feet away from the mouths of toothy kingfish. If kingfish are going to be kept for food, handle them with a gaft and put them on ice as soon as possible.
Mercury warnings: Because of the possibility that the meat contains the toxic metal mercury, the Florida Department of Health recommends no consumption of kingfish larger than 31 'ool1es-aml-recom mends-ttli healthy adults eat kingfish only once a month. Young children and women of childbearing age should not eat kingfish, according to the Department of Health.
How to cook a kingfish:Try cleaning kingfish carefully to remove most of the dark bloodline, then soak the meat overnight in a brine solution, keeping it cold. Remove it from the brine solution and let it dry in the refrigerator. Smoke the meat, skin side down, on a smoker or grill using wet wood chips.
Bill Watson of
Tom Schwier: Schwier leads offshore fishing trips for up to six anglers aboard his 34-foot Sea Vee, the Tom Cat, based at Blowing Rocks Marina in Tequesta. Call Schwier at (561) 262-2301 or go to www.tomcatfishing.com.