Kingfish Off The Rocks VIII

On our last rockfishing mission, Paul and I targeted kingis on the east coast of the Island. It was a great day, there was no wind at all, the small swell was also very manageable. I was anticipating to hook into a 40 pound fish, that was the goal…

A great day to stand on the rocks and targeting kingfish.

A great day to stand on the rocks and targeting kingfish.

Conditions & Tide

Sunday, 01.03.2015, Great Barrier Island, calm sea, half a meter swell developing, hot, clear sky, variable 5 knots of wind. Low tide at 1100. We had the burley deployed and the first baits in the water by about 09ish.

Catching a Kahawai – Using Two Rod & Reel Setups

There used to be a time, when schools of kahawai were frantically swimming in the burley trail and picking the bits off as they dispersed into the water. We saw such a school last Saturday, but otherwise they have been remarkably elusive. Therefore, it is even more important to be on guard, right from the beginning, to see, hook and land a kahawai properly. By properly I mean mouth hooking it and handling it with care, instead of gut hooking and/or dropping the fish on sharp rocks.

To avoid gut hooking fish, I always start casting with my snapper setup, until I see a kahawai in the burley trail. When this happens, I switch to the lighter setup, on which smaller hooks (4/0) are used.

This is a much better idea, in my opinion, than to fish with small hooks right from the start. Chances are great that you’ll gut hook a snapper, you might even hook into the fish of the day on your first cast. Either way, you lose precious time to re-rig or lose that big snapper that was right at your feet when you arrived at the ledge.

I looked at the kahawai and pondered for a moment, whether to give it to Paul, but decided to live-bait it myself. The spot we were fishing was huge and I was sure, he’ll land one as well and can do his thing, and I wanted to land a 40 pound fish.

An Hour Before Low Tide

When targeting kingis, I tend to be at the spot at least two hours before low tide. The rationale is to catch a few live-bait candidates at least an hour before low tide and then just hold on and wait. Usually, when kingis are around, the excitement starts about an hour before low tide. This is the time to be ready, prepared and staying on top of the live-bait. It should be in great nick, swimming well and in a good position to be seen by kingfish.

Paul landed a couple of kahawai but they were both too big for live-baiting. When I say ‘too big’, I mean too big for the size of kingfish we hooked into the last four years. Unfortunately, there are fewer and fewer kingis around and we have not seen a big one (40+ pound). Sad.

While I was waiting for a kingi to show up, Paul hooked into four decent snapper and we also had a visit from a seal, or perhaps sea lion, or even perhaps sea elephant. It was huge.

The Hookup

About half an hour until low tide, and I saw a big splash next to the balloon some twenty or thirty meters out. I was standing, the live-bait rod in hand and positioned its butt into the fighting belt. 1, 2, 3, 4, the balloon went under water, surely I was hooked up. I increased the drag to a quarter waited for the tension to build up in the line and then struck mildly. “Strange, the rod didn’t bend hard, I couldn’t feel any weight at the end of my line”, I was thinking. “Surely, something took that kahawai.” The balloon was being pulled sideways under water, so I worked the reel and started retrieving line.

Bizarrely, still no fight, nothing going on. I uttered some words to my mate and kept retrieving line. In my mind, I was pretty sure the kingi wasn’t hooked well. It probably just had the kahawai wedged sideways in its mouth.

Both of us saw the colours of a kingi moments later, about 10 meters out, very close to the surface. “So there is a fish.” I kept retrieving and was waiting for the fish to resist. By now, the kingi was only 3 meters away and on the surface. It ejected the kahawai out of his mouth, I felt as if being right that the kingi was never hooked properly, but then felt the rod bend and how the kingi started to resist.

It went down, left, right, it was right by the rocks and I needed to get further down as to keep my line well away from the sharp rocks. Paul was standing behind me with the gaff, gaffing is a first row job mate. The drag setting was still about a quarter and this fish did not pull any line.

Don’t Gaff An Undersized Fish

Fortunately, Paul kept behind me and we both realised that the fish might be undersized. At this stage, I was not aware that my mate doesn’t even know what the legal size limit it. I traced the fish onto some kelp and Paul was suddenly in the first row, very keen to pull the hook out and release the fish. This would have been the best thing to do for the fish!

I, however, wanted at least a picture and would have really liked to release it into a massive rockpool (about 20 m long) and take some action shots. That pool gets flooded at half tide and the fish could have easily get back into the ocean.

A quick picture before releasing the kingi.

A quick picture before releasing the kingi.

I hope this released kingi will live on and fight another day.

I hope this released kingi will live on and fight another day.

Straylining For Snapper

As mentioned before, Paul caught dinner this time. We both caught more kahawai and sent them out under a balloon. I fished up to an hour over low tide, Paul kept going on, but no more strikes. Well, Paul had his bait taken off by a shark. It is bizarre, this man seems to see and hook sharks all the time. I just don’t see them. This is another reason why I decided to live-bait myself today.

Anyway, my mate landed some decent snapper. Nothing big, but great eating size and one after another. The best thing was that there were hardly any small snapper around. So yeah, this spot has provided well, yet again.


A great day rockfishing. Plenty of fish to eat and a kingi was landed and released.

A great day rockfishing. Plenty of fish to eat and a kingi was landed and released.

More Photos


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The Gist Of It

Fish: Kingfish – Caught Rockfishing: March. 2015 – Bait: Live Kahawai – Where: East Coast – Length (estimated): 70 cm – Gear: 50 lbs Main Line, 130 lbs Trace – Fish landed 30 minutes before low tide

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