Kingfish are a very popular sports fish & since the banning of kingfish traps are starting to come back in good numbers. They take a variety of lures baits & flies & always put on a good fight. The large Kingfish are few & far between now but a few are still about for those willing to put in the effort. The large Kingfish are mainly found offshore over the reef systems in the area & in this article I will mainly be covering the smaller kingfish that school in Pittwater & the Hawkesbury River entrance & lure & fly fishing for them. These fish are reasonably common & provide great sport on either fly fishing or light spinning or bait casting tackle.
The best time I have found for locating schools of Kingfish surface feeding is from September through until February, though when trolling & bait fishing they can be taken through till June. Large fish are mainly taken during the autumn & early winter months offshore.
The tackle I prefer for the school size kingfish in conventional tackle is a 1.5 to 2 meter fast action rod. You need a rod with a light tip to be able to throw small lures of 5 to 15 grams as the fish will often ignore larger lures when they are surface feeding. Threadline tackle makes for easier casting with these small lures & I use an Okuma threadline & a Shimano bait caster. This is just my personal choice but any good brand of reel will do the job provided it has a good drag system & a reasonably fast gear ratio & prefer a reel with 4:1 gears or higher. Line weight is either 3 or 4 kilos & I use Berkley Fireline in fluorescent green. You don't have to use braid though & any good quality mono will do the job. If using braided line make sure your knots are tied properly & do not slip at all. If like me you prefer fly tackle a 8/9 weight outfit will nail any kingfish you are likely to hook & a lighter outfit in the 6 to 7 weight range will provide even better sport. Leader breaking strain is personal choice but I find 5 kilo more than ample for this type of fishing. If you are trolling the washes offshore for Kingfish it pays to beef the tackle up a bit as other species & sometimes larger kingfish are encountered & I use an overhead outfit of 2 meters in length spooled with 7 kilo line. Again I prefer to use braided line but its a personal choice thing. The reel I use is a Shimano Speedmaster which is also useful for jigging & casting lures at surface schools of tuna etc as well.
My rigs for Kingfish are the same as I use for all my lure fishing & that is a double of approximately 2 meters in length tied with a Bimini Twist tied to a leader using the Albright knot of approximately a meter in length made from 4 to 5 kilo mono or fluorocarbon or your choice of tough & preferably clear leader material. I use the same material for leaders on my fly tackle also
There are many types of lures & flies that will catch Kingfish. When the fish are on the surface feeding they are generally on very small bait & the lures & flies need to match this to be successful on a regular basis. Some days the fish will have a go at anything but these days are the exception rather than the rule. In flies I find small white deceivers very successful along with Surf candy types flies & Clouser minnows particularly clousers in Chartreuse & white. I also have a lot of success with my home made baitfish imitations. i will post pictures of some successful flies & lures at the bottom of this page to give an idea of what works. In lures I have had a lot of success over the last year or so with the new River2Sea "searock" in either the blue or green pattern & the 7 gram size. Other lures that work are the small Raiders , Lazers & Kokodas plus small models of Bill's Slugs. Pictures of these below also. Lately rubber lures have been very successful on Kingfish as well as other species. There are a few brands available that do the job with Sluggos in 6 & 9 inch models being very popular. I wont cover rubber lures here as my experienced with them is limited. For trolling the washes for Kingfish I find it very hard to go past the Rapala CD series minnows in mackerel pattern in either green or blue & in sizes from CD9 up wards. The large type Xmas trees also work well. For fly casting into washes looking for kings my 2 most successful flies are a Slimey mackerel pattern & a large white squid fly from Felties flies.
Kingfish can be found surface feeding right down the western side of Pittwater from West Head right around to Towlers Bay & across to Scotland Island. Over the other side of Pittwater on the northern side of Careel bay is another good area. The area around Barrenjoey is productive as well & the Kings will often be found feeding alongside schools of Salmon on the surface as well but for some strange reason rarely mixed in with them. The front & northern side of Lion Island can be productive as well. Often the fish can be found up to a kilometre offshore on a run out tide so be prepared to search for them. If you are trolling only then its a case of trolling the washes offshore & I generally start trolling just before the bombora on the northern side of Barrenjoey & troll down as far as Newport reef with the area around Avalon & out the front of Newport Reef being the most productive. Kingfish move around a bit so be prepared to search them out they can pop up just about anywhere.
When I am after Kingfish inside Pittwater I find it very important to be on the water early. The kings inside tend to feed on the top from first light till just after sunrise after that they either go off completely or become very finicky. There is not much point looking for birds over schools of feeding Kingfish as they take the small baitfish whole & leave little scraps for the birds to feed on. The size bait they are feeding on controls how easy they are to see. If they are feeding on large whitebait the splashes & swirls are visible from a fair distance but if they are feeding on glassies (tiny fish) or plankton they are hard to spot from a distance as they hardly ripple the top. You must keep your eyes out to find them & I generally start cruising the western shore of Pittwater starting around Scotland Island & head up towards West Head until I spot something then if its slow head outside. When you see a school working it pays not to charge over to them straight away as they spook easily. I try to work out which direction they are heading & get in front of them & cut the motor & cast when they are in range. Try to cast PAST the school & retrieve your lure or fly in front of the feeding fish. Banging a lure or fly down amongst them will often spook the school. If you don't get a strike after a few casts go down in lure or fly size. The main reason for not getting hits is a lure or fly that is too large & does not match the size of the bait they are feeding on. I prefer fast retrieves with both lures & fly for Kingfish & find speeding it up will often get a reflex strike. The same method as this applies offshore but the fish are generally not as spooky out there when they are feeding on top. if the fish are only staying up for a short time or spooking easily it pays to drift into the area they are feeding & leave the motor off & wait for the fish to come up in range. Charging madly around after every splash only breaks up the bait schools & makes the fish even spookier & harder to approach. This is the same method of fishing used in my articles on Salmon Frigate Mackerel & has been covered in both those articles. Trolling for Kingfish has also been covered in my article on Trolling & the same methods are used for Kingfish as for other species but with Kingfish I have found the larger style minnow lures to be more successful than the smaller models. Other methods that are successful on Kingfish are blind casting flies & lures into the washes around the headlands in the area & when I'm doing this I prefer a slightly larger metal lure & let it sink down under the froth before retrieving. Using a stop start retrieve & varying the speed a bit can work when things are slow also. My favorite fly for this type of work is a large squid imitation that is pictured below. Surface poppers can be effective as well for this type of fishing & if things get really desperate try casting a small live bait into the froth. If you are chasing a big greenback kingfish try drifting the reefs with a large live bait set down deep on 15 or 24 kilo tackle. A large live squid is No.1 bait with live pike & Slimey mackerel close behind.
Above right - Rapala Minnows from CD-9 at top to CD-18
Above left - Selection of casting lures that work on Kingfish
Above right - A Slimey mackerel Pattern fly & below is a Squid imitation
Above left - Home made whitebait imitations on no.4 hooks to match small bait fish
3 Kingfish taken off West Head on an 8 weight fly rod & a white Deceiver