We talk about kite fishing in our fishing reports and to our guests at certain times a year. Many first timers have never seen it done and have no idea why it is so productive with certain species of fish so I thought I’d take a moment to explain the art of kite fishing.
To begin we have to look at nature and how animals eat. Most land based animals chase their prey down. Speed and agility are what allow them to catch prey and, of course, prey has the ability to escape. Some burrow in tunnels, some have tremendous speed and others might have armor or the ability to bite back, always a deterrent. Those that can escape by flying up or beneath the surface of the land have the best shot at living another day.
When fish are looking for food, they see up toward the surface. Bait fish are silhouetted by the light of day and are easily seen from below. Most fish chase the bait fish to the surface where escape must be done with moves right, left or speed straight ahead. By chasing a school of bait fish, the weak fall behind and are singled out, just as predators do on land with herds of animals.
So, now that we have shown that fish prefer to eat up near the surface of the water, here is where fishing with kites comes into play. We’ll just go ahead and create the perfect eating position for a fish by dangling a bait fish on the surface. Here it is… come and get it!
We happen to use two kites at a time usually, allowing us to present more baits for more opportunities. The kite is launched from the flybridge on its own rod and reel. Clips similar to our outrigger clips are placed on the kite line in various ways and spaces and the kite is sent out away from the boat with a fishing line and bait that is also taken away from the boat. These clips are spring loaded and the tension is set so that when a fish eats the bait, the clip releases and the kite stays in the air. The fishing line also has the ability to slide through the clip so we can feed the fish without any kind of tension or pressure being felt by the fish.
Since our kites are essentially sky hooks and we’re dangling our baits on the surface, virtually no tackle is in the water for the fish to see. The bait fish is aware he is in a bad, unprotected place and constantly tries to swim deeper into the water where he has a chance to escape. That struggle sends out vibrations that predators feel, just like we hear, and they are attracted to investigate.
One of the great things about kite fishing is you usually get to see the bite when a fish comes along. Sailfish are usually quite obvious as they appear from the side or below the bait. Mahi-mahi are also quite easily seen streaking across the surface toward the bait. Fish like Tuna, Kingfish and a few others feed by accelerating toward the surface from beneath and are rarely seen before they make a splash at the bait’s position.
Depending on the type of fish eating, the line is either paid out to allow time for the fish to eat, or in some cases, the line is made tight to set the hook quickly. The boat is put in gear to help get some of the slack out, it does go all the way up to the kite line and back to the surface, and with luck, the hook is set, the clip releases the line and the angler is now tight with his fish.
Since fish like Sailfish and Mahi-mahi usually travel in groups, leaving the rest of the spread out can mean more hook ups. And of course, pitching baits from the boat aids this as well.
While kite fishing is mainly done for catching Sailfish, almost any fish can be caught by this method. Live bait is best but dead bait can also be used. Sailfish have a very high rate of success fishing this way, around 80% or better. Other species, like Kingfish, have a lower rate of success, somewhere around 50%. It’s usually the smaller fish that escape.
While fishing with kites does have its advantages, there are disadvantages as well, but only a few with the main one being mobility. You are somewhat limited to where you can go with the baits up in the kites. Short of reeling everything in and re-setting, mobility is dependent on wind and current. So instead of finding the fish, you attract them to you. Other things we do aid this but… we can’t give all our secrets.
So now you have an idea of what the fishing kites do and how they work. In the winter months, our best time of year for fishing for Sailfish, you may be asked if you want to buy live bait. At least now you’ll know how they are used.
One thing about fishing is… It never works out well for the bait.