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How to Target Kingfish

The Yellowtail Kingfish (Seriola lalandi) more commonly known as the kingie carries with a great reputation as being one of the most energetic gamefish for their size and for this they are widely sought-after.

This article will hopefully shed some light on how to improve your chances of catching and locating kingies. These fish are extremely popular with saltwater anglers because of its versatility. Whether you fish from the shore, from a boat in shallow estuaries or on deep offshore reef systems, an encounter with a kingie is inevitable at some stage of your fishing career!


No matter where you are fishing, Kingfish can always be found around structure. Use your sounder to locate drop offs, pinnacles/ rocks or channels with strong currents. If you are rock fishing look for good ground such as steep drop-offs, Kingfish hang around the edges and prey on baitfish that leave the reef system. Look for them around rocky headlands, near marker buoys, and below schools of kahawai or other baitfish. Kingies are always found in waters with a strong current. Within reason, more current equals more opportunity when fishing for kingfish. These strong-swimming fish will generally be in close proximity to a tidal flow. A strong current makes them more mobile, concentrates them, and brings with it a diverse range of food suitable for the kingfish
to prey on.

They are very powerful fighters and are also regarded as dirty fighters. They will take off with your lure or livebait and head straight for any structure to break the line off against. Their first runs are particularly powerful so it is the initial first part of the fight that you really need to put in the hard yards and play the fish so that this doesn’t happen. Many anglers report loosing kingfish early in the fight as their line is invariably wrapped around some underwater obstacle.


Once again like in mentioned in our previous Snapper article, we cannot stress enough the importance of berley. You will catch more fish when using berley. The scent helps to lure the baitfish out from cracks in the rocks and the weed so don’t be shy when it comes to berley. Because berley helps to bring baitfish around this will attract kingfish.

Once you have anchored ensure you position your boat so that you will be casting back onto the structure you have found. If fishing from the rocks have a berley sack tied onto a rope and dangling in the water in front of where you are fishing. Another good idea is if there is a rock pool handy that is constantly being washed over just sit your berley bag here and the waves will help the distribute the berley slowly. Berley pellets are great as they sink and are easy to take a had full of and scatter around the boat or from the rocks.


Generally it can be said that livebaits work better than any other bait for kingfish. Try and catch some kahawai, jack mackeral or piper on a Sabiki rig. These should come around once you start berleying. Kingies can’t resist a livebait. Strong wriggling baits attract attention from further away and make more attractive targets, and bigger baits are less likely to be swallowed by smaller, less desirable predators such as kahawai, barracouta and juvenile kingfish (rats). The bigger the live bait the better your chances are at catching a bigger fish.

Jigs and poppers also work very well. This style of fishing varies from livebaiting but still produces some great kingies. Jigs are designed to be dropped in deeper water and retrieved fast, while poppers and stick baits are designed to be casted around structure and imitate injured baitfish fleeing on the surface.

Fishing from a Boat

When targeting Kingfish it is recommended to use bigger reels which can hold a bit more line and in some cases you need a lot of line. I typically pair these reels with a 15-24kg stand up game rod with a roller tip this just allows for less abrasion on the line especially when a kingfish decides to do a big run. You can also use baitrunners and other spinning reels these will also work fine. Find a rod and reel combo that you are comfortable using whether it be a spinning or overhead setup. My reels are spooled with 50lb and 80lb braid as my mainline and I use 80-100lb pound fluorocarbon for trace line depending on where I am fishing.

When live baiting use a 24kg ball bearing snap swivel to join your braid and fluorocarbon, this is so you can attach a balloon to the swivel. AThis rig is quite simple really and has proven to be very effective, If you intend on releasing the Kingie I suggest you use a circle hook. There are a number of ways to rig up your live bait and these will be outlined in the next article.

If you are using a jig or a stick bait a simple back to back Uni knot will work to join your braid and fluorocarbon leader. Then a Uni knot to attach your leader to your jig or Stick bait is sufficient enough.

Once you have rigged your live bait up, place it in the water and let it swim away from the boat, make sure you keep your finger on the spool as to make sure it doesn’t get into a birds nest as the fish bait swims. Put your rod in the rod holder and leave the drag set low and put the ratchet on. Now sit back and wait…. This is a good time to chuck out a snapper bait! Because it can take some time for kingies to come around. While you’re waiting you can also cast out a Stick bait to try and create some interest on the surface.

When you do see the Balloon pop and the bait has been grabbed wait a few seconds and clear all the other lines. If you’re fishing from a boat it sometimes pays to drop your anchor with a buoy and chase the fish. Slowly do up the drag and wind. If weight comes on you will need to wind very fast and try and turn the fish around as they will head for the nearest structure straight away to try and bust off the mainline.

Kingfish will put up a good fight no matter what their size so be patient and keep at it.