Kings Of The Sea: Catching More Kingfish

Kingfish are one of the hardest contending fish in our southern waters, Sydney in particular have a vast array of sport fish on offer but none compare to the brawling battle that a kingfish presents. Speed, stamina and strength, Kingfish tick all the boxes of the toughest fish on the planet.

In recent times the removal of a commercial fleet of Kingfish traps in Sydney has had a phenomenal impact on a boosting effect in Kingfish stocks in our waterways. The resurrection of Kingfish in Sydney is going from strength to strength as time goes by, it has made way for some of the most exhilarating and exciting sportfishing Sydney has seen in a very longtime, but targeting them isnt always as easy as its made to look, in order to survive from predators, these fish have opted a primal survival approach in our waters and are not as easy to tempt as some say.

Dale Ward with a solid Sydney king - one of the hardest-fighting inshore species.

Dale Ward with a solid Sydney king – one of the hardest-fighting inshore species.

Various Methods

There are severel popular ways to target Kingfish in Sydney, either on the reefs offshore, around the headlands or inside our Harbour, using techniques like jigging, downrigging, surface popping and trolling bibbed lures are all proven successful approaches but the majority of Kingfish are targeted in Sydney waters on the reefs using weighted live baits. The strike from a Kingfish on a live bait is savage, the strength they have when you hook them is immense, it can either leave you contending with them and being busted off on the reef or battling to get enough line back off them in order to then play the fish out into a safe depth.

The Battle Is On


The first few minutes after the Kingfish takes the aptly hooked live bait which is either a Yellowtail Yakka, Slimey Mackerel or Squid is the most enduring part, it can be so unpredictable as to whether you can get them up off the reef or they bury you and bust you on the reef in a matter of minutes, I believe that’s what makes us anglers return for the fight with a Kingfish.
Squid are in no doubt the number one choice of live bait for Kingfish, with the most success rate as Squid are in Kingfish’s main dietary food source, but its not the only sucessful meal. When rigging livebaits such as yakka and slimey Mackerel for Kings I tend to opt for the larger 7/0 and above, using a two hook rig I tend to set the live bait having its head facing away from the trace so the higher hook can be set into the baits back this will give a greater set hookup. Unless its a Garfish bait you’ll be using and then of course you would set the baits nose facing the trace so the garfish can have a more natural presentation as it sits head first into the tide.

A sensational underwater image of a kingfish courtesy of Dylan Hannah.

A sensational underwater image of a kingfish courtesy of Dylan Hannah.

Be Prepared

Preparation and time spent is the biggest key to success when targeting Sydney Kingfish in my opinion, setting out your day ahead of time is vital. But sometimes all preparation can lead to unsuccessful trips if you cannot find live bait. Many anglers on the bait grounds will anchor up when catching livebait, although this is a great way to stay in contact with the schools, but it also limits you to one spot and live bait schools such as Yakkas and Slimey’s move in, out and around the bait grounds and if your anchored you need to wait until they come to you. There is a solution, I drift around the bait grounds and save myself some time by monitoring my sounder, looking for those bait schools around my boat, when i find the bait that is when I drop my jig down saving myself the hassle of “catching blind”.


Livebaits Make The Difference

When the weather is permitting I always head offshore to the reefs to target Kingfish, leaving myself an ample amount of time to get enough livebaits in the morning before heading offshore. Kingfish are tough customers and you don’t want to cut any corners in your preparation for targeting them, 80 pound main lines and up to 120 pound leaders depending on the fishing locations, a Kingfish pull ine off your reel with even the heaviest of drags set when they are hooked they will soon sort out and weakness in your tackle and those weak links can cost you a fish. I try not to spend a huge amount of money on Kingfish gear as it can easily put you over budget when it comes to thinking of the bigger reels and rods department, but you should always buy the best gear at your most highest budget you can when setting up a Kingfish outfit, I’ve seen anglers lose Kingfish due to the outfit not being able to withstand big fish and the disheartening from losing some of the big girls can be brutal.


And another: When hooked up to a king always look to see if he has any mates with him – they often do! Image Dylan Hannah.


Reef Dwellers

Finding Kingfish out on the reefs can be a tough expedition in itself sometimes, Kingfish are one of those fish that are either on the bite or shutdown. using your GPS chartplotter as much as your sounder is essential, find out which way your driftline is going to be and start beyond the reef allowing you to drift over the reef and past it, kingfish do not always hold directly on the reef but often hang just off it and around the reef. drop your live bait down and make sure it travels down vertical, sometimes in order to get the bait to sink directly vertical you need to back the boat up to keep your line straight. It is paramount that your bait reaches the bottom beneath your boat not drifting down on any angles or in any horizontal fashion.

Fishing Deep


Your line will begin to have a belly or slack in the line when it has reached the bottom, some of the Sydney reefs are depths of 90 to 150 metres deep, once your live bait has made contact with the bottom simply give your reel a few cranks up off the bottom and drift through the reef. Kingfish do not nibble or bite the bait, these fish will hit the bait so hard you will know exactly when you have hooked a Kingfish.

A kingfish in shallow water -image Dylan Hannah.

A kingfish in shallow water -image Dylan Hannah.


Providing you are using a J hook set the hook into the fishes mouth upon strike and begin to pump to get it up off the bottom and away from any structure. Once the fish is in free water you can then begin to slow down a bit and play the fish out, taking into consideration that Kingfish have a soft mandible around the mouth and by going to hard on it throughout the whole fight can often wear a hole in that mandible and cause you to lose the fish.

Keep The Pressure On

But it is very important to keep a generous amount of pressure on these fish.
Kingfish definitely govern in the top order as a predator of their kind in southern waters, but they also have predators and have some smarts about them. They are a fish that require preparation and time spent on the water, but so worth the effort….. But I will admit, Kingfish are a constant learning curve.


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