Fast tips to get started with livebaits and kingfish

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Jeff Strang
Kingfish 1.02: Livebait from the "Journey of a Fisherman" channel

10 quick tips to get your kingfish livebait game on like a pro!

1. Know Your Livebaits:

When it comes to kingfish livebaits, blue koheru, found in rocky deepwater locations with plenty of current (mostly in northern waters), is arguably the most desirable. It's followed by slimy mackerel, kahawai, piper, and finally, yellowtail or jack mackerel. Ensure your livebaits are healthy and active for best results.

2. Select the Right Hooks:

The size of the hook should match the size of the bait, not the fish being targeted. Small live bait hooks can catch very big kings. Avoid hooks that are too large, as they can potentially kill the live bait.

3. Proper Tackle Setup:

Go for quality tackle that can withstand the strength and aggression of kingfish. Lever drag reels, abrasion-resistant trace, and a stand-up rod-reel combo with plenty of backbone are ideal. The line stretch of monofilament can offer an advantage in a close quarters battle.

4. Choose the Right Weight:

The weight of your setup depends on the depth at which you're fishing. Surface bait requires no weight (a balloon may even help keep it clear of the foul), while a yellowtail set in eight meters of water might need around 4oz. Use heavier weights for deeper water. Remember to avoid attaching the weight between the hook and the swivel as it will improve the durability of your livebait.

5. Bait Hooking Techniques:

  • Deep water: Hook the bait through the nose to allow it to sink head-first efficiently.
  • Shallow water: Hook the bait through the nose or the tail.
  • Surface: If you're using a balloon, hook the bait just ahead of the dorsal fin, avoiding penetrating the backbone.
  • Slow trolling: Hook the bait through the upper jaw behind the lip.

6. Location Matters:

Kingfish are partial to structures such as channel markers, reef or pinnacle, and rocky shorelines. From harbours to offshore reefs, kingfish can be found in a variety of environments. Places with a strong current, headlands, or channels between islands are often good fishing spots.

7. Bait Presentation Techniques:

Depending on the location and depth, baits can be presented under a balloon, slow-trolled over a reef, or fished on the bottom. When fishing close to a reef, a float might be needed to keep the bait from getting into the weed.

8. Striking and Fighting a Kingfish: Kingfish are robust fighters.

When you get a strike, let the fish take line before you push up the drag and start reeling in. Try to keep constant pressure on the fish during the fight, working the rod with fast, short strokes. Light tackle enthusiasts often apply little or no pressure until the fish is led well clear of the structure to avoid spooking the fish into the reef.

9. At the Boat:

Once at the boat, the fish can be grabbed by the trace. If the fish is for keeping, gaff it near the head. If it's to be released, a long-handled net or a careful gaff shot through the lower lip is preferable.

10. Sustainable Practices:

It's important to consider the sustainability of the fishery. While the daily limit for kingfish is set at three with a minimum size of 75cm, a single catch usually provides enough food for a family or group. Practicing catch and release helps preserve this awesome sport fish.

Remember, fishing for kingfish can be a challenging yet rewarding experience. Respect the resource, follow these tips, and you're sure to have an enjoyable session.

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