Species Guide

Kingfish

Kingies | Haku | Yellowtail
Scientific Name
Seriola Ialandi
Family
Carangidae
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SIZE AND WEIGHT

Kingfish can grow up to 170cm in length and well over 50kg in weight, however, they’re most commonly caught at 5-15kg and 60-120cm long. Kingfish grow quickly reaching 2-3kg in their first year.

Recent studies show that females reach sexual maturity at around 5-7 years of age when they’re between 78-128cm in length, and males when they’re 75-93cm. Some previous studies indicated that kingfish reach sexual maturity around 70cm in length, which is why the legal size limit is set at 75cm (in New Zealand). A 75cm fish will weigh around 6kg.

Kingfish spawn in open water during spring and summer (when the water temperature reaches around 20 degrees celsius), before migrating as juveniles. They usually live in schools (based on their age) but school sizes can vary from just a few fish to over 100. Older kingfish tend to become solitary and migrate less.

It can take up to 20 years for a kingfish to reach its maximum size. Older fish can usually be identified by their size and their fading colours, while younger fish will have bright, distinctive colours.

To measure your kingfish, measure from their nose to the fork of their tail.

WORLD RECORDS

The IGFA All Tackle World Record is jointly held by 2 New Zealand anglers.

Angler – Mike Godfrey
Weight
– 52kg (114lb 10oz)
Catch date
– 5 February 1984
Location
– Tauranga, New Zealand

Angler – David Lugton
Weight
– 52kg (114lb 10oz)
Catch date
– 9 January 1987
Location
– White Island, New Zealand

According to the GFAA website, the Australian all tackle record belongs to Ron Jenyns, who landed a 36.74kg (81lb) kingfish in Queensland on 1 August 1970.

DESCRIPTION

Kingfish are known for their bright yellow fins and distinctive colouring. They are green/blue on the upper side with a silver-white belly and a golden/brown stripe running from the snout to the tail. The colours can fade as they get older.

They are large active predators who prey on other fish (including trevally, piper, and garfish), squid, and crustaceans. They tend to feed when there’s some current flowing but can quickly go on and off the bite, once they become suspicious of what they’re being offered.

Their torpedo shaped body makes them a prized recreational game fish, challenging anglers with strong, powerful runs and hard fighting (and often dirty) battles. When they strike, they strike hard! They’re usually found in high current areas near reefs, pinnacles, and headlands, but can turn up anywhere bait fish are present. If you’re near any sort of underwater structure, keep the drag on and slowly move the boat out into open water. This is because kingies will head straight for structure in a bid to bust you off.

WHEN AND WHERE TO FISH

Kingfish are found throughout the warm-temperate waters of the Southern Hemisphere. The juvenile fish are pelagic and mainly found out in open water, sometimes gathering around floating objects like marker buoys or mussel farms. Whereas the adult fish are described as semi-pelagic and are more commonly found in open coastal waters.

They’re known to prefer high current or tidal flow environments near rocky outcrops, reefs, or pinnacles. But they also enter shallow bays, open sandy bottom areas, harbours, and estuaries in search of food (usually bait fish like trevally, piper and garfish).

In New Zealand, they can be found from the Kermedec Islands to Banks Peninsula during late spring, summer, and early autumn, but are most common in the northern half of the North Island during summer. Offshore locations like Three King Islands, D’Urville Island, White Island, and the Ranfurly Banks are famous for targeting beast sized kingies.

There are different size and bag limits for kingfish around New Zealand. You can find all the latest information here.

In Australia, kingies can be found right around the country.

Victoria's peak season is from late December through to late March. The Port Phillip Heads "Rip" area (located between Point Lonsdale and Point Nepean) is considered a hot spot for targeting kingfish. But in or outside the heads on Port Phillip Bay and Westernport Bays are key areas to fish when targting kingies. When the water temperature drops late April, the kingies will start their migration out of Bass Strait heading for warmer territories for winter. The minimum legal length for kingfish in Victoria is 60cm, and the daily bag limit in 5 fish per angler.

Kingfish can be caught all year round in NSW, however the peak season is from January to April. There is no minimum legal length in NSW, but the daily bag limit is 5 fish per angler.

In Queensland, kingfish (or amberjacks as they can be called) are more of a winter species. The minimum legal length is 50cm in Queensland, and the daily bag limit is 2 per angler. This is a combined bag limit with samsonfish.

Over on the west coast, kingfish are becoming a more popular recreational fishing species. The minimum legal length is WA is 60cm and there is a daily bag limit of 3 per angler. This is combined bag limit with other large pelagic finfish.

Down south in Tasmania, kingfish are targeted during the summer months, especially during February and March, when the water temps often get to 24 degrees celcius. The minimum legal length is 45cm and there is a daily bag limit of 5 per angler.

No matter where you're fishing, always ensure you know the size and bag limits for your target species and fishing location.

HOW TO FISH

No matter how you choose to target kingfish, your gear and tackle need to be up to the task. Kingfish are one of the toughest and dirtiest fighting fish in the sea. Not only will they strike like a freight train, they’ll often run you through some pretty rugged terrain. So strong gear is vital when targeting this impressive species.

LIVE BAITING

Kingfish are particularly susceptible to live baits with jack mackerel, piper or koheru favoured to target average sized fish and live kahawai for larger models. Live baiting can be done at any depth and from on the water or from land and is a spectacular way to catch one of these freight train fish.

Always ensure your tackle matches your bait size, with heavy tackle commonly needed. Your braid or line should typically be 15-37kg, leader a minimum of 80lb (but up to 130lb), and hooks should be 7/0 – 12/0 in size and made from a thick wire gauge.

JIGGING

Jigging is a common and effective way of targeting Kingfish. This technique involves deploying metal jigs as “bait” to attract fish and using your rod to create movement through vertical, jerky actions. Kingfish are usually attracted to fast or erratically moving jigs, through either mechanical or high speed vertical jigging methods.

A strong 80lb braid and an abrasion resistant leader (80lb – 130lb) is recommended for jigging, to give you confidence your set up can handle that initial strike and their strong, powerful runs. Match the weight of your jig to the water depth, and speed of your drift and current to keep your jig in the firing zone for as long as possible.

TOPWATER CASTING

Topwater casting for kingfish involves casting lures (usually called stickbaits or poppers) out to your target. It can be a highly effective method of targeting kingies, particularly around bait schools and work ups, but also around structure and high current areas.

Poppers and stickbaits create a lot of action in the water as they’re reeled in, hopefully being chased by a hungry, charging kingfish.

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