Catch that Kingi

Fancy a spot of fishing over the summer, and have your sights set high? Good on ‘ya, mate. Why settle for spotties when you can go after an elusive – but not unattainable! – Kingi!

Often considered the ‘Holy Grail’ of sport and trophy fishing in New Zealand, yellowtail kingfish have earned themselves a reputation for fighting hard and dirty. Combined with their sheer size, which can exceed 60kg, these mad bastards will secure bragging rights for years. And you needn’t have 30+ seasons under your belt to catch one.

With a little know how, the right gear and plenty of determination, anyone can land a Kingi. Even you, cobber.

Yellowtail kingfish have a streamlined, elongated body, blunt head and deeply forked tail. Bluishgreen, fading to a silvery-white along their undersides, Kingis are easily spotted by their brilliant yellow tail fin and a brass-coloured stripe that runs along each side.

Although they grow BIG, they’re incredibly fast swimmers.

Look for kingfish around rocky coastal outcrops and headlands, reefs and breaking water, under kelp, near marker buoys, and below schools of kahawai and barracouta. Some of the best – and most accessible – places to find a Kingi include shore lines, reefs and inshore structures, where rocks break the surface of the water, and around buoys.

They seem to travel in schools of similar-sized fish, and – as ruthless predators – can be found feeding on schooling fish and reef dwelling species.

Good news for Kiwis fishermen: New Zealand is the best place to catch Kingi. The Bay of Plenty is regarded as NZ’s kingfish capital, but there are tons of other hotspots around the North Island, and even down South, thanks to rising sea temperatures.

Mayor Island and Motiti Island are well-known for being home to large numbers, but Kingis can also be found around the coastal waters of the South Island over summer, including Fiordland, Otago Peninsula, Moeraki, Banks Peninsula and Kaikoura.

If you have a bit of coin to spend and you’re dead-set landing a big bugger, jump on a charter and head to White Island, Ranfurly Banks or The Three Kings.

A 20kg Kingi isn’t going to offer itself up on a silver platter. In fact, as very powerful fighters, you’re going to have to work bloody hard to catch one. The right technique, gear and set up will give you the best chance of getting one on your line and onto the dinner table.

Livebaits are essential if you want to nab a Kingi. They’ll take dead baits, but are more likely to be hooked on live bait like mullet, kahawai and flying fish. Try drifting with live bait – allowing the fish to swallow the bait before being led away from possible obstructions.

Shiny metal jigs are hard for a kingfish to resist. They’re also no fuss and efficient at discovering if the bite is on or not. Your jig should be 125g – 200g, as heavier jigs sink faster – giving you more opportunities to send it past a hungry Kingi. Drop it to the bottom, wind it rapidly back to the surface, then repeat.

If you find yourself surrounded by kingis smashing bait on the surface, make sure you have stickbaits onboard. Being setup is crucial, and having a rigged topwater rod sitting in the rocket launcher will help.

It can be easy to get caught up in the excitement of the roar, but the greatest hunters focus on the five fundamentals of red stag hunting first and foremost:

A Southerly cold snap often seems to get things started, and the more mature stags tend to roar before the
young’uns. Be ready to drop tools and get out there as soon as that cold snap hits.

Plan your hunts around early morning and late afternoon, when feeding activity is at its peak. Red deer have a keen sense of sight, sound and smell, so hunt into the wind as quietly as possible, and take advantage of available cover.

Deer react quickly to movement, so avoid having your rifle slung over your shoulder while bush stalking. Carrying your rifle ensures you’re ready when you hone in on a trophy, and keeps movement to a minimum
when lining up a shot. If you missed your shot at a big beast last year, go back to the same spot this roar. Stags travel long distances to their rutting grounds each year, and tend to return to same area.

Kingfish will head towards kelp, rocks or other obstructions when hooked – resulting in a fouled line and a lost fish. Allow kingfish to swallow the bait and head into deep water, then get ready for the fight of your life. Even a relatively small Kingi is extremely strong, and its first run is particularly powerful. If you’re very hard on the kingfish right off the bat, they’ll be hard on you.

A gentler approach will ensure your Kingi isn’t overly alarmed. If you’re lucky, it’ll swim out into deeper water – allowing you to slowly, but surely, put more drag on there. You’ll be in it for the long-haul, but you’ll give yourself a fighting chance of winning the battle.

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