IN MANY WAYS I look at kingfish in the same light as jewfish. Both are wide-ranging in NSW, being found in bays, estuaries, along ocean rocks and over offshore reefs.
They're both massively popular recreational species that take bait or lures and can grow to more than 30kg, with the average fish encountered in NSW waters at least a couple of kilos.
Fishing for big kings is a specialist form of LBG and some of the better spots include, Seal Rocks, Winnie Bay, Little Beach, Whale Beach, Kiama, Marsdens Head, Big Beecroft, Eve’s Ravine, Inner Drumsticks, Devil’s Gorge, The Tubes, Steamers, Tura Head and Green Cape.
Experience has me believing that the biggest kingfish are those which hunt along the deep ocean rocks on the South Coast of NSW and it is there, on the sandstone ledges from Kiama to Green Cape, that tackle-destroying hoodlums are encountered by rock anglers almost daily.
My first experiences with big kingfish were on the famous rock ledge Eve’s Ravine, just behind Currarong township on the Beecroft Peninsula in Jervis Bay. We were spinning up frigate mackerel to a kilo on light high speed gear and no sooner had we hooked a small tuna then it was quickly snaffled by massive but unseen predators. Most hook-ups resulted in 4kg line heading rapidly to the bottom in 12 fathoms. Eventually I was lucky enough to manhandle a frigate to the rocks. With a 50 lever drag and 24kg at the ready, the little tuna was sent straight back out under a balloon attached to a 10/0 hook and 200lb leader.
With the gallery of half a dozen anglers looking on, the balloon shot across the surface due east for about 30 metres before the hapless baitfish turned and headed straight back towards the rocks with a large black shadow in hot pursuit. Assuming that the 1.5-metre predator was a shark, we were all in shock when a massive kingfish looking all of 30kg rolled side on directly below us, swallowing the frigate. Free-spooling the bait for as long as I dared, I braced myself as I slipped the lever up to strike and set the hook.
With the cutdown six-wrap FSU doubled over under 10kg of drag, I attempted to stonewall the king as it powered towards the bottom. No matter how hard I pulled, the fish made it to the base of the underwater cliff face and then started to run along it. With the wave action eroding the cliff below the waterline, the king seemed to be swimming almost behind me and no matter how far out I held the 2.6-metre rod, there was no way I could keep the line off the rocks.
In a futile attempt to depressurise the situation, I threw the reel into free spool and, with burnt thumbs and singed ego, the king took me even deeper under ledge, wearing through the heavy line.
Big kingfish love nothing more than frigate mackerel, alive or dead – provided there’s a bit of body sheen left, a frigate is an awesome bait. If you’re using dead frigates, simply hanging them in the wash at the base of a vertical rock face is enough to put ‘life’ back into the bait.
Don’t be too surprised if something even bigger takes an interest – my 120kg black marlin took a dead frigate hung in the wash with the double still on the reel. I’ve seen kingfish, yellowfin tuna, sharks and marlin all take dead frigates, such is the big-fish attraction of this bait.
A close second behind frigates on the big kingfish menu are live squid, followed by live or dead garfish, pike, nannygai, yellowtail and slimy mackerel.
The sort of rock ledge that kingfish can be caught from doesn’t always have to front massively deep water. Sometimes calmer spots behind bommies, headlands and islands that attract schools of garfish and yellowtail make excellent big-kingfish spots.
How to handle the hook-up with a rampaging hoodlum is difficult to prescribe. Generally speaking, going for broke is still the most popular technique and 24kg and even 37kg tackle will see you land only 50% of the big kings you hook at best.
Some anglers prefer the soft approach but I’ve never seen this work. The biggest kings demand tough and uncompromising rod work and the ability to move around and, at times, keep the rod outside your centre of balance and power – not an easy thing to do on the rocks.
A solid king comes from Eve’s Ravine, part of the fabulous network of rock platforms of Jervis Bay.
A good king from the famous Tubes at Jervis Bay.
Kings also grow big on the North Coast , where frigate mackerel aren’t so abundant. Live-baiters there must make do with slimy mackerel, yellowtail or legal tailor.
Live squid is the top king bait on many parts of the NSW coast.
A live nannygai about to be put out at Devil’s Gorge.Reads: 15808