Perhaps you’re like me. I like to get out and find my own fish to jig, it’s what defines me from the charter trip junkie who solely relies on someone else to put them onto fish.
Not that I don’t like charters, it’s more that I want to not be reliant on them for my jigging fix.
Getting out there and doing it can be testing for a new jigger. Where to go, what’s the best tide, and what jigs to use are all questions that get asked, and I’ll try to answer them with a little bit of my own knowledge and some from a few expert friends of mine. I’ll cover off the greater Auckland area including Coromandel and offer some insider tips on hotspots to get the best out of them.
Many anglers new to the mechanical method of jigging think you have to travel far and wide to areas like the Three Kings, White Island or Ranfurly Banks to hook kingfish on a jig. This is true if you’re after that once-in-a-life time trophy fish. For many newcomers to the sport they just want to get out and find somewhere relatively handy in their own boat and leave the charters for those special occasions.
I have found kingfish in the 8-14kg range are great to learn and hone skills on, plus they give the angler a taste of just how powerful these fish are, as even a 12kg kingfish will put up a great fight to test angler and gear.
Out from Auckland
So where to, if you are in the greater Auckland area?
There are a few key things to think about when jigging for kingfish, and number one is there has to be a food source to hold the kingfish in the area – so the first thing we are automatically looking for are baitfish. The other main ingredient is kingfish like some sort of structure, it could be a pin, a reef, a sunken wreck or something as simple as a sharp change in contour. They also like a bit of current at times so this can also be a tool to use when looking for the hotspots.
With that in mind, let’s then overlay this information onto the inner gulf area around Auckland and see just where our hotspots will be. Several spots start to stand out and I’ll go from the most easily accessible places to those further out.
1. A buoy
A great place to start. While not deep it does hold kingfish in the morning and evening during the summer months and on into autumn. Be prepared for early starts or late finishes and if you have no luck around one buoy, try others, as they are kingfish magnets.
Use lighter jigs and target a time when there is still a little bit of current that allows the jig to get to the bottom. Do several drifts past the buoy since the kingfish will tend to hold into the current where they can quickly ambush baitfish. Your jig still needs to be heavy enough to reach the bottom and you want to jig the whole water column to the surface – you will be surprised just how many jigs are hit when nearly to the boat, as the fish will chase them all the way.
2. Flat Rock
This spot was given to me by a friend, and his tip here is you want to look for bait fish on the deeper eastern side, on an incoming tide or near full tide. Position your drift to best target that side and use similar tactics as you would around the buoys by jigging from bottom to surface.
3. Rakino area
Still a handy area to get to and a lot of little reefs, structure and drop offs to explore. It’s hard to nail any one spot in this area, as the kingfish tend to move from structure to structure in pursuit of food. It’s a matter of drop, jig and shift if nothing happens.
I have jigged all around this area including the close-by Noisies, all producing kingfish in the 8-15kg region at times in the summer to autumn months, and a good bycatch will be mooching snapper.
4. Waiheke, Auckland end
Crusoe Rock is handy to Halfmoon Bay and worth a look in the last 20-30 minutes before a high tide – it’s shallow so the jigs won’t take long to reach the bottom or the surface. The tip here is try a slower jigging action or even a slow pitch jig for the real shallow areas, as they have extreme action on the fall and rise offering more hang time in the water to attract the hit. Take caution when the tide starts to run, as your drift will be too fast.
5. Waiheke, Bottom end
Lots of little areas to target around and in Hooks Bay – there are marked sunken reefs in the bay on the Shag Rock side that are a favourite place for divers, so be aware of what’s happening around you. This rock also holds kingfish from time to time and again mainly over the hotter months.
Kauri Point can fire as well, as kingfish chase bait that are coming in around the mussel farm next to Waiheke. Heavier jigs of 200-250g or slow pitch jigs 150-200g would be a good tactic. Try and jig right out to the deep drop-off of the channel, as this rise is a great place for kingfish to launch an ambush from. The closer to high tide the better and try a drogue to slow the drift – just remember to bring it in quickly if you hook up as this will be something a kingfish will aim for to bust you off.
Probably one area that gets a bit of a hammering for both jigging and livebaiting for kingfish, but can produce the goods at times. It’s a bit of a trek, so pick your days, weather and tide wisely. Again, baitfish sign is what you are looking for, and those darker marks hanging around the baitfish on your sounder will commonly be kingfish. There is a lot of foul so don’t let the jig stay on the bottom for long before winding up a few turns and jigging.
7. Channel Island
It’s a big hotspot area but you need pick a good weather pattern and tide to target it. Channel Island waters can turn very nasty very quickly as the huge volume of water from the Firth of Thames flows in and out.
On the plus side, there is a lot of contour and structure to target and it’s a thoroughfare for baitfish and kingfish heading to the inner gulf. Look for baitfish schools or surface activity, as the kingfish will be hanging around any workup and dropping a jig into these can produce good-sized fish. When not lurking around the workups, they tend to be on the deeper reefs and structure.
The current moves fast through this passage so aim for high tide or low tide, and while you’re there give the headland around Port Jackson a look. Jigs 200-300g can be required to jig this area and do allow yourself plenty of time to try different locations. The reference of Channel Island is a location rather than just one hotspot.
The next section on hotspots deals with the ocean side of Coromandel and is courtesy of one of the Synit jigging rod field testers and good friend Aaron Levien, a.k.a. Kingyslayer. He provides some well-known jigging spots for larger kingfish up to XOS size, and gives vital information to beginners and experienced jiggers alike on how he tackles these spots.
1. Starting from the Northern Alderman Pins which are around 10 miles north of the Aldermens themselves, this area is known to produce some fantastic jigging. The area consists of four main structures: the northern pin (around 90m), the eastern and western pins (being around the 80m mark) and the southern pin which is the most common area and about 70m. Tide isn’t the main trick here, it’s more the feeding times as with all the spots listed below. The main gear to use here is PE5 line and a 250g or 300g rod, and take a selection of 200-250g jigs in different colours.
2. Moving south to the actual Aldermen Islands themselves, there is a vast amount of structures that hold great fish. One spot that we never miss is on the north-eastern side of the Aldermens, a pin that is around 50m dropping out to around 100m, which is known as “The G-Spot”. So on your next journey past this spot don’t be shy to give it a sly jig, you just never know what may happen.
3. Now down to Slipper Island. Sitting around 3 miles off the back of Slipper is the “32” which we like to call “The Pay Packet”. This is a vast area that can be quite daunting due to its size, however there are a few sharp ridges placed on this structure so once you dial these in and find the fish, set up your drift lines and descend into the abyss – and watch those rods load up.
4. A local hotspot for Whangamata known as the “Doga Bank” which not only produces magnificent snapper but also plentiful kingfish. It may only be 13m deep in places but don’t think the old “horses” don’t roam here because they do. We have landed countless 20-kilo kings here and we have even shot a 30-kilo king here. One quick tip however is beware of freedivers, as there can be a lot here and with good reason.
5. Off to Mayor Island, my favourite spot for kings as the options are endless. Kingfish are found all over the island on dropoffs, shallow pins, deep pins, contours etc. To get you started at Mayor Island, on the eastern side are multiple structures ranging from 30m right out to 180m. Don’t be afraid to do what I like to call “Pin Hopping”, looking for good sign. Mayor Island can play tricks on you, with kings being there one day and nothing the next. My tip here is to move around looking for good sign as the fish may be on the chew on other structures.
6. The best tip I can give you overall is to look for structure and currents pushing baitfish up. Don’t be afraid to venture around the structure to look for kings, as I see a lot of jiggers put themselves directly on top of a pin hoping for the best. I find the larger fish hang back off the structure.
Depending on currents and wind, you can get away with 200g jigs at most of these locations but if you find jigs are taking too long to descend, increase your jig weight to get down into the strike zone faster and in turn spend more time in the zone.
These are some hotspot kingfish areas to get started on, all relatively close to the greater Auckland area and all accessible by trailer boat. Actual GPS marks can be found for all these locations but as I have found it’s more a matter of moving about to find the fish rather than relying on an actual GPS mark to put you onto fish. GPS marks aren’t a given meal ticket, as you need to test your skills and wit.
These spots are a good learning ground for new jiggers, plus you can brag that you go out and find your own kingfish.