King Hit - How to land XOS kingfish off the rocks

By Scott CushmanNZ Fishing World
King Hit - How to land XOS kingfish off the rocks

Kingfish are a great gamefish in their own right. When you target them off the rocks new challenges are introduced that test the angler’s skill even further.

What constitutes a trophy?

There is probably some debate around what constitutes a ‘large’ or ‘trophy’ kingfish.

I would have to argue that there are some environments where a 16kg specimen would be considered large – for example a mangrove swamp at the back of a river flowing into a Northland estuary. The same kingfish caught at the Ranfurly Banks would be considered something of a rodent sized specimen where numerous 30kg+ fish are landed every season.

The NZ Game Fishing Council introduced the concept of a ‘slam’ award for a number of species caught over a weight considered to be ‘large’,  the kingfish weight is 25kg (check here for all species weights The NZ Land Based Game Fishing Club ( have introduced an ‘elite slam’ of fish in the ‘elite trophy’ sized range and have placed the kingfish threshold of an elite kingfish at 30kg+. That’s a big fish, especially off the rocks.

There are numerous club line weight record kingfish that stand at 30kg+. Of special note, there are some legendary captures of kingfish in the club with a few anglers landing specimens that topped a staggering 40kg from the stones.

Talking to the experts

How does one go about capturing such a big fish from the rocks?

In a chat with two of the club’s senior members Todd Michell and Wayne Meads, I gathered some additional insights into what it takes to land a trophy kingfish.Looking first at what sort of gear has been used. 

24kg is still a common line strength however after several experiences of lost fish, Scott Bradley now reaches for the 37kg outfit when fishing the coast east of Lottin Point in the East Cape. He has landed several fish just under 30kgs from the East Cape region where he was using 37kg line on a TLD50 reel. His personal best fish of 33kg was landed on 24kg line, a Daiwa VIP 25-60lb rod and Shimano TLD30 from the Far North. He typically uses a two-part leader, with a 60kg (130lb) leader attached to his mainline and a 90kg (200lb) section tied between the hook and swivel that attaches to the 60kg section.  This rig helps reduce bust offs when fishing foul territory.

A number of fishermen in the club have opted for custom rods when fishing 37kg, close to the 2.10mtr (7ft) mark in length.

One of the basic ingredients that goes without saying (but I will say it, just in case) is to use quality gear and tie your knots so they will withstand the onslaught of power broking that mega kingfish dish out. Gear failure that is preventable is arguably unforgivable.

Todd Michell, who has landed a number of 30kg+ kingfish over the years fishes the same two part style leader set up on 24kg line. He emphasizes that it’s important to fish with a mate who can handle a gaff, having lost his biggest (estimated 40kg+) fish while trying to secure his catch by himself. Fish of this size demand respect and necessitate a calm and calculated approach. 

Where the big boys swim

Both Todd and Scott agree that in terms of location, the places most likely to turn up a trophy kingfish these days are either the Far North or East Cape. Coromandel has produced big kings in days gone by and big kings still swim there however it isn’t the same fishery it once was.

If you are time poor, the top coast in the Far North (Cape Maria van Diemen to North Cape) or East Cape are good places to concentrate your efforts.

One strategy when playing big fish is to keep the winding steady and smooth when you are gaining line. Any pause may allow the fish to get its tail in position to kick and start peeling line again. Trying to keep line smoothly building on your reel when using 37kg line is not as easy as the principle would suggest, especially when you’re simultaneously balancing on the rocks and trying to work the best angle on your fish.

Todd Michell’s best piece of advice is worth remembering: play the fish calmly and smoothly. Don’t try and pull its head off. At last year’s Nationals he scored a 23kg fish on 10kg line off the rocks. It required five episodes of free spooling the line when the fish ran into rough terrain before it was finally landed.

Whilst difficult to keep your heart rate under 200 beats per minute when attached to a king of a life time, it’s crucial not to play the fish recklessly or execute panic powered decisions such as jumping five meter chasms when running along the rocks in pursuit of your catch.        

Gear mentioned in this story such as the Shimano TLD 50 and TLD 30 reels, and the Daiwa VIP 25-60lb rod are available at most fishing and outdoor retailers.   


Catch the latest news

Packed full of the latest fishing news and tips on the best spots. Fresh to your inbox every week.

Sign up with email