By Craig Edmonds of Jim’s Bait and Tackle, San Remo

Kingfish! Everyone wants to catch one, but in all reality very few work out the secret of how to catch them here and even fewer land them. One of the biggest secrets is that it takes time and a whole lot of effort, although of an exception is made for those who get lucky while targeting something else. I am mostly talking about those who target them and are looking for the bigger fish. There are 4 main areas I get reports from, and they are Western Entrance, Pyramid Rock, Eastern Entrance (pinnacle) and Cape Paterson. We do hear of fish being caught in different areas but those four are the main ones. For some reason this area is almost unique and to catch a kingfish off Phillip island you need to forget how you have caught them in other states and almost strip it back to basics. The most successful methods in catching them here are basically the same as when the Couta boats were working out of here, the main difference is they were using 200lg hand lines and not expensive rods and reels. It’s not an area to get a bicep workout on the jig rod, save that for Eden or Montague island!
Here is a summary of the best methods from the reports we receive. Down rigger or the simpler old-style lead line is a huge advantage with trawling especially when you are in deeper water and very simple to make up. I get people coming in with a $20 eBay reel wanting to load it up with 80lb braid and to put it on their snapper rod with light gauge hooks and cheap swivels and think they are set to catch their monster kingfish. But anybody that has hooked a reasonable sized kingfish would know that with that type of gear they have more chance of winning tats! But do you need the other end of the price scale? Only if you can afford it. Fish the area suited to your gear, anywhere shallow or deep, but if you are trying to catch one on your heavier snapper or gummy gear fish deeper to give yourself the best chance of landing it. And remember, when you hook a bigger one your boat can be your best friend. Drive off into deeper water and use the angles and not strait up and down under the boat. To give you an idea of the power of these fish a costumer hooked on a fish on a very expensive 80lb rod and reel setup and with the drag all but locked up lost over ½ a spool of line before they could get two other rods in and the boat started. They eventually landed the fish and it went 19.5kg. I have repaired plenty of reels where the drags have been cooked and needed to be replaced and wouldn’t mind a dollar for every broken rod from a kingfish session.
Bait, dead and alive, accounts for 80% of the kings reported, and the other 20% is made up using various lures, mostly trawled. Of all the reports we get only about half of them come from the shallow areas, under 20m and the bigger fish we have seen over the years all coming from deeper water. This is where the lead line, down rigger comes in to its own, where they are used to slow trawl deeper down. One thing you can’t compromise on is your terminal tackle, use quality swivels and heavy gauge hooks because these fish will just destroy cheap ones. As a general rule kingfish will hang around structure and out here we find the smaller fish close to the structure and the bigger ones out the back in the deeper water. From the reports we get, the majority of the bigger fish come from under the schools of baitfish or salmon. Catching them from under the schools is where the time of perfecting different methods comes in, and although not quite as simple as it sounds basically it requires working out which way they are travelling and setting up deeper leadlines to get under the salmon then trawling past the school.
Baits for kingfish can be a variety of squid, slimmeys and yakkas, but lately the best by a long way has been squid, dead or alive. Trawled down deeper either whole or as the couta boats used to do, cut into strips has produced most of the bigger ones. The other method has been using live baits drifted or slow trawled over the structure and around the headlands. While drifting live bait we are being told people are jigging lures, large soft plastics with heavy jig heads or not the long knife jigs but shorter heavy jigs with some success. If you need anymore information drop in and we will pass on anything we have been told from the reports, we are getting.
This week there was some ordinary weather on the days many have off and it’s reflected in the reports. With limited opportunity, especially on weekends comes limited reports but that doesn’t mean a lack of quality in the reports we did get. Offshore has been the best again, with good reports of flathead, pinkies and kingfish. There were the schools of baitfish, salmon, Couta, slimmeys around although we were told they seemed to be in smaller schools or broken up into smaller schools, which might have a bit to do with the weather, and if you wanted them plenty of arrow squid. There was a lot smaller flathead around but enough of the bigger ones to suggest they haven’t gone anywhere, just that others have moved.
Pinkies are running a bit late but have finally turned up and some very good numbers were caught this week. There was more opportunity in the bay than offshore and a few people found a sheltered spot on the water as well. Several gave the land-based spots a go. What they found were some very good numbers and excellent size pinkies. Most of those who reported pinkies were actually chasing whiting and got a bit of a surprise when 40cm pinkies started showing up, especially on the whiting gear. Most of the pinkies reported were 36cm or better with some up to 42cm and caught in the typical whiting areas. The jetties at Newhaven and at Cowes the best of the land-based areas with Cowes better in the evening and Newhaven on the last of the run-out tide.
Whiting remain elusive or, as many customers are putting, it non-existent, and it has been so long since they caught one they have forgotten what they look like. While it’s not quite as bad as that it isn’t far away this year and they have been very difficult to find, especially in any numbers. Hopefully that will change shortly and we will start to see some good numbers being caught.
We have had several customers ask us about the annual sale we normally have around this time of the year. This year because there won’t be the usual San Remo Fishing Village Festival in town on the Labour Day long weekend we won’t be having our sale on its normal day. That’s not to say we won’t have a sale this year and we are planning something for the Easter weekend in conjunction with our Good Friday Easter fishing Competition. When we work out all the details we will post it on Facebook and in our reports.