Catching Yellowtail Kingfish
by Ron McBain
Additional information by Steve Suitor
Yellowtail Kingfish - or "Kingies" as they are referred to often - are a fish found in all Australian states. They are an elongated while some of larger fish can be fatter - more like an Albacore in shape. Colour of dark blue to purple above, silvery below, the two colours separated by a broad yellowish-green longitudinal band. The spinous dorsal and pectoral fins are light bluish, the other fins including the tail are yellow. The Kingies are a totally different fish from Yellowfin Tuna. Kingies are a schooling fish, where there is one there are usually a lot more.
They are usually an ocean fish, but will often come into the rivers and estuaries. I know of one fish that was caught underneath the Batman Bridge, and sometimes we hear of them caught off the Tamar jetties, but they are mostly caught around the Tamar heads area.
Steve Suitor gives some more details on Tamar River location
This is a summertime fish which is principally caught around The Heads from December until April. Sometimes they are caught in Long Reach with the occasional wanderer up to the Batman Bridge. The best bait in my opinion is trolled garfish, with mullet, small couta, small mackerel and jack pike also good. Best lures are Halco Lasers, bigger Rapalas, Nilsmasters, Yo Zuris, plastic squid and various large silver sliced lures. Good areas are "˜The Rip"between the Fairwell Beacons, in close to the rocks near Low Head Lighthouse, around Hebe Reef, and around West Head. Kingfish also respond to jigs, but the fierce tides around "˜The Rip"make jigging hazardous in this area. Trolling for Kingfish requires higher speeds than couta, pike and salmon. Speeds around 8 knots seem to work best, and if your lure or bait occasionally leaves the water, so much the better.
Gear for kingfish needs to be sturdy and usually consists of a fast taper boat rod, an overhead reel, and 10 kg to 15 kg line. Anglers using a spinning reel should select large robust models. A boat is a big advantage, but land based game fishermen have caught them off the rocks at West Head. Kingfish often are found over reefs, or near pylons. The Fairway beacons at Low Head are an area where many have been caught over the years. Most of the Tamar Kingies are around 3-4 kg fish, but they have been caught up to around 25 kg and bigger ones seen!
Gear required - Boat Fishing
On a pound-for-pound basis, kingfish are one of the strongest fighting fish in our waters. Anyone who has caught a good one will know why they are often called the kings of the sea. When hooked, the first thing they will do is dive into the nearest clump of kelp or refuge they can, often breaking the line in the process. For this reason a line of 15-24 kg is recommended, especially when fishing for 10 kg plus. Smaller specimens do provide great fun on light gear, but you never know when that bigger one will strike. I've had two separate fish on for an hour, only to lose them on 12lb line. If one does choose to fish with a light line, it would be important to at least use a nylon trace of about 2 feet of about 24 kg. Tuna type of rods and reels should be used, wither for trolling, jigging or bait fishing.
Usually when fishing off the shore, one tries to get together his bail or lure out some distance. The heavier line can make this quite hard to do but using a balloon to take the bait out using the tide or a current can do the job okay. When spinning with lures often you don't have much choice and you have to use a lighter line, perhaps around 7/10kg. Use a good quality spinning or an overhead casting reel. Most tackle stores should be to provide more information on selecting the right rod and reel for you. Kingies can feed on the bottom, the can be feeding on fish on or near the surface, but usually they're a mid water fish. There are different methods to fish for them: some methods may work one day but not the next.
Live bait is probably (but not always) the way to go for the big ones. Small to medium sizes live Mullet, Salmon, Mackerel, etc, make ideal bait. Usually a 4/0-6/0 size beak hook placed behind the dorsal fin, but above the backbone, will keep the fish alive for hours. Don't use a sinker, just let him swim around. A balloon will often help when fishing off the shore. If live bait is unobtainable, then fresh bait is the next best thing. Whole small Squid, Pilchards, Garfish often work, but often better when slowly trolled.
Three types of lure fishing are used; jigging, trolling or casting. Jigging is a method of lure fishing where the line is dropped down on or near the bottom. The lure is then retrieved in strong upward pulls while winding the line in, or can be simply bounced along by lifting the rod tip and lowering down again continuously. If targeting Kingfish try a mid water depth, but be prepared to try different depths. A heavy metal type of lure is usually used for this - such as a Pilchard-shaped lure or a silver coloured sliced lure, usually about 85-125 kg in weight.
Trolling enables you to cover a lot more ground. Lures representing Pilchards or Squid often do well, including many Tuna lures on the market. The bibbed types of lures are the most popular. Spinning with metal fish shaped lures off the rocks or out of a boat is the best method. One popular one on the market is called a popper. It represents a baitfish being chased across the top of the water and can be used for trolling or casting.
Generally speaking, lures or baits 150 to 200 mm are normally used. Kingies will often take salt water flies.
As with a lot of fish, its important to bleed the fish soon after capture. Preferably cleaning it straight away, or at least keep it cool.
Kingfish, as mentioned are a schooling fish. If you do catch one, try keeping it in the water for a while whilst still alive.
Quite often other fish from the school will be seen following the hooked fish around. Time to drop down a jig!
Try different speeds when trolling. A couple of customers were trying their luck at Waterhouse Island trolling for Kingfish but hadn't done any good. They decided to try the other side of the island, so they sped up the boat, but didn't bother to wind in the lures. A couple of minutes later they had three Kingies in the boat.
Look for schools of baitfish Kingfish could well be underneath the schools having a great feed.
Finally, keep only what you need.