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ABOVE: Capt. Chris Lemieux holds a 43-pound kingfish that was caught kite-fishing with live bait.
BELOW: Lemieux also uses bonita strips as kingfish bait. Photos by Steve Waters/The Coastal Star

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By Steve Waters

Late spring and early summer are when big kingfish can be caught off Palm Beach County, and boaters don’t have to travel very far or use fancy, expensive tackle to land a king mackerel. In last month’s Lantana Fishing Derby, the biggest fish of the tournament was a 40-pound, 8-ounce kingfish. The second- and third-biggest fish were kings of 34.25 and 31 pounds.

Capt. Chris Lemieux of Boynton Beach has had great success catching kingfish this time of year by trolling strips of bonito behind his 27-foot center-console boat.

“Generally we get the spring run right now and catch a lot of kingfish,” Lemieux said. “June and July are good, then it’ll kind of slow down and pick back up in August or September.”

Fishing on a sunny afternoon in 90-110 feet of greenish water just south of Boynton Beach Inlet, the charter missed a couple of kings before an 8-pounder made it into the boat.

That was followed by a kingfish doubleheader of a 10-pounder and a 13-pounder for Lemieux’s customers.

His anglers also caught four bonitos, which are members of the tuna family that don’t taste anywhere near as good as their relatives. The hard-fighting fish are a challenge to land, and as one angler labored to reel in his third bonito, Lemieux joked, “Are you trying to let that fish get bigger?”

Lemieux kept those bonitos to fashion future strips, which consist of a thin layer of meat on the fish’s shiny skin cut into the streamlined shape of a baitfish. Fished in combination with a flashy, feathery lure known as a Sea Witch, bonito strips are especially effective this time of year.

He fished the strips behind planers on heavy two-speed conventional outfits spooled with 80-pound braided line that were trolled from rod-holders on each side of the stern.
“You catch them this time of year on the planer, the smaller ones,” said Lemieux, a Boynton Beach firefighter who on his days off runs trips for Lemieux Fishing Charters (www.lemieuxfishingcharters.com). “I’ve caught kingfish on planers everywhere.”

The charter anglers fish for everything from snapper, tuna and dolphin to sailfish, sharks and swordfish.

Lemieux rigs a bonito strip on an 8/0 long-shank J hook. He slides a Sea Witch down the leader so it rests atop the strip, giving it the appearance of a flying fish or other baitfish.

On this day, Lemieux used a blue-and-white Sea Witch and a pink one. Both colors were effective.

Another proven kingfish tactic is to fish live baits from a fishing kite. The kite flies behind the boat and baited lines are attached to clips on the line attached to the kite. That gets the baits away from the boat and allows them to splash on the surface to attract attention from kingfish as well as sailfish and tunas.

Lemieux put up a fishing kite with three lines baited with live goggle-eyes. He also put out three flat-line live baits on spinning outfits.

Things got interesting when the kite bait closest to the boat got whacked by what turned out to be a 43-pound kingfish. Moments later, a huge bonito took off with a flat-line bait.

Fortunately, the two fish did not tangle the lines.

The big king dumped a bunch of line, but Lemieux chased it down, gaffed it and lifted it into the boat. After that kingfish and the bonito, his exhausted anglers called it quits.

Tournament results
The Lantana Fishing Derby was held May 4, with the 45-boat fleet weighing in at the Old Key Lime House dock. Cash prizes of $1,250, $750 and $500 were awarded for the first-, second- and third-heaviest kingfish, dolphin and wahoo. Fishing on the boat One N’ Done, Raymond Devine caught the biggest kingfish at 40.5 pounds. Mike Minia on Chasin’ Shade was second at 34.25 and Jimmy Berry of Cat-Ching was third at 31.

Mike Genovese had the biggest dolphin at 20.5 pounds. Matthew Mejeur of Dutch Babay was second with a 19-pounder and William Gerlach of No Patients was third at 15.5.

David Trigg of Loose Trigger caught the biggest wahoo at 17 pounds, 2 ounces. Robert Purdy of Slots Matter was second at 12-2. No other wahoo were weighed, so the $500 prize went to Jimmy Berry of Cat-Ching in a random drawing.

Outdoors writer Steve Waters can be reached at steve33324@aol.com.

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