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Downrigging for Kingfish

By Joshua Davey

I’ll start this blog off by saying that I am far from an expert when it comes to this sort of fishing, in fact it is only my first season chasing these fish out of my own boat. But nevertheless, spring in South Australia sparks a new life of eagerness into every avid anglers mind. It means the end of a cold, wet winter chasing squid, whiting and aussie salmon. Instead people's excitement turns towards mulloway and for the die hards kingfish, now that snapper are off the cards. We aren’t famous for much down here fishing wise, but we are blessed to have what is arguably the best run of large kingfish in Australia.

With hordes of large 20+ kg kingfish seemingly appearing from nowhere and frequenting relatively shallow, warm areas for a few months, before seamlessly vanishing as if they were never there at all. Yellowtail kingfish (Seriola lalandi) are a prized catch and release sportfish, pound for pound pulling almost anything backwards, making them incredible fun to catch. Every hook-up provides a sense of excitement, while still striking fear and anxiety upon hook-up into anglers as there really are no guarantees in landing these hard fighting fish. Which is what I think makes them so special to target, every fish provides a completely new experience and a lifelong memory once it hits the net, which is usually followed by cheers and hi-fives amongst the crew.

Tackle

I’m not kidding when I say that these fish seriously mean business, until I started regularly targeting large Kingfish I don’t think I properly appreciated how necessary it is to have top quality, heavy duty fishing tackle. Considering that I am usually fishing areas consisting of heavy cover and structure, I like to give myself every possible opportunity to land these fish. I'll usually run two rods, depending where I am fishing.

The lightest being a Daiwa Spartan S55 PE 4/6  paired with a 14,000 P Saltiga spooled with 65 lb J-Braid Grand. The other is an older Daiwa Saltiga – X  56S PE 6/8 but any quality PE 6/8 jig rod will suffice, paired with the new Saltist MQ 18,000 which is spooled with 80 lb J-Braid Grand. For downrigging, I usually start with 100 lb Saltiga FC connected with either a PR of FG knot followed with a good swivel down to a twin snell of quality 8/0 live baiting hooks.

 

Technique

Fresh bait is paramount, I cannot stress this enough. Take a few hours in the morning to go and catch some fresh live baits and you are already a step ahead of the pack. Squid are my preferred bait in the downrigger, however snook, tommy rough, Australian salmon, slimy mackerel and yellowtail scad are all viable alternatives. Additionally, good quality electronics are as close to essential for this kind of fishing as a rod and reel. It sounds harsh, but if you aren’t running side scan, you pretty much aren’t even in the game. I run a pair of Lowrance HDS Lives in my boat, one as full time side scan, the other a split screen of GPS and High CHIRP sonar, this allows me to cover as much water as possible searching for schools of fish in the shallows and provides the best opportunity of getting a bait in front of a hungry Kingfish.

Typically, I will run my live baits approximately 20 m out the back of my boat and will set the downrigger about 3 m from the bottom while slow trolling, sometimes knocking the boat in and out of gear as not to move too quickly. Ideally, I will keep an eye on my sounders attempting to mark-up schools on the side scan and plot them in my gps, essentially trying to “track” and get in front of moving fish. Once on top of the fish, I will drop my rigger close to the bottom and sometimes even pop my baits out of the downrigger clip to let them drift naturally in front of the kingfish. This technique is by no means easy and sometimes requires days on the water between hook ups, but when you do, you very quickly forget about the countless hours between fish.

If you have any specific questions, or just want to chat kingfish please feel free to get in contact with me through Instagram at “JoshsFishingObsession”.

Hang on tight and good luck!

 

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