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My First Kingfish from a kayak

Written by Tim Taylor on August 31st, 2015.      4 comments

Thursday morning was cold, real cold. The last of the winter southerlies had deposited a layer of snow across the country and in Tauranga there was a cheeky little frost to greet us keen anglers (yes, I know we are a bit soft here in the Bay). Meeting Adam and Tim down at the marina, our first and only problem was where to put the kayak. Across the bow, across the stern, tied to the side; they all looked difficult and we doubted we would be able to unload it once out on a rolling sea.  The solution was obvious...straight up the guts. Yes this was rather awkward when we were all aboard, but it was a damn sight easier than anything else.

Fuelled up and a couple of liveys in the tank, we headed out the Tauranga entrance and aimed for Mayor. Like all Mayor Island fishing trips, the 44km jog out allows for plenty of yarns to be spun and plans for the day to be formed. Our plan was to work the 70m contour line between Honey Rock and the Garden patch (two well known spot on the southern side of the island). With the Kingfish known to inhabit this area from September through to November for spawning, I was hoping to find my first legal kingfish. Yes, despite being a fishing guide and catching nearly 100 undersized models over the last summer, I had yet to catch a legal kingfish...and it was literally driving me crazy!
fishing kayak on the mothership

Forty five minutes later and we pulled up onto one of Adams spots, just out of the Garden Patch. While I was stumbling about, trying to pull on kayaking gear, Adam and Tim pulled out the rods for a quick prospect. Pulling on kayaking gear in a rolling boat is not an easy job and I had barely got my backside covered when Adam was calling out a hook-up. Five minutes later and he had a fat kingfish of around 10kg flopping around on the deck under my kayak. Obviously this was a great start to the day and I was itching to get on the water. “If they are biting here, then they will be going insane at Honey” Adam stated. Two minutes later we were on station at Honey Rock, and with fish showing on the sounder we began the rather unglamorous job of launching the yak. I will not elaborate on how we did it suffice to say that at one point I suggest “why don’t we just shove it off and I’ll swim after it!” However with the water temperature hovering at around 15˚C, I was glad that we figured out a better option.

Rods stowed, photos taken, and I was free to hunt down a kingfish. While waiting for the sounder to come online, I took a moment to look around and take in my surroundings. Mayor Island was rising up royally to my starboard side. Cloaked in a dense forest of Pohutukawa trees, it is a sight that never fails to excite me...this is big boy territory you can’t help but be excited. On my port side stretched a cobalt blue ocean, sparkling like a million kahawai scales after a big workup. Yes it would be fair to say that I was excited.

My jig hit the bottom and after couple of winds, I felt the pressure come on. “I’m in” I yelled out to the boys. “Well, um I think I’m in, but it isn’t exactly running...crap, false alarm, that’s no fish!” Twenty minutes later and I was still paddling in circles attached to the bottom so I was relieved when the boys came to the rescue and after some shear brute force, I was handed back the rod with a comment along the lines of “enjoy doing a new PR knot in your yak haha.” Not to worry, I had practised my PR knot and found the hardest part of the job was getting my lighter to work in the swirling breeze. It took roughly 10 minutes to get the whole rig assembled but it was a labour of love...mainly I love catching fish and I wasn’t prepared to lose one due to a crappy knot.     
While I was having fun with a bobbin, the boys had headed back to the Garden Patch. The bite at Honey Rock didn’t appear to have started so I thought it best to follow them over. As it was roughly a 3km paddle, I decided to throw out a stickbait and troll on the way (a tip mark Armistead had told me to try). Heading into the wind and chop, I had just settled into a steady rhythm when I heard a huge explosion of water behind me, quickly followed by the sound of braid being ripped off my reel. With no structure close by and plenty of line on the reel, I took my time clearing the cockpit of unnecessary gear and securing my paddle, before picking up the rod and increasing the drag. Locking the rod into my gimble knock, it quickly loaded up and began to resemble a fencing staple in shape. Holding easily onto the fore grip, I was pleased to feel the rod blank bending all the way through to the reel seat. This would be putting a lot of hurt into the fish while it still felt very comfortable to me. Once the initial run stopped, I began the slow process of retrieving line by using short pumps of the rod to lift the fish’s head. I was conscious of the fact that it would be very easy to high-stick the rod and potentially snap the tip, so I concentrated on short but aggressive lifts. With the sensitivity of the braid, I could feel the fish didn’t like this because after each lift it felt like it was shaking it’s head in defiance.

Twelve minutes later and I had my first legal kingfish beaten at the side of the kayak...and what a fish it was! It was laying next to the nose of my yak at this stage and it stretch from the tip right back to the foredeck bungees. On a 4.7 Prowler, this is a length of 1.2m and comparing this with fish I caught later in the day, I estimate it was around 20kg. Shaking almost uncontrollably, I now had to figure out how to get it onto the kayak. I had a gaff and a set of lip-grippers but as I was using a 7’6” rod, I couldn’t get either of these near it. In hind sight I could have just grabbed the leader and eased the fish in, but with adrenalin pumping I wasn’t exactly thinking straight. I should also mention that I was only using a barbless treble hook on the lure (instead of two with barbs) so it was no surprise when the fish rolled over and the hook simply fell out. I frantically tried to hand paddle closer to the floating fish and swing my gaff, but I could only watch as it pointed its head down, give a flick of that beautiful tail, and casually swim away. Was I annoyed? Too bloody right I was! But was I, I will never be disappointed to see such a beautiful fish swim free unharmed like that.
A kingfish going ballistic at the side of the kayak

Now I was pumped. I had had some practise and I was determined that the next fish wouldn’t be so lucky. Using the VHF, Adam and Tim soon found me and decided to fish the general area while I charged off for another troll with the stickbait. I should have stayed where I was because only 20 minutes later I got the call “Adam is into a fish and it aint small!” By the time I got back the action was over and judging by the whooping and hollering, I could tell it was going to be a good fish. Caught on a livey, that fish was an absolute horse and the boys struggled to lift it up to show off. It really was an amazing sight and it fired me up even more.

Returning to where I had first hooked up on the stickbait, I was looking at my sounder when all of a sudden it went red with clutter. “That’s odd, usually it only does that sort of thing in the harbour when you suddenly climb out of a channel” I though. Thinking my transducer might have snagged something, I looked over the side only to see a few hundred kingfish circling a few metres below me. None of them could care less about my presence so I hurriedly threw out the stickbait to see if I could gain their attention. This didn’t even raise an eyebrow so I thought “right, I’ll knock one of you buggers in the head with a jig and see if that wakes you up.” I watched as the 200g Zest Pink Slider disappeared down, followed by a bunch of fish. I only free-spooled for 10 metres, before stopping to wind up. On the first crank up it got smashed. Pushing the drag up to strike, the load came on and the fight began. Unlike the last fish, I thought it best to tell the boys what was going on, and as the school was still right under me, I figured they may as well get in on the action. Interestingly, as soon as the boat arrived the fish dived. Occasionally they would come up shallow, but as soon as the boat came in closer to throw a stickbait or drop a jig, they would dive again suggesting they knew all about what a boat is. Meanwhile, I had a nice little scrap on my hands, but with the Marquesa engaged in low speed it was a very unfair fight for the fish. When I got it to the yak, it was still very green and didn’t appreciate the gaff coming anywhere near it and it nearly ripped me out of the kayak as it went for another run. Changing tactics, I tried the lip-grips the next time I got it up, but those weren’t appreciated either. Finally, after another short run, I had the fish back up and I simply chose to lift it in using the jig as a handle. First of all though, the rod went in the holder and the drag was released to freespool – I wasn’t going to have it tipping me over if it suddenly came to life again. With a solid grip on the jig, I gently eased it up and onto my lap and I could proudly say I had secured my first legal kingfish (the first one didn’t count as I never got to touch it). After the mandatory photos, the boys took position of the fish for me and I headed back to catch another...I was on fire!
A big kingfish on Tim Taylor's kayak

Right on location, the school of kingfish was still circling. Once again, the jig was smashed, but this time the strike drag was not quite enough and it got easer closer and closer to sunset. With that not stopping this beast, a thumb got gingerly applied and eventually I was able to slow it down. On my third fish of the day, I was now feeling confident with my knots and technique so I really started to enjoy the fight. I had always imagined a kingfish would tow a kayak for miles, but all of my fish had fought straight up and down so it was a matter of just letting it run when it wanted to and then putting the pain on as soon as it stopped for a breather. Basically, if you didn’t do anything stupid (like locking the drag), you had a pretty good chance of winning. This fish came up after around 7 minutes and by grabbing the jig at the first opportunity, I was able to ease it up onto my lap, remove the hook, and give it a kiss goodbye all in one simple movement. It was bigger than the second fish, approximately 15kg, but I had killed one today so after a couple of quick photos it was back in the water...limit your catch, not catch your limit.

With the wind now picking up and the bite time apparently over, we decided to call it a day. On board we had 3 rather fat kingfish and with the kayak safely stowed back in the centre of the boat, we headed home. Curious to know how big Adams fish actually was, we took it into Decoro to bludge a set of scales. We had been calling it for around the 30kg mark but were conscious of the fact that it had been bled and had been out of the water for about 3 hours. Adam proudly stated “if it goes over 30 then it’s going on my wall”. Sadly the taxidermist was not needed as it only went 27kg but this is still a very respectable fish and beat Adams previous best of 24kg. While my fish was definitely not in the same range, in still went 11.295kg and I couldn’t have been happier. I had hooked and played 3 kingfish, landing 2 and learning a whole heap of invaluable lessons. It took days for me to come down afterwards and I can’t wait for the next trip. Huge thanks to Adam and Tim for making it happen.  

Paddle hard everybody. 
Tim Taylor at Mayor island with a kingfish on the kayak


dan Taylor says ...
Well done Tim sounds awesome how was sunday
Tim says ...
This was an awesome day for the record books. As for Sunday that didn't happen. Forecast was pretty snotty so I decided to play it safe. When I went out on the surfski in the avo the wind was absolutely howling
dan says ...
i remember my first kingfish spent all season trying to get one. The live baits were hard to come by and what i did catch were small. I finally got a real nice jack mack and it got hit by a king then it was dropped. I wound it up and checked it missing a few scales and looking abit worse for wear but still swimming so redeployed it. It went straight to the jaws of a 3 1/2 ft blue shark was disapointed with that outcome but landed it. A few weeks later i messed up on a real big king easily pushing a 30 kg slow take of the livebait on the surface got to eyeball him as he mooched around my livebait with its head and back emerging above the water line. A few weeks after that finally cracked a barely legal king at 78 cm beneath 3 gannets working a shallow area but legal is legal. A year later i shot out for a go at some kings in a boil up and wound up with a pack attack 2 kings at once on a livebait and a soft bait the soft bait caught the bigger one of the 2 at 11.5 kg the smaller one went 6.8 kg
Bruce says ...
I'm very jealous, Tim, sounds like a brilliant day. I'm hoping you will re-run your kingfish academy as my bucket list still has catching a legal kingie from a kayak in the top 5!

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