I had an early morning trip to late in March chasing kingfish with St Helens charter operator Michael Haley.
I had previously only caught one kingfish in Tasmania, but quite a few in NZ. There had been a lot of talk about kingfish, but not much catching.
Kingfish had been around Elephant Rock at St Helens for a while, and whilst quite a few people had been catching them plenty were struggling to get any.
Michael and I were on the water by 7 am and were studying the fish finder carefully around Elephant Rock by 7.30 am. It was a spectacular autumn morning, just a little crisp, no wind and flat seas. A few other boats joined us - basking in the delightful conditions.
We were armed with some big soft plastic lures with very heavy TT jigheads, plus I had a variety of knife jigs designed exactly for kingfish. Surely we couldn't fail.
Kingfish were here, plenty had been caught and we had technology on our side. We had a couple of 6-7000 size egg beater reels loaded up with braided line, plus I had my trusty ABU 7000 overhead - a good combination for jigging the small kingfish up.
Having read quite a bit about kingies I knew they tend to be deeper than the Australian salmon we could see breaking the surface and we looked for deeper fish on the sounder. We found a heavy concentration of fish on the sounder; then it was just a matter of dropping the lures to the bottom - and this doesn't take long with 100 gram lures in 30 metres - then it is a savage wind and lift motion back to the top. Every now and then one would be greeted by a massive hit and we were on.
We caught about 15 fish, with nothing any bigger than 3-4 kilos, but we both saw a kingfish swim past the outboard that must have been 15 kilos or more. These bigger fish are here, especially on the east coast. Some very big fish have come from Clarke Island and further south (as in the LBG article on page 18), to well past Freycinet Peninsula. These are all areas where kingfish will be found.
The water temperature was generally over 19 degrees at Elephant Rock and at another hot spot, the Tamar River heads, it is well over 20. In New Zealand 15 degrees and over is considered suitable, so perhaps there are more opportunities here than we generally know about.
Australian salmon are a good sign, but don't be distracted by them. Try and get your lures down under them - this is why jigging is usually more productive than trolling.
Try the Black Magic range of jigs. The 100 gram models are probably best, but don't rule out the 150 gram and bigger models either.
Other top brands include Zest, River 2 Sea and Saltwater Laboratory. Whilst all colours seems to have their moments pink and red often outfish the other colours.
Don't forget to take some hefty soft plastics too, but the couta and squid, if they are closeby will make a mess of these.
This is not meant to be comprehesive - just a bit of inspiration to get you going.