Chasing the king

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  • Brad Reese set a new Nassau Sport Fishing Association club record with this 37.12-pound kingfish. SPECIAL PHOTO
    Brad Reese set a new Nassau Sport Fishing Association club record with this 37.12-pound kingfish. SPECIAL PHOTO
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“Prior to the kingfish tournament, Brad Reese and I were catching tournament-size pogies off the beaches of Amelia Island, but during the tournament day, all we could come up with were small pogies,” Mitch Fields said. “Luckily, we had some good-size ribbonfish on board, and that’s what we used to catch our largest king, which was a little shy of a tournament winner.”

Just a few days before the inaugural Old School Kingfish Tournament was held, both Fields and Reese teamed up for a 37.12-pound kingfish while kin fishing off from the St. Marys inlet. Reese landed the smoker kingfish, which after being weighed in, set a new Nassau Sport Fishing Association club record for kingfish.

“The day Brad landed that big kingfish, we had located plenty of tournament-size pogies along the beaches of Amelia Island,” Fields said. “I believe the larger bait fish were holding the big kings in close to the beaches and inlets. However, when the big pogies moved, so did the big kingfish.”

More than 600 kingfish teams entered Saturday’s Old School Kingfish Tournament, which was held from the ancient city of St. Augustine. The tournament format limited kingfish teams in their fishing waters, which included a north boundary of the St. Marys inlet and Ponce inlet as a southern boundary. Teams were also limited to fishing within three miles from the beaches.

Kingfish teams could also drive their kingfish catch to the St. Augustine weigh-in by vehicle or by boat. There was also no check-out, and fishing teams could leave from a multitude of Northeast Florida inlets within tournament waters.

Riley Casey’s team, Polar Beer, weighed in the largest kingfish of the event at 43.26 pounds. The first-place prize included a 21-foot Yellowfin bay boat powered by a 200-hp Yamaha outboard and Ameri Trail boat trailer valued at $85,000.

Lady angler honors went to Forest Chapman’s  team, Cuttin’ it Close, with a 34.58-pound kingfish. Junior angler honors went to J.D. Capo and team Reel Pleasures with a 36.4-pound kingfish. For all the tournament results, go to www.oldschoolkingfish.com.

During past kingfish seasons, more tournament-size kingfish have been landed while fishing far offshore waters, where large kingfish boats powered by multiple outboards definitely had the upper hand.

If you happened to fish in the first Greater Jacksonville Kingfish Tournament, there were a thousand boats, most powered by one outboard, and many of the winning kingfish were caught close to shore.

Through the years, the number of boats entering the Greater Jacksonville Kingfish Tournament has decreased because the smaller boats had a definite disadvantage. Even though a small boat division was introduced, the largest kingfish weighed in by any size fishing boat grabbed the top prize.

I wouldn’t be surprised if more Northeast Florida kingfish tournaments would take in this same format and limit kingfish waters.

The 40th annual Greater Jacksonville Kingfish Tournament will be held July 13-18. The event will open with a special tournament for all the past winners on July 13. The general tournament will be held July 16-17, with a redfish tournament on July 18 and awards to follow. For information, visit www.kingfishtournament.com.

The Fernandina Beach Kingfish Tournament will be held Aug. 1. Visit www.nsfafish.net for updated information.

Kingfishing has been on and off recently with the frequent changes in weather and bait fish migrations. However, when there is a light west wind and clean ocean waters, kingfishing just doesn’t get any better.

Tarpon have also been schooling at the St. Marys inlet during the last of the incoming tide. Fishing dead on the bottom with live mullet, croaker or menhaden is key.

Big schools of redfish have also been showing up in the backwaters during the first of the falling tide and right down to low water. Big sea trout are being caught with topwater plugs during the flooding tide in the intracoastal waterway and Cumberland Sound. Good fishing.