- Seriola lalandi lalandi
Perhaps the most sought after species for NSW AKFF'ers - the Yellowtail Kingfish reigns supreme in terms of fighting characteristics of any of the species that inhabit the kayak-accessible temperate waters of Australia.
Fish commonly range in size from 50cm up to giants of 100+, in NSW legal kingfish can be taken from 65cm's (recently increased by Fisheries from the previous minimum length of 60cm). Smaller fish, often referred to as 'Rats' still prove great fun (especially on light tackle).
See below for techniques
Although sometimes found in schools feeding on the surface, Kings are generally a structure orientated species. Like most predators they need to be where the food is, and that is normally around structure. Great places to look include rocky headlands, reefs and man-made structures such as navigation buoys. All these places are easily accessible via kayak. It is not uncommon to be fishing these places in the vicinity of other boats and see 6 or 7 rods buckle over (on various craft) when a school comes through.
Kingfish are an aggressive fish that will take most baits however some baits are better then others. Squid would have to be the number one Kingy bait closely followed by live Slimy Mackerel and Yellowtail. The key to Squid is to make sure it is fresh. Even when Kings are shutdown to almost all baits a nice juicy piece of fresh Squid seems to get them going.
Squid can be used several ways:
- Freshly dead
- Cut into strips and large head section
All these baits are effective trolled or used as a set bait. However it is important to remember that a King is more likely to come up to a bait then go down to one, so when setting your bait depth (regardless of if with downrigger, paravane, or set bait) it is better to be too shallow than too deep.
One left-of-field tip from leftieant: Intact squid ink sacks are considered to be excellent bait for feeding kingfish. Apparently you lower them down nice & gentle, give it a solid jag to break the ink sack, and hold on! The kingfish see the ink as a sign of a squid in distress, and charge in for an easy feed.
Kingfish are DIRTY fighters (but a whole lot of fun). Pound for pound they would have to be one of the strongest fish in the sea. It is not uncommon to be busted up on 10kg line by a fish that may only weight 2kg. Don't laugh it'll happen to you one day. These fish will attempt to rub you off on any obstacle within its range. Even when you think you have them beaten they pull an extra 50% from somewhere and give you a smoking.
It is important when fishing heavier line from a kayak not to have your rod perpendicular out the side of the yak. It would be quite easy to get tipped out the side of your yak when using much more than 10kg line. The best approach is to try to keep your rod tip pointing toward the bow of the yak and then you can't get yourself into difficulty and can place maximum leverage on the fish - trust me you'll need it.
When Gatesy bait fishes for Kings from a yak he normally uses a 15kg rod and reel combo loaded with 17kg braid. His theory is that it is better to quickly subdue a rat King and have a chance with the fish of a lifetime than have extended battles with smaller fish and get blown away every time by the larger ones. Having said that, when rat Kings are schooling they are one of the more enjoyable species to play with on a 3kg flick stick outfit and the yak will allow you get nice and close to the school.
Some anglers do quite well on Kingfish when using lures however it can be a difficult and frustrating experience with fish following but refusing to strike. Kingies will be caught with both Soft Plastics and Hard Bodied Lures.
SP's are more commonly used for Kingies when working schooling fish and working washes around headlands and other structures. When using the SP's, especially in a schooling situation, it is important to impact maximum action on the lure with erratic twitches and jerks of the rod. Some have had success on small SP's in the 3 inch category and other have had similar success using large SP's like Sluggos and other large stick baits.
Hard bodied lures account for some Kingfish however it is sometimes difficult to generate enough pace from your yak to really trigger the aggression in the fish. One of the AKFFers' favourite lures is the Rapala CD Range with the CD 7 up to the CD 11 all having success.
SAFETY FIRST: Downriggers comes with multi strand wire as standard. Should something go wrong (ie snagging your bomb on the bottom too close to a headland with breaking waves or getting tangled in your downrigger line during a capsize) this cable is very difficult to cut. Some AKFFers have traded their wire for fine diameter VB cord and even braid. This is something for you to consider.
Downrigging has really emerged over the past copuple of years as a truly effective way to target Kingfish. AKFF has experienced a similar trend with more and more yak fishos taking the plunge and installing the downriggers on their yaks.
When downrigging there has been differing opinions of how far back the bait should be from the bomb. Gatesy normally allows the bait to drop back about 5 metres from the bomb and has had good success thus far but others prefer longer and shorter distances.
When targeting Kingies with this method remember it's better to have the bait too high in the water column than too deep. This has the added benefit of preventing too many pickers from finding your precious baits and harassing or devouring them. This is especially the case when using Squid as bait. When holding your rod during while downrigging it is easy to feel the pickers on your baits (one benefit of pedalling a Hobie Adventure). If you feel this, the easiest way to get rid of them is to lift the bomb up towards the surface until you feel the nibbling stop. Once this happens you can relower to your preferred depth.
When the fish strikes and pulls the line from the release clip make sure to set the hook properly, stop the initial run and then winch up your downrigger. As mentioned above, these fish will use anything possible to bust you up.
AKFF Record Kingfish can be found in the Hall of Fame.
Spooled1 hoists a massive 16kg Kingfish he caught from his kayak.
Gatesy with a rat King straight from the water