There’s a lot to like about yellowtail kingfish. They look great, fight till the death and have the potential to grow to XOS sizes. But they’re not an easy fish to crack, which also adds to their appeal. Just because you find a pack of kings doesn’t mean you’ll get a bite or hook-up, and often when you see the fish milling around a reef or on the surface, this is when they’re in their fussy mood.
Here in SA we have a great class of kingfish, with our fish averaging between 10 and 20kg, with plenty above this weight too. And while our average size is enviable, our numbers are often light and they can be quite fickle to track.
We get some good fish pushing into shallow water bays throughout spring in preparation for spawning, and then throughout our summer and autumn months it reverts back to offshore reefs and islands. The shallow water fishery is the harder scene to crack, with big fish feeding in select bays throughout SA which are often only 2 to 3m deep. The fish are usually flighty, but when you get a hook-up it’s exciting stuff.
Our offshore scene offers a different fishery, with better numbers of school class fish in the 80 to 100cm range, but you need the weather on your side as these islands are generally a long run from shore. The offshore fishery can produce some great fishing, and it’s out here where you get good numbers rather than sheer size. The offshore scene also offers good bycatch in SBT’s and Samson fish as well.
For both fisheries, live baits are the number one offering. Live squid, salmon trout, mackerel, yellowtail scad and silver trevally are all effective live baits. But sometimes sourcing livies isn’t always feasible, so having a stash of dead baits and lures on hand often saves the day.
In the lure department, sinking stickbaits such as the 150mm Ocea Pencil are a good option to cast around rocky headlands and into the wash around bommies. We quite often anchor in the lee side of an island and create a berley trail using pilchards. Once the trail is established you can either float unweighted baits down the trail or cast soft plastics – both methods has claimed nice kings for us in the past. Soft plastics such as the ever reliable 145mm Flick Bait and 125mm Whip Bait are our preferred plastic for yellowtail kings, especially in the pilchard pattern.
Kingfish are one species that demands quality tackle. Having a 30kg king hit full throttle in shallow water certainly takes some pulling power to stop and turn. Shimano Grappler and Ocea Offshore rods are great for shallow water work, while the ever reliable T-Curve Deep Jig and Terez are great rods for deep water applications.
As far as reels are concerned – go with the best you can afford. Over the past couple of seasons I’ve been using Socorro’s and Saragosa’s for chasing kingfish, with a 6000 to 8000 preferred for the school class fish and a 10000 to 20000 for the bigger kings. Having a smooth drag is imperative for chasing kings, as the drag system will inevitably heat up during a prolonged fight.
They’re not an easy fish to figure out, but they’re worth the effort!