RECORD: 4.5kg, P. Swanson, Mercury Islands 2009
The kahawai is a streamlined, in-shore, pelagic fish and when properly bled can make for great eating. It is particularly good smoked. They are a firm, silvery fish ranging from grey-blue to blue-green on top and silver below. They have rows of black spots along their flanks. While they can grow up to 75cm and 9kg, they average around 40-50cm and 1-2kg.
Bag limit: Part of 20 finfish limit
FEEDING HABITS & HABITAT:
Kahawai are mainly a northern species but may be found as far south as Banks Peninsula during the Summer. They are a carnivorous, pelagic species that patrols the coast in schools from 10 to 10,000. They eat mostly small fish that they herd to the surface creating impressive boil-ups. Kahawai are likely to be encountered anywhere that other pelagic species, like kingfish, are found where there are good currents. They are very commonly found in estuaries and river-mouths.
While rarely specifically targeted by spearos, kahawai may be hunted the same way as kingies. Unlike kingies however, kahawai travel at 100 miles per hour at all times and can be hard to shoot. The trick to shooting fast moving fish is to "lead" them rather than "track" them ie fire ahead of where you think a fish is going rather than trying to swing your gun. Because kahawai travel in large schools it is usually enough to point your gun and wait for a fish to swim within range. When you see large schools don't be tempted to just fire your gun into the school because there are so many fish you can't miss as you invariably will. Always target a specific fish. Also don't be tempted to shoot from the surface, always dive under, even if it's only 1 metre, as the water movement on the surface makes a straight shot very difficult.
When speared kahawai put up a big fight, and while they probably can't tow you around, they can make a real mess of your gear if you're not careful. They have extremely soft flesh and tear off very easily so you must try and get them in as quickly as possible without putting any strain on them. It is usually better to dive down your line and grab them rather than to pull them to you.
Kahawai respond very well to berley and flashers and if you can keep a school around you it's likely to bring in other, bigger pelagics.