The mighty yellowtail kingfish (Seriola lalandi) is a seasonal visitor to the Victorian coastline and until fairly recently was only an occasional catch by most Victorian spearfishers. However, in the past three years we have seen spearfishers target the kingies with amazing success.
From 1980 to 2008 l only ever landed three kingfish in Victoria, but earlier this year l landed three kingfish in three consecutive days as a result of some dedication. Knowing when, where and how to target kingfish will substantially increase your chances of landing one.
Of course, you can certainly spear kingies along the NSW coast and in Southeast Qld, but Victoria really is one of the best places for spearos to target these fish. Still, if you want to target kingies in other states, a lot of the tips in this article still apply.
Experienced divers who target kingfish in Victorian waters apply proven techniques, such as the use of flashers and spearguns suitable of landing specimens up to 25kg.
Flashers are similar to hookless lures that are shiny and will attract and hold kingfish around divers. Often they have a plastic squid on the bottom and mirrors with wings that flap in the water. Divers tow these beneath them on a float and can lower the height of the flashers to a specific depth of water. The ideal depth varies from mid water through to closer to the bottom. I like to periodically lift them to the surface and slowly drop them, shaking them along the way.
Using flashers isn’t rocket science but they are VERY effective. I have seen many kingies become fatally attracted to flashers and appear almost mesmerised by them. These shiny attractors have the ability to keep kingfish in the diver’s area for several minutes, and at times allow divers the chance to hand pick a suitable specimen. Do not get too greedy though, as kingies can disperse as quickly as they appear!
A suitable gun is usually a 1.2m or 1.3m Euro gun with either single rubber or multiple 16mm rubbers and a single point. Some divers are now using dedicated bluewater guns (i.e. Riffe style with slip tips and multiple rubbers) and these are proving very efficient.
You should always have your gun tethered to a float line as kingfish are very powerful fish. Some divers opt for the use of reels but this should be left for the experienced only.
As kingfish can often be found near baitfish and in current, drift diving is an effective method of hunting them. Diving in pairs and using flashers, divers should commence their drift upcurrent of the hot spot (this may be a baitfish aggregation, a bommie, a drop-off, a current line, etc) and drift over the area shaking their flashers. It can pay to mark this hotspot with either your GPS or a marker buoy.
One diver up, one down is not only a safe practice but also maximises your bottom time near the flashers and is the most effective way of hunting kingfish. If things get quiet, take it in turns in spearing some other species. Often this commotion will attract the kingfish. Another little trick is to twang or rub your rubbers on your spear gun. This will often bring kingies in, or turn the kingies when they are swimming away.
Yellowtail kingfish are very tough fighters and will typically head for the bottom once hit. Their goal is to dislodge the spear shaft, and divers should attempt to keep them away from the reef and kelp below. Be aware of your speargun and float lines and always have a sharp knife handy just in case you do become entangled.
Kingfish sizes vary in Victoria from 1-2kg up to at least 25kg. In the past, line fishers have caught kingies to over 30kg and l feel it is only a matter of time before a spearfisher lands a fish over the magical 50lb mark. Victorian Spear fishing Champion Drew Fenney landed the State Record yellowtail kingfish earlier this year at Wilsons Promontory and it weighed in at 20.73kg.
In Queensland, yellowtail kingfish have a minimum size of 60cm and a bag limit of two. In NSW the minimum legal size is 65cm with a bag limit of five, and in Victoria the minimum size is 60cm with a limit of five.
Blue Water Hunting International has produced a new DVD on spear fishing in Victoria (titled Hunters and Gatherers) with a brief segment on spear fishing for kingfish. They will also be running guided kingfish spear fishing and line fishing charters this summer and autumn. For more information on both check out at www.bwhi.com.au.Reads: 9357