Catching Yellowtail Kingfish

By Brett Mensforth

Kingfish have a nail bighting reputation for tearing off and around every obstacle within very long distances of their initial hook up spots, and with light line it’s always a task and a half trying to put any pressure on them. With a streamlined body packed with muscle and a fearless outlook, they can be quite the back breaker, which is what we all look for at the end of the day though, isn’t it?

Seriola lalandi is one of the toughest saltwater sport fish we are lucky to have in our local waters. Most people find the hardest thing about catching these guys is being in the right place at the right time, and sometimes that can be damn near impossible. So far my strike rate is doing quite well, but I doubt it will stay that way for too much longer.

About 10 years ago I was invited to Port Augusta to do some filming and research on spawning yellowtail kings with a couple of good friends. The kings they had been targeting were in excess of 35 kilos on most occasions, along with the odd 20 kilo, so called, rat. I was invited along to see just how they did this and hopefully get a good look at some real monsters.

The big fish we were after were hidden for most of the morning and we only managed to capture one juvenile of about four kilos. There were a few boats around, but no one had caught any kings for about a week or so and the end of the season was nearing. After a full morning of searching we decided to drift around beacons in the afternoon to see if any fish were hanging around them and to my surprise, I thought I saw some dolphins near the first one. However, to our delight they turned out to be massive kings, all over five feet long and very healthy looking. I lobbed a slimy mackerel in and as soon as the bait dropped out of sight it got absolutely smashed by a big yellowtail. In a matter of seconds there was about 50 metres of line missing and then 100 metres.

After 40 minutes of dodging beacons and rock walls, on 15kg mono, I managed to boat a ripping fish of 157cm with an approximate weight of around 37 kg, I was pretty impressed to say the least. It’s not often you get a good chance to land a fish of that size in an area where pylons, rocks and debris play havoc along the sea floor. After a few photos the fish was released and I was absolutely stuffed! It was probably one of the best fishing moments of my life and one that I will never forget! The good old Shimano TLD15 stood up to the test and is still one of the best value overhead reels on the market today.

Fishing tackle has changed quite a lot from when I caught the big fish mentioned above, so on a more recent trip up north I thought it would be a great opportunity to test out the new Shimano Stella 6000SWBHG. I loaded the reel with 250m of 30lb Power Pro and it cast the Orca stickbaits like an absolute dream. Weighing only 440 grams makes it a pleasure to cast all day and with 13kg of drag there aren't to many fish that it can't take on!

We found a small school of fish that were on the hunt so I positioned the boat up tide and launched the stickbait over the fish. I stopped the lure about 20 meters beyond the school of fish, to avoid startling them, and started to twitch and crank the lure at a slow but erratic pace. It wasn’t long before the water suddenly exploded behind the lure and the Orca got absolutely nailed – It truly is a pretty spectacular sight to see!! After a 10 minute tussle I had the fish on deck, tagged, measured and released ready to fight another day.

Yellowtail kingfish are renown for their intelligence and they often become aggressive and fight dirty 'til the very end but the Stella 6000 knocked this fish over pretty convincingly on this occasion.  At 115cm it’s considered a ‘rat’ in SA.

South Australia will have one of the best kingfish fisheries that this country can offer for quite some time to come. It has been proven over the last couple of years that they are in healthy numbers and in some massive sizes, too. They behave like hoodlums and deserve to be at the top of the prize list and food chain.