|Shallow water kingfish - a recipe for success!|
|Written by Scott Gray|
|Wednesday, 10 March 2010|
There’s no doubt that kings are one of the most powerful fish in the ocean and are a formidable opponent. For many years now I’ve enjoyed spending most of my summer holidays chasing kingfish in shallow reefy terrain of Victoria’s southwest coast and this has given me time to refine my techniques to try and ensure that each season a few good fish reach the boat. Of course there has been plenty of trial and error and heartache, but learning things the hard way is one of the best ways to learn new techniques. From these experiences I’ve put together my own guidelines for coming out on top and I hope that these might help you to catch more fish. It’s simply all about reducing the possibility of things going wrong to give your self the best possible chance of landing a big fish.
Setting the hook
Make sure you drive the hook in hard on the strike. Usually the bigger fish hit the bait or lure pretty hard. Usually after a take the fish go down a little so you need to try and keep in touch with what’s happening on the other end of the line. If the hook stays in for the first 30 seconds it very rarely comes out.
Never go head to head with a big king in shallow reefy water, even with relatively heavy gear you will usually end up shredded. There is no magic number, but there is little need to put anymore than 4kg of drag on the reel. This makes good quality threadline reels ideal tools for the job. I’ve caught kings with as little as 1kg of drag around the 10kg mark in 4 metres of water and it has certainly extended the fight time, but with patience the fish has made it to the boat! Of course many good anglers have been known to use a combination of settings during the course of the fight. Refrain from being too tough if possible, but always reserve the right to muscle up. Free spooling is another way of encouraging a fish to change direction and make him think he’s got away, but just remember that backlash or a burnt thumb can be a problem with overhead reels if you go too ‘free’. Less drag also means there is lower chance of pulling the hooks on a fish.
Anchoring, drifting and trolling
Although trolling can be an effective method for catching kings I prefer to anchor or drift and cast. You seem to catch larger fish. Drifting is an excellent technique as it is quiet and lets you cover the water. If you hook up you can give chase immediately. If you are anchored you can encourage the fish to come to you with berley, however if you are in a fixed location you will generally lose more fish – in can be over in seconds if the fish gets too much line out. If anchoring is your method then make sure you have a throw away float so you can quickly start your motor a give chase. Down rigging is also and effective technique when the fish wont come to the surface.
Electric motors are ideal for chasing kings in shallow water as they don’t seem to put the fish down because they are quiet. The only problem is that you need the power of the big motor in some circumstances whether that be because of the sea or swell or a large fish is tearing off at a very fast rate. The other good thing about giving chase is you may get the opportunity to lead the fish away from structure or other boats and anchor ropes and out into open water – a valuable technique. Your sounder is also a great tool for finding fish, but it is also a great tool for navigating the rough terrain to try and avoid structures to help tip the odds in your favour. It can alert you to the fact you may be getting yourself into some troubled water.
Landing the fish
Expect the fish to make some good runs near the boat, which will usually result in a few circles around the boat. This is one of the reasons why centre consoles and smaller aluminum boats are great for this kind of shallow waters fishing. They are maneuverable, have little freeboard and there is plenty of room to move around the boat. Of course for further trips in heavier seas a larger boat can be required, but you usually find that in the warmer months the fish are usually within a kilometer of the shoreline and are quite accessible by small craft along the southwest coast. I usually carry a large net and a gaff. I usually net the fish that I intend to release, but when I’m fishing by myself and hope to keep a fish I usually use a gaff around 4-5 feet in length that can be easily stored safely in the boat close to hand. Remember plenty of good fish are lost at the boat and there is no exception here especially when the big yellowtail comes up near the boat.