Rat kingies go nuts
  |  First Published: December 2003

THE KINGIES should be going nuts in the Harbour by now so here’s a littleprimer to help make sure you get into a few this season.

If you go to the trouble to learn to catch squid you will always catch a lot of kings and that is the only way I know of to do it consistently well. If you go to the trouble of going to the fish markets and buying very fresh squid, you will catch a few kings, sometimes.

If you want to catch them on lures regularly you must use the 6” or 9” Slug-Go soft plastics, or saltwater flies. Poppers are LAO OK for a few kings occasionally when they get really excited.

About Christmas time the rats come in. They are smaller fish, ranging from 50cm to 70cm, and they are real silly puppies. These are the fish that will swarm throughout the Harbour all Summer and Autumn. The first signs of them are on the surface. They are hard to catch at this time and your best bet is with a fly. They are feeding on ‘eyes’, tiny baitfish, and it’s hard to interest them in anything else.

Once they go off the ‘eyes’, they move in around the marker buoys and yacht moorings. This happens about late January, and they become much less selective. This is the time to catch large numbers of them on squid, Slug-Gos and flies. You can see the fish from the surface and on the sounder

By mid February they will be throughout the Harbour, ranging as far up as Blues Point in the Harbour and Bantry Bay in Middle Harbour, depending on how much rain we have had and where the squid go. North Harbour will be thick with them, too. They are generally going nuts by this stage and it’s a sorrowful day when you can’t catch at least a couple.

By late May you won’t get too many around the markers but they will still be going crazy in Middle Harbour. Some bigger fish move in again around the deeper markers and The Spit.

By July you are lucky if you get any at all, although over the past few seasons we have had some good sessions as late as August. This is probably a result of there being more kings around these days, thanks to the eradication of the floating traps that decimated their numbers in the early 1990s. I have caught fish both big and small around the Wedding Cakes, Neilson Park and North Head in Winter and early Spring but there is no consistency or pattern to these appearances.

Soft plastic stick baits, particularly Slug-Gos and those from Storm, are awesome lures on a whole range of species, but particularly kingies.

Big Kingies like whole live squid but small ones don’t. Big kingies will just as happily take a squid head. So, by using a squid head you will get kingies big and small. If you use live squid you will get fewer fish but they will be bigger on average.

A whole squid gut is not only an exceptionally good bait but it is also the best berley you can use for kings. It’s all about the guts. Use the guts, and especially the ink, to entice the fish You can burst the ink sac before you send the bait down or you can let the first king burst it for you. The gut is always the first bait to go, which must mean it’s the best bait. Strips of squid cut from the tube are good baits, particularly after the guts and heads have got the school in a frenzy. Rub it all in ink.

Kingies mostly hold from mid-water down so obviously this is a good place to present your bait. High tide and the first two hours of the run out, especially early morning and late afternoon, is when you will find them really feeding. That’s also a good time to catch squid. You won’t have to worry too much about tides or time of day it you pay close attention to what I said earlier about the bait, the guts and the ink.


Kings are easily turned on and then off again if you know what buttons to push. The worst thing you can do is to keep presenting in the same manner something that has been rejected. A school of following kings can be turned into a school of feeding kings by something as simple as changing the presentation angle. This applies to both lures and bait. If they follow a lure or show interest in a bait more than three times without taking it, don’t present it again.

They are the exact opposite to barra in this sense. Barra can be teased into striking where kings can be teased out of striking. They are stubborn bastards and the more you shove it in their face, the more stubborn they’ll become. Change lure size, let it sink, change presentation angle or, best of all, go away, try another spot and come back in half an hour.

To turn them on, surprise them. Rock up to a spot noisily. Throw your anchor with a big splash and then get all your baits out there quickly. Let the baits sink to the required depth and then rip them back in. Just as an excited, dumb dog does stupid things, so do kingies.

As soon as the anchor hits the water they come straight over to see what is happening. The key is to not give them too much time to think about it. Trick them into an impulse attack. Action excites them but not for long, so work quickly

In addition to this you are better to have five or six baits in the water rather than just a few. Once again, this is more likely to excite them. If you can’t handle six rods, just take a few out of action once you have the fish on the bite.

One final but important tip is to fish with your reel in gear and with your normal fighting drag. Don’t feed kingies any line when they take your bait. Once a take is felt, lower the rod tip and move with the fish. Once the rod reaches the water, its time to strike.

While the Sydney Harbour kings this month are likely to be only rats, they provide plenty of light-tackle action.

Reads: 2007

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