10 Guidelines for Catching Yellowtail Kingfish
Kingfish can be found in the inshore waters of the southern half of the Australian mass. This stretches from approximately Hervey Bay, Queensland, all the way to Shark Bay, Western Australia. Other names for these fish include yellowtail, rats (for juveniles), hoodlums, and hiramasa. Depending on the location, these fish can be caught in lengths of 1.5m or bigger and can weigh up to 50kg.
Fish Pig Tackle’s guidelines for targeting Kingfish:
1. Do your research
First you must identify where fish have been, where good water is, and where the current is.
Targeting Kingfish can be challenging at times, and that’s why having a wide selection of lures is essential. Being prepared is must so make sure to bring a wide range of tackle, especially trolling lures, top water stick baits & poppers, vertical jigs & live bait (live bait will usually get a bite, even when kingfish don’t first take to lures.)
Amongst anglers, Yellowtail Kingfish are regarded as pound for pound some of the toughest fighting fish. Once hooked, kingfish will make a run for the bottom or any structure and try to rub against reef and other sharp objects in efforts to dislodge lures. That’s why targeting these fish on top water lures is preferred by experienced anglers. This is why we recommend using strong gear when chasing kingfish, specifically 10kg+ models.
There are a lot of contributing factors to catching Kingfish on top-water and on jigs. The season plays an important role, which runs from January to April. Currents and water temperatures should also be considered, as the temperatures should be 20+ degrees. Green water should also be avoided, as kingfish prefer clear water. Look around structures such as bommie, pinnacles, rocky outcrops, big drop offs, and reefs and you will find good numbers of kingfish hiding. Time and tides should also be accounted for, as well as the presence of any bait. Just like the old saying goes, find the bait, find the fish!
Targeting Kingfish with top-water gear is usually the most productive at early morning/sunrise bites. Jigging can also be effective when the fish have shied off a surface bite, and are lower in the water column. This means being able to identify good clean water and staying away from green water is very important. Current is essential for these fish as they will hang out in eddies where swell/current is being pushed up when it meets reefs or drop offs.
Find reefs or ground that hold the fish, as they often will be waiting for the right time to feed on bait; turning of the tide or slack tide usually does the trick. Bite windows often change so it is important to take note of the time of day, tide, weather, water temp and what you caught the fish on. By doing this you can create your own database of where and when to fish are biting and what areas should be productive. This will allow you to stay on them and formulate a plan.
2. Know your sounder:
It is important to have the best depth sounder that you can afford, but even more important is being able to understand/read what your sounder is showing, as well as how to adjust it in order to really dial in what is happening underneath you. Using a split screen is also a good recommendation so that you can track where you’ve been, what direction you are drifting and to also mark really good fish signs. Being able to identify bait, what fish markup and where they are in the water column can often tell you when they are feeding.
3. Have a dedicated driver
Take turns, or have a dedicated driver, but you will need somebody to drive the boat, reset drifts and hold you on fish (keeping your line & jig going straight up and down.
4. Use metered braid:
When targeting these fish, you must ensure that you use 60lb+ PE braid, which comes in coloured intervals on the spool (usually every 10m the colour will change). If the kingfish are holding at 40m, drop your jig down 4 colours and you know you are in the right zone.
5. Have good tackle:
It is important to have heavy tackle, as it must be heavy enough to lift a good fish off the reef and be able to turn its head. We suggest using good strong assist hooks, the Fish Pig Tackle Lumo Assist hooks are ideal for this situation. Kingfish are recognized as pound for pound one of the hardest fighting fish, so having adequate gear is essential. For reel size (Shimano), we recommend the Sarragossa/Stella 10000+ with a rod size of PE6+. For braid size, we recommend 60lb+ with a leader of 100lb+.
When it comes to baits, things like stickbaits and poppers are incredible. We find that natural bait colours work the best. Massimo's range of colours including the Mack, White Red Blood Splatter and Blue & Yellow are recommended, along with the TP Kustom Black, Flying Fish and Pink Blue Flying Fish are perfect colour choices.
6. Give it all you’ve got
With some strong gear you will be able to go hard on the fish, and it is important to do that as soon as you hook up. You will need to get them off the bottom or turn their heads, as they are notorious for making hard runs back to structure.
7. Pre set your drag;
When targeting kingfish, you don’t have much time to be adjusting drag settings during a fight. You must set the drag up tight and test it on a solid object, by putting as much weight and pressure as your rod, reel, and line can handle.
8. Take a good selection of jigs & top water lures
When it comes to jigs, knife jigs are usually the first port of call. Sometimes you will find that the bait fish are smaller than a big jig, and if the fish are wising up to the larger knife jigs, try mixing it up with a Fish Pig Tackle Razor back jig, in a silver or pink and blue colour. We have found this very effective when targeting a tougher or difficult fish.
Make sure you take a good stash of jigs, in varying weight sizes. Remember to also double up on favourites as you will lose jigs to big fish, bottoms, and sharks. There is no point of having the only the weight and colour that works and losing it when the fishing turns on.
When you are marking kingfish down deep, vertical jigging with knife jigs and a fast retrieve is the most effective method. Micro jigs can also be effective and very fun using light tackle when the “rats” (juvenile kingfish) are thick. Fish Pig Tackle 4/0 Lumo Assist Hooks & Jigs are the perfect combination for any jig, as the luminous squid skirt gives added attention and with sharp heavy gauge hooks.
When schools are in shallow water or can be seen busting up at the surface, this is the perfect time to bring out a selection of stick baits & poppers. When choosing colours, “match the hatch” is probably the most effective way to entice a bite by using natural baitfish colours. It is important to take note of the direction that the school of fish is travelling and to cast the lure in the patch they are travelling. Depending on how keen kingfish are on lures, we recommend using floating stick baits TP Kustom Catelyn 70g, Massimo QD220 and FCL Labo’s TBO220SO. For the bigger models, the Massimo QD270, FCL Labo EBI SC220 and TP Kustom Jamie 150g Popper are ideal for getting the attention of the bigger angrier predators.
Trolling is another option, and when trolling for kingfish a spread of surface lures and deep diving lures is a wise choice. Trolling around reef edges, pinnacles and any other structure that might hold fish is a good way to find the fish. Once hooked up, drive into deeper water to increase your chances of landing the fish and not getting busted off.
9. Practise your jigging technique
Practise your jigging technique every time you go out fishing, even if it is for snapper or any other species. Bring a jigging setup, chuck it over the side, and practise everything you have learned. You should also watch and learn from other anglers.
10. Handling & Storage: (Catch and Process Meat)
YellowTail Kingfish are an excellent table fish, and regarded as one of the finest sashimi grade fish. Dispatching of the animal should be taken with great care and as quickly as possible. It is just as important to look after your catch as it is targeting your catch.
Whole (Hiramasa) Kingfish should be kept at <1 degree, gilled and gutted, and the gut cavity wiped clean and put in an ice slurry immediately. When filleting, the flesh should never be washed with fresh water to avoid leaching flavour and damaging texture.
Sweet, rich and clean flavour. Is regarded as one of the highest sashimi grade fish.
When cooked it takes on a different flavour and texture profile, a savoury hint with a clean acidic note.