by Carl Hyland
One of the most sought after pelagic fish in Tasmania during summer months would have to be the Yellowtail Kingfish.
Waterhouse Island is a prime Kingfish location
Known for its fighting prowess plus its toothsome qualities, this fish rates up there with tuna and other game fish species.
This species is most commonly called kingfish, yellowtail kingfish, yellow-tailed kingfish, yellowtail, king, kingy or 'kingi'. Colloquial titles include 'hoodlum' and 'bandit', while smaller specimens are often nicknamed 'rats' or nor' headers. Some confusion exists between the kingfish and two of its near relatives; the amberjack and the Samson fish, while an unrelated species, the cobia (Rachycentron canadus) is also commonly called black kingfish.
It is also known as yellowtail (Qld, SA, Tas.), kingie, Tasmanian yellowtail (Tas.); kingfish, southern yellowtail
During warmer summer months and more into the month of February/March and when water temperatures often get to 24C , this fish regularly visits Tasmanian shores and of later years has even been showing up in warmer waters in Southern areas of the state. What this means is that more and more recreational anglers are being exposed to fish that they would not normally encounter and this can make for exciting times.
Dicky with a fine brace of North East Kingfish
So I suppose the mention by the scientific community that species not normally caught in temperate waters will move south is proving true.
Jack with a Tamar River Kingfish
Bait is a favoured method used to tackle Kingfish in Tassie and baits such as slimy Mackerel and smaller salmon are often fished under floats to get the job done. Live baits are even better and small mullet or pretty fish will often get anglers amongst fish.
Quite often large schools of Kingfish are encountered alongside vast schools of Australian salmon in and around estuaries, particularly in the North of the state and thinking anglers sometimes use chopped up bait such as the afore mentioned species or pilchards which are thrown into the water amongst schooling fish in a bid to ‘turn on’ the kingfish. Jigging under these salmon schools will often result in huge fish being hooked.
Once in attack mode, Kingfish are readily caught and the trick is to hold them at the back of a boat or in tidal rips. Sometimes’ tethering’ a single specimen will induce others to hang around, making it easier to catch a few.
A southern Kingfish
In Tassie, rocky outcrops or beacons in estuaries seem to appear as fish magnets to Kingfish. I’ve even had reports of schools of Kingfish massing under a mat of floating weed offshore at Tasman Island in the south. So it would seem that these fish like structures. People target them with limited success in and around boat moorings an tend to get good hook-ups, but as most of us are aware Kings can be dirty fighters in that they when hooked, will often head for the nearest object in a bid to try and dislodge any object they are entangled with and this includes fish hooks.
Skirts are good attractants.
Basically, any lure with colour or flash attractant will catch Kingfish. The range of lures from Halco is as good as any and will often out fish all other lures. Tuna skirts mainly in hot pink or green/yellow combinations will also induce strikes or bites when other lures won’t get a look-in. I am told that a fast troll is required to excite Kings at locations along the North East, speeds of up to 10 knots are not uncommon and the results speak for themselves.
I have found a garfish, beakie rigged and sometimes with a white octopus skirt on its nose will often bring the Kings on the run, again when they are not in switched on mode.
Baits such as slimy mackerel and salmon are good.