September is living up to its reputation as a transition month, especially when it comes to fishing.

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If there is ever a prime time to cast a line in the surf it’s now, particularly if youngsters will be fishing.

Why? Why, the royals, of course. Northern kingfish, the most delectable member of the drum family (which also includes weakfish, spot, and croakers besides the way, way bigger black and red drum members), are ruling the suds. Nothing complicated to it, no fancy high-end tackle needed, and a variety of baits will work.

TSM Tom P.
TSM Tom P.

Ah, the best part: they are some of the finest eating fish to be caught along the Jersey beaches. Sure, some are caught in bays, especially when a chum trail is being laid out to attract blowfish (a 50-50 tie when it comes to frying pan results), but for the most part, they are found in the surf during both high and low tides, it only being a matter of locating a slough or break and then lobbing a baited hi-lo rig in it. Usually, a one or two-ounce sinker will suffice. This is in-close angling, with no need to launch long casts. Oftentimes the kings are caught with 15-20 yards from the casting point, and every now and then even closer.

Bait? Small pieces of clam, blood worm, or squid work great. Being one to avoid the mess, I opt for Fishbites, an artificial bait billed as the Blood Worm Alternative. Merely snip off an inch-long piece and thread it on the hook. No slime or stink involved, and the kings are crazy for it.

TSM Tom P.
TSM Tom P.

Opines Billy Wiggins, owner of Fin-Atics Marine Supply in Ocean City, ground zero for royal rowdiness in the surf, “Kingfish are the quintessence of family fishing fun at the shore, especially during September. The water is still warm, the beaches are pretty much empty, and the fish are plentiful and easy to catch. That’s a big plus in getting the kids interested and wanting to keep them fishing. And the kings taste great!”

From Cape May up to Barnegat Light, it’s kingfish crazy in the suds. There is no minimum length limit (most of the royals caught will be between 8-12 inches) and no possession limit.

Oh, and remember, we’re all kids when it comes to kingfish.

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