Save Fuel – Go Fly a kite!
  |  First Published: February 2010

In recent issues of QFM, I’ve covered two techniques of drifting with a drift sock and slow trolling with downriggers. You can now increase your catch dramatically by incorporating kite fishing techniques into your drift spread.

I have spent considerable time over the last couple of seasons refining the art of kite fishing from a boat. Kite fishing has evolved into one of the most productive techniques ever employed by anglers when chasing fish on the surface.

The modern era of the kite technique started in Miami, Florida and soon spread up and down the eastern seaboard of the USA. The technique is so productive that 99% of all boats in a live baiting light tackle billfish tournament use it these days and 99% of all sailfish taken in recent tournaments along the Gulf Stream were also off kites. The majority of kite fishing usually targets tuna and light tackle billfish.

The basic method of kite fishing is that the kite is flown out from the drifting boat and its string acts like an outrigger line with one, or up to three, Blacks type outrigger clips set out along the kite cord. Just like when using an outrigger, as each clip is deployed a line is clipped into the clip and the fishing reel is freespooled to allow the fishing line to be run out at the same time as the kite cord. Do not twist the fishing line before putting it into the Blacks clip because the fishing line needs to be free running through the clip. This way you can adjust the line to keep the live bait swimming near or on the surface of the ocean.

As the kite hovers in the wind above the water its distance to the water will increase or decrease. As this occurs the angler monitoring the fishing rod will either retrieve line or let line out to adjust for the height variations while still keeping the bait in the strike zone.

It can be a little funny if your kite lifts skyward and the live bait suspends in mid-air. So for this reason, most anglers will have the fishing rod in a rod holder and they’ll stand beside the rod with their hands on the reels. Their hands will be in constant motion either freespooling or winding to tend to the bait.

It is common to fish two fishing lines off each kite. With a little practice most anglers will be able to fish three fishing outfits off each kite whilst also operate the kite rod.

The rod that has its line attached to the kite, known as the kite rod, should be very short, often rigged with 80-130lb braid, and the reels are often electric. We started out using a short kite rod (a broken rod with a new tip glued on) and an old Penn Senator 9/0 reel. With this outfit I could run one or two fishing lines and the one kite rod. Then I graduated to electric reels and I found that I could easily run three fishing lines as well as the kite rod.

The Penn Senator 9/0 isn’t a regularly traded item these days – but they make a great entry level kite reel for the kite string because of their big spool and the power in their retrieve. Trust me you will need every bit of the power they offer when the wind speed picks up and you’re winding your kite in. If you look around the dusty corner of a tackle store you just might find one before they get popular.

Up to three outrigger clips can be attached to the string on the kite rod, which is where the fishing lines are run through. When you get a strike, the clip releases the line and you are free to fight the fish.

It is common to leave the kite out for the whole drift. If you are only travelling a short distance between resetting your drift, then you can leave the kite out, even after you have hooked a sailfish or tuna and are in the middle of fighting the fish. It happens regularly that you’ll soon hook another fish on one of the lines going through the kite clips.

Kite fishing covers a great deal more area than just the drift of your boat so it is a much more efficient fishing technique. The three lines on a kite will cover a considerable separation, but should fish be spotted either closer to the boat or further away you can shorten or widen the kite’s arc to accommodate. And since you are drifting with no engines running then you are reducing your fuel burn for the day as well.

Kites can also be flown from your outriggers. The only downside for the first few trips will be that other boats around may not realise what you’re doing and could wander into your pattern. But really it hasn’t been much of a problem in my experience.

Depending on local and zone regulations, adding a kite to your spread can allow you to fish up to seven baits (and six anglers) out at a time on the drift. Most commonly this is done from centre consoles, true walkarounds or flybridge gamefishers.

Kites don’t fly in less than three to four knots of wind but above that there is a kite designed for every bracket of wind speed. Kite fishing is a boon for the fishing and chandlery industry as it gives anglers many advantages: It adds more rod holders to the boat, allows you to take more buddies fishing, and best of all it gives you an excuse to buy more rods!

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