49.8kg, N. Boulgaris, Hen and Chickens, 2013
Kingfish, or Yellowtail in other parts of the world, are New Zealands premiere gamefish and most world record fish were landed here. Kingfish are a classic, elongated pelagic shape with a large caudal fin. They are typically a dark green with a white belly and a yellow stripe running along their pectoral line to the yellowtail that gives it it's name. Kingfish can grow up to 2 meters long and weigh up to 60kg!
These bag and size limits are ridiculously generous and responsible spearos should limit themselves to one fish per day of at least a metre's length.
HABITAT & FEEDING HABITS:
Kingfish are much more frequent in far northern waters where they may be found year-round but most of us have to wait until the summer months when they move south as far as Banks Peninsula. Kingfish are a true pelagic fish who move up and down the coast chasing their prey of small baitfish such as piper, garfish and koheru as well as squid and octopus. The best places to find kingfish are on pinnacles and other features with some current running past them. Other good places to hunt kingies are on navigational buoys and other man-made FADs.
Whoever said “curiosity killed the cat” could have just as easily been talking about kingfish. An extremely inquisitive fish, kingies will come right up close to check you out provided you make no sudden movements to spook them. Anything you can do to attract their attention is good. They are even attracted by boat noise so you often get your king within 5 minutes of hitting the water. Kingies respond particularly well to flasher rigs which will bring them up from the bottom and hold their attention.
The best way to dive on kingies is to make a very slow, relaxed dive, ensuring not to make eye contact with them, with your gun held in close. Now the rest is up to the fish. They will circle closer and closer as long as you do nothing to spook them. Pick out the fish you want and anticipate where it’s going, extend your arm and shoot. When shooting at kingies you should always try to get the spear in the green half above the yellow line to ensure a good holding shot. Often if the fish begins to turn away strumming your rubbers or shouting through your snorkel will get them to stop and turn broadside for a perfect shot. Now the real game starts.
Kingfish are streetfighters, they break mono and bend spears, they rip floppers off, they tangle lines, they tangle you in lines and they tear themselves off. Your rigging needs to be heavy-duty and in tip-top condition if you hope to land these fish. Most divers will have a dedicated kingi gun that is typically 120-140cm with two rubbers to ensure a heavier spear can punch right through the fish. While fighting the fish you need to keep it off the bottom at all costs as it will tangle your line and tear itself off in no time but you don’t want to put too much strain on the fish or gear. A bungy solves this problem beautifully. Inserted between your gun and floatline or replacing the floatline altogether the bungy absorbs the excess strain. Be careful not to use a bungy that's too long or too stretchy for the terrain you're diving though as you still need to maintain control over the fish and be able to put the brakes on if it's going to wrap you up on some structure. A 1 metre long bungy that stretches out to about 3 metres will be fine as will a full length bungy with about 20% stretch but stay away from full, blue water bungies unless you really are out in blue water.
Some divers also use a breakaway rig that disengages the gun from the shaft and shooting lines preventing your gun being dragged off in the event of a failure.
When shot, kingies go round and round in circles and an unwary diver can easily be tangled up in his own lines and drowned. For this reason it is important to always carry a sharp knife somewhere you can get at it in an emergency – not your leg!