Kingfish Off The Rocks Part II

Finally, I get a chance to write in more detail about our recent land based fishing adventures. Regular visitors to BENIsLAND know that I’m into land based fishing, and as any keen angler, I also enjoy putting the few friends that come and visit me onto the fish. At times this can prove difficult, mostly because fishing is not their highest priority, but it certainly is easy with my mate from England. Paul is an expert on catching kingfish from the rocks. He’s dedicated, very experienced and most of the times well prepared, and he uses the word kingi a lot during a day.

Don't use all your energy up landing a kingfish from the rocks, you'll still have to carry it back to the car...
Don’t use all your energy up landing a kingfish from the rocks, you’ll still have to carry it back to the car…

As in most other things in life, the key characteristics needed to be a successful land-based kingfish angler are preparation, timing, dedication and skill. Luck is of course more than helpful. After three ‘pleasure fishing sessions’, meaning stray-lining dead baits for a couple of hours without using any burley to catch a feed of snapper and kahawai, it was time to take Paul to a spot on the east coast to target kingfish.

Our timing was great, the big swell that had pounded the coast line for a hand full of days had receded to half a meter, and the low tide was due early in the morning. We left BENIsLAND at 0530, it was still dark when we had parked the car and were walking on the beach. After a bit of a hike and climb we reached the ledge and started prepping our gear. Set the kingfish rod, the stray-lining rod, the bait rod, Paul also has a rod dedicated for popper fishing only and finally deploy the berley. I think it was about seven in the morning, the sun was just getting up and I had the first bait in the water. My first response to Paul, who was prepping yet another rod (the fly rod) was: “There is snapper in the berley trail.” Indeed, it was a pleasure to watch legal-sized snapper right by my feet.

2 decent pan sized snapper caught on one piece of bait.
2 decent pan sized snapper caught on one piece of bait.
A feed of kahawai and snapper landed in about half an hour.
A feed of kahawai and snapper landed in about half an hour.

While 30-ish centimetre snapper were cruising up to the surface, swallowing bits and pieces coming off the burley, before swimming back into the deep, a solid snapper appeared and just cruised right by the ledge. That was certainly exciting and I tried a few tricks to hook it. It wasn’t actively feeding, wasn’t shy at all and, unfortunately, wasn’t keen on the baits I cast. I tried getting it more excited throwing pieces of pilchards at it, but that was all moot. We estimated it at about 5 pound and since it just hung around there, I cast pilchards a bit further away; perhaps there were even bigger snapper in the deep.

The rod bent immediately, something was pulling line and was swimming sideways. Hmm, perhaps a kahawai. It turned out to be an almost 30 cm long trevally. Being a good host and knowing that Paul will gladly send it back into the ocean with a solid hook in its back, I offered the trevally to him.

Paul rigging up a trevally for live baiting.
Paul rigging up a trevally for live baiting. 80 pound main line on a Shimano TLD25, 2.5 m of 130 pound leader, a balloon and an LBG rod.

I kept landing trevally, they were really hungry and took every bait. We had been fishing for an hour and a half, still no sign of any kahawai, the big snapper had cruised off but watched us land a few of his mates. The fishing was so productive that we just kept one good trevally in a bucket with water, releasing the rest, knowing that there are good and hungry fish at our disposal.

While Paul was sharing a story with me, line started peeling off his reel, making that unmistakable sound. He looked out to the balloon, which had popped by now, then to his rod. Yes, something is going on mate, go to your rod. A few seconds later and he had the rod butt in the gimbal, the line tight and striking. It appeared as if there was no solid hookup, he struck again, wound some more line in, but wasn’t sure if there was a fish at the end of the line. Once the rod started bending, Paul likes to fish a lot of drag, and he couldn’t keep it up, all doubts were gone, a big fish was hooked and it wasn’t happy about that at all.

The fight was intense, the kingi tried different angles, going left, going right, going deep. Paul tried to keep the rod tip high, but with so much drag, he was essentially muscling the fish just on the drag. So it only took about 2-3 minutes until I could see the colour. Shimmering silver and some green with yellow. I had the gaff and we mentioned to each other almost simultaneously that it is longer than a meter (75 cm is the size-limit for kingfish), before I gaffed it unprofessionally in the belly region. The fish was, however, secure on the gaff and although it hadn’t gained much line, it seemed to be somewhat powered out when we secured him higher on the ledge.

25 pound plus kingfish landed off the rocks.
25 pound plus kingfish landed off the rocks.
A happy angler with a large rat.
A happy angler with a large rat.
A kingfish (Paul reckons it is still a rat) caught off the rocks live baiting with trevally.
A kingfish (Paul reckons it is still a rat) caught off the rocks live baiting with trevally.

What a great morning, great snapper and trevally action, a decent 25 pound plus kingfish landed; time to pack in and enjoy the rest of the day, I was thinking to myself. Paul was thinking: “Nice kingfish, I bet there is a bigger one out there.” When I suggested to release the big trevally we had in the bucket, I only heared: “Nooo. We’ll put that out and catch a bigger kingi.” So we kept on fishing, I stray-lined a bit half-arsed and Paul had a 35 cm trevally out there.

By 1100 o’clock the sun was pretty high and it was getting hot; really time to leave! We packed in and climbed out, sweating under the sun…

We ended up fishing the same spot on the next day, something Paul really didn’t fancy: “I never fish the same spot two days in a row. Hmmm, Beni,  I don’t know.” We discussed at length other places we could potentially fish, but there was really only one alternative which I didn’t fancy because you get caught out there by the tide.

Well, Paul was (kind of) right. The same spot, similar conditions, no snapper in the burley trail, no trevally, no kahawai, no piper, actually there wasn’t much happening at all. We spotted a kingfish cruising by but he didn’t respond to the popper Paul cast and it certainly wasn’t interested in what I was doing. I really tried hard to catch a kahawai or other fish I could use as live bait. However, to no avail and didn’t help that Paul was constantly repeating that nothing was going to happen today: “Too calm mate, same spot, too. Nah, we should have stayed at home. Shouldn’t be here. Nothing’s going to happen mate…”

So what does a good host do? Yes, I green-burleyed while he was eating his chips. Green burleying is a special technique which involves a bit of praying, a bit of patience and an homage to the (fishing)-gods. What do you know?, the bites got stronger – at least it felt like big fish taking bait – and out of no where comes a kingi and cruises past the ledge – I might add, exactly as I had told Paul, close in, from right to left. Believe in the green-burley. This time he cast close to the rocks, the kingi turned around, followed it frantically and got hooked on its first attempt to bite it.

It looked bigger than 75 cm in the water to me, but I suggested we try to land it without gaffing it. The fish had a good go at getting away and was tired, we managed to lift it out of the water by the tail and the leader. On the rocks it still looked bigger than 75 cm, but we had plenty of kingfish on ice at home. Giving it away was an option but instead of measuring it we just deployed it gently back into the water.

I managed to get some of the action of the second fish on video and hope I successfully added it to this post.

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