Musings on kingfish

Go on then, tell us your stories...
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Posts: 446
Joined: Wed Nov 06, 2013 10:05 pm
Kayak Make: Ocean
Kayak Model: Prowler 4.3 Ultra
VHF Call Sign: ZMU7778
Location: Auckland

TL:DR - I missed a bunch of kingfish, but then I caught one over the weekend

I think most kayak fishers aspire to catch a legal kingfish from their kayak. Many succeed - some by just plain luck, and some by putting in the yards specifically targeting them. I caught my first one from the kayak in February 2017 after a couple of unsuccessful missions and thought I had my methods sorted. Step 1) catch a jack mack, step 2) pin it through the nose, step 3) paddle slowly until it gets eaten, step 4) reel it in, step 5) bask in your success.

Over my Christmas holiday I thought I'd repeat my steps and I'd be away laughing, but karma decided not to make it so easy. My first unsuccessful mission was 29 December. My parents have a place across the road from the beach at Wharekaho, just over the hill from Whitianga. In the mornings you can see all the charters (Epic/Mad Max/Whitangler) and all the other boats out for the day filling their livebait tanks with jack macks before they head further afield. A few of the boats will stick around to livebait around the schools. This made it easy to choose a spot to fish.

There were a few waves as I launched at 6:30am, but after shipping a couple over the bow and getting quite wet I made it through and out the back. I went to drop my rudder, only to realise I'd forgotten to undo the bungy! There was no way I wanted to go back through the waves and relaunch so I decided to just stick it out. With any luck I could stay in close, catch my kingi, and not have to paddle too much. Finding some bait sign I dropped my sabiki a few times to get some livebaits. Not much on the first couple of drops, but eventually I had a double hook up. Reeling to the surface I found it was an undersize snapper and a small kahawai. The two fish going in different directions had hopelessly tangled my sabiki. I then realised I hadn't undone my running rig either so I couldn't hook on my livebait 'torpedo' anyway (my torpedo is a $5 Warehouse burley cage). With no way to store livebaits, I decided to make do with my kahawai and start paddling.

With nothing better to do, I headed in the general direction of the mass of boats on the horizon. I've always had a rudder and soon realised that without one I'm a terrible paddler. It was a very wobbly track as I headed out. Just as I reached the massed vessels I had my first hit of the day. I caught me by surprise and I quickly jammed the reel in gear and pulled the bait away from the fish (a couple of times). My bait was still alive, but only swimming weakly.

On reaching the other boats I found one that was quite low to the water and asked very politely if they'd help me out by undoing my rudder bungy. That done they asked how I was getting on. I pointed out my not so lively bait and they offered me a fresh one. Feeling better with my rudder down and a fresh bait I paddled around waiting for attention. Somewhere along the way, the livey managed to get hooked up near my rudder. I shook it free, only to find that something had relieved me of my bait! There were some serious bait schools in the area, filling the lower half of the water column with a solid mass on the sounder.

After a while the bait schools and boats seemed to have dissipated for the day so I thought I'd throw a couple of softbaits around. Nothing was happening, but I spied a wee smudge on the bottom straight under the kayak so I dropped my softy straight down. I must've just about clocked it straight in the head but up came a moderate kahawai. I was there to livebait, and he was a large but manageable livebait size, so on the hook he went. Nothing seemed to happen for quite a while as I pottered around in hope of a lurking hoodlum. As luck would have it I was just shifting my rods around when the kahawai got nailed and the line took off at highspeed. I waited, then put the reel in gear and slowly increased the drag. All that happened was I again retrieved a not so lively bait. Figuring a half dead bait was better than no bait, I paddled on, hoping to find a decent bait school.

Not long after I found a bait school and dropped a little silver jig into the mass. I quickly reeled in a nice jack mackeral. Things were looking up! I reeled in the kahawai, unhooked it (killing it in the process) and went to rig my jack mack. With that the bait said saionara and with a flip of its tail exited my kayak sans hook. I quickly found another bait school and hooked up another livey. After getting a few to the surface and them dropping off, I eventually eased one on the yak, held it firmly (but gentley) pinned it on a hook and dropped it down. By this point there were three or four of us moving around finding small pods of bait and dropping liveys into them. Its here that the boaties have the advantage of speed, being able to cruise quickly in search of fresh bait schools. Fortunately they were happy to keep me posted on the baits whereabouts.

Having had another livebait smashed and yet again retrieving a sad looking livebait (despite counting to almost 20 before engaging the reel) I again dropped my wee Savage jig into a school and almost instantly hooked a fresh livebait. Unfortunately, a kingfish couldn't wait until I'd put it on my livebait rig and instead grabbed the livebait midwater and took off. I was fishing a light drag so I didn't rip the hook out of the livebaits so the kingfish had a massive headstart before I could tighten the drag. The neighbouring boat suggested I should start paddling after it! Eventually, the hook bent and pulled leaving me still to hook up to a kingfish properly.

One of the nearby boats donated a fresh livey to me, which again got eaten and failed to hookup. It just wasn't my day. Eventually fatigue and lack of brownie points kicked in and I headed for home. I lost count, but it was at least 6 fish that failed to hook up.

Lessons learned: while my little jig does catch livebaits, sabikis are more efficient; always check your rudder bungy and running rig; check how your attaching your livebaits; take your time before you engage your reel.

The next day dawned fine and clear again and I was given the go ahead to have another crack at it.

Getting off the beach at 6:25am, I dropped my rudder and made a beeline for the boats already out there collecting baits. About 300m short of the boats I saw a bait ball on the sounder that was all on its lonesome. Dropping my sabiki I had three baits in very quick time. One was bridle rigged on my hook and the other two went into my torpedo. Within minutes, my livey was eaten. I waited and waited before I engaged the reel. As soon as the pressure came on, I felt a pop on the line and my livey came swimming back to me! Not to worry. The livey was still swimming strongly and it was still early so I carried on to the other boats instead of looking for my bait school again. Once I got out there there was some sign on the sounder, but not the densely massed schools of bait I'd fished the day before. As I drifted around my bait got nervous several times, but nothing bit. After an hour or so my livey was getting tired so I switched him for a fresh one and made a long slow zig zag back to shore, Again, the fresh livebait got nervous several times, but no take eventuated. I'm wondering if the 60lb trace was just a bit too obvious. Back on shore, I was gutted to have not caught a king after two attempts and lots of takes.

Lessons learned: Don't leave fish to find fish; freshen up your livey more often; Even a bridle rig won't guarantee a hook up.

I was lucky enough to get a third crack at a kingfish over Auckland anniversary weekend. Fortunately the weather played ball again, with low swell and gentle breezes. I changed my rig adding a 60lb mono shock trace to a ball bearing sinker with a 2oz sinker on top, then a 30lb fluro trace and 8/0 demon circle hook.

Once again I got off the beach around 6:30 and set off in search of a bait school. There was a bit of scattered sign early, but the sabikis weren't catching anything so I kept heading towards the boats already out. They were a bit further away so I wasn't sure that I wanted to paddle that far. At long last I got a small kahawai so I finally had a livebait. I paddled him around for a while but nothing was happening. There was a bit of sign near the surface, but the sabikis weren't catching anything. Just as the kahawai was getting tired I managed to get a jack mack. Swapping them over I continued paddling around looking for a kingfish to eat my bait. Every now and then I'd see someone hook up so I knew there were a few around.

I was getting a bit tired when a nearby boat asked if I was looking for more livebait and pointed out there was a huge bait ball on his sounder just behind his boat. As I went past his boat, the sounder just lit up with bait. I quickly deployed my sabikis and instantly hooked up. I reeled it to the surface only for it to drop off. I repeated this a few times before I got a couple of spares into the torpedo.
Massed boats on day 1
Massed boats on day 1
In the meantime, my livey had swum around to the other side of the kayak. I lifted the rod and maneuvered it around to the other side of the kayak. I was just lifting my short livebait rod over the taller softbait/sabiki rig when something grabbed my livebait and took off. I managed to get my rod clear of each other, but I didn't have a spare hand to get the sabikis right out of the water. I tightened the drag and was finally rewarded by the drag screaming as the kingfish ripped a decent amount of line from the reel. Hook up (finally!)! The kingi started towing me upstream and away from the bait school. I started getting nervous as the rocks started getting closer, but for now I was slowly gaining ground reducing the angle until the kayak was over the top of the fish. Eventually it turned into a stalemate. I could see the fish on the sounder at 10m below me, just a couple of metres from the bottom but I couldn't move him. At one point I even thought I was snagged because I lost line every time I lifted my rod. Soon enough though I could see the fish coming to the surface. As it broke the surface I had a mad scramble to put the rod in the holder, take a wrap on the trace and prepare the gaf for action. It seemed to take an age to get the fish positioned for a lip shot with the gaf but I got the gaf in and dragged the kingfish up onto my lap. A quick measure with the tape which confirmed it was easily big enough and I could finally let out a chahoo - well I would have done but I had drifted away from all the boats so I would have been talking to myself. There was a couple of awkward moments as I slid the 94cm of kingfish into the rear well, but it was all good and I headed for home (naturally with another livebait out the back just in case...).

A half hour later I picked my gap between the waves and slid back onto shore. Mission complete - just time for some photos and to bask in the glory!
Massed boats on day 1
Massed boats on day 1
Sunrise on day 2
Sunrise on day 2
Bait near the surface
Bait near the surface
Bait hard on the bottom
Bait hard on the bottom
Basking in success!
Basking in success!
Kotare II
Ocean Prowler 4.3 Ultra

Callsign: ZMU7778
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Might have taken me 3 attempts to get to the end but what a great story and thanks for taking the time to share your mistakes as well as your glory! I recently got my first Kingi and am proud to say I was actually targeting it lol only 82cm but it fed the family for two days down at the batch and I still have credits in the bank from it hehe

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Joined: Mon Jun 02, 2014 4:04 pm
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I enjoyed your story... Got immersed in it... A few more of those and you could publish a book... I'd buy it :geek:
Stealth profisha 525 (ko te moko kakariki)
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Nice one mate - I think kingfish are some of the most fun fish to catch. I've always done better with Jigs personally, but in close like you were, the livies seem like a good plan.
Jigheads Paddling and Fishing Team Member

Yak PBs. Snapper: 18lb 12oz @ Cuvier * John Dory: 4lb 6oz @ Cuvier * Kingfish: 10kg @ Mayor Island * Blue Nose: 22.7kg @ White Island * Hapuka: 8kg @ White Island * Skipjack Tuna: 5lb @ Auckland

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