Yellowtail kingfish, which is the full name for our most popular local game fish, have turned up around inshore reefs and islands, providing anglers with some of the best fishing in the world.

Yes, on the planet. A glance at the world record book confirms our kings are the biggest anywhere - a 52kg monster is the record. Two of that size have been caught in our waters, the first in 1984 by Mike Godfrey fishing out of Tauranga using 15kg line, and the other in 1987 by David Lugton fishing at White Island with 24kg line.

The different line classes account for different categories. Interestingly, the heavier lines allowed have recorded smaller fish; a 50.6kg fish from Ranfurly Banks on 37kg line, and a 43.09kg one from White Island on the heaviest line permitted - 60kg breaking strain.

The record catches have all been made on live bait, and these can be offered to your quarry in several ways, depending on where you fish.


If fishing from rocks or an anchored boat close to a reef, it usually involves a float to tether the bait and stop it getting into the weed. This can be a balloon tied to the top of the swivel joining the trace and line, or a makeshift float such as a plastic bottle. Dental floss is ideal for tying on a balloon or float; so is light monofilament line. The bait is fished with the reel in free spool with the clicker on to signal a strike and just enough drag to stop the bait pulling off line. Then when a fish strikes, it is allowed to run and swallow the bait before the drag is increased, winding in line until it goes tight and lifting the rod.

Some fishermen like also to drop a bait on the bottom close to a reef, and a heavy sinker will stop bait swimming around and tangling other lines.

Sinkers can be attached to the bottom eye on the swivel with dental floss so they break off, and it is fished with the drag hard on strike.

Another method is slow trolling a live bait, which is set about 30m behind the boat and trolled at about two knots, with the drag set just enough to stop it pulling out line but a fish can take line when it strikes. It is very exciting when a king slashes at the bait, and it is usually preceded by the bait jumping out of the water. They often miss the bait, so just keep trolling slowly and wait for the fish to come back and have another go, and let it swim away before setting the hook.

Kahawai are the best bait for trolling, while kingfish also like piper, slimy mackerel and jack mackerel. They will also take sprats. In northern waters the blue koheru is a favourite among charter skippers.

Kingfish swallow their quarry head first, which is why it is important to let them swim away for some distance, giving them time to turn the bait prior to swallowing it.

When fishing in deep water at popular places like White Island, the Moko Hinau Islands or the Ranfurly Banks, the livie is dropped to the bottom. With this approach there are two schools of thought on whether to fish with the reel in free-spool and the thumb on the spool ready to react to the slightest pressure and let line slip out, or fish it with a hard drag.

Both systems work so it is a matter of personal preference. Once firmly connected there is never any doubt as the fish react quickly to the pressure of the tackle. Kings are among the toughest fish. Veteran Whakatane skipper Rick Pollock calls them street fighters.

"They fight deep and dirty and they will head straight for any weed or rocks - and they never give up," he says. So, when hooking kings near the bottom ratchet up the drag and hang on, trying to horse them up away from the rocks.

Another technique is to keep a light drag and slowly ease the boat out to deep water, leading the fish away from the hazard.

Once in deep water the fight can begin. Connect the anchor to a float so it can be quickly released and picked up later.

Kingfish in this country are in good shape in terms of the fishery and, as they are large fish, one is sufficient to feed a family or group.

While the limit is a generous three fish a day, most charter skippers have an unwritten agreement to limit the number of kings they will allow punters to take. They recognise the value of these magnificent fish and what a special resource we have in a world where fisheries are under immense pressure.

So should we all.