How to Catch Kingfish with Capt. Don Dingman

Want to learn how to catch king mackerel (also called kingfish) like a pro angler? Well, you’re in luck. Captain Don Dingman of Salt Life’s pro fishing team stopped by for a master class on the art of catching kingfish. He detailed everything from bait and tackle to the best way to fight kingfish. Here’s what we learned in our sit down with Captain Don.

Bait and Tackle

You can use a wide range of live bait to catch kingfish including blue runners, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, cigar minnows, and ribbonfish, just to name a few. Captain Don is partial to pogies, which he likes to catch fresh.


To catch pogies, you need a heavy casting net that will sink fast. The last thing you want is to be sitting on a pool of pogies and lose them all because your net was too slow to sink. You can also catch other live kingfish bait like cigar minnows and bluerunners. For cigar minnows, you want size #4 or #6. For bigger baits like bluerunners, you are better off with a #2 sabiki.


When you are rigging your live bait for kingfish action, you want to use a stinger hook for pogies. The first hook should go through the bottom of the mouth and then through the top nostril. This will close its mouth, giving the impression that it’s swimming naturally through the water. The second hook should be lower on the body. This will ensure a hook up as kingfish often strike the back half of the bait.


There are also plenty of artificial bait and tackle options for catching kingfish. One of the best artificial setups is a no. 4 Drone spoon behind a trolling planer. This is the preferred setup by commercial fishermen who put plenty of kingfish in the boat. The planer will sink below the surface and the spoon will rattle when a kingfish bites, letting you know you’ve got action on the line.


Other artificial bait and tackle for catching kingfish include Mirr-O-Lure diving plugs and colorful King Busters that will hide your hook. Kingfish are very toothy critters with a strong bite, so make sure to rig these lighter baits with strong wire that the kingfish can’t easily bite through.

Be Ready for the Fight

Oftentimes, kingfish will hit your bait twice, hooking on either go. This can make it challenging to know where the hook set will be, so you always have to be ready for whatever fight the kingfish might offer.


Kingfish tend to take swipes at your bait rather than biting it whole. Your catch might only be loosely hooked by your tail hook. Light drags are a must when Kingfishing. If your drag is too tight, you can pull the hook very easily. Captain Don uses 20 - 30 lb. main lines on a fast-retrieve reel, with a really light drag that he can pull with just two fingers. He approaches every kingfish fight as if he was using the lightest of tackle, exercising extreme caution until he can see the fish and where the hook is set.


Kingfish dart all over the water when they are hooked, offering a tremendously exciting fight. For this reason, it’s best to fight kingfish on the bow of your boat. Fighting kingfish on the stern can cause your catch to dart into the engines. It’s best to reel your catch in as close as possible to your boat and have someone on your team ready to spear it with the gaff.

Hit the Perimeter 

Kingfish travel in schools so if you find that the kingfish aren’t biting as much as they did in the morning, don’t give up on your spot. The bite may have slowed due to the current or the spot becoming more populated with other anglers. The fish are still there but they have likely moved out to the perimeter of the area, so readjust your position and keep putting kingfish in the boat.

Ready to Catch Kingfish?

When you feel called out to the water for some kingfish action, Salt Life has you covered with a full line of fishing shirts, hats, swimwear, and ocean-ready sunglasses. Whatever you Salt Life might look like, and no matter where it takes you, Salt Life has the gear to get you there.


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