The only thing better than serenely watching a kite flying over the iridescent sea is watching a 250-pound Bluefin Tuna leap out of the water, hooked on the line the kite deployed.
What is kite fishing?
Fishing with a kite seems like an outlandish thing. But, it’s one of the oldest methods of fishing in the world, and it’s still going strong — with good reason.
The accepted theory is that kite fishing originated in the Polynesian islands, where the fishermen used it to get past their rough reefs. Modern kite fishing for big predators really became popular in America in the 1960’s and 70’s. It immediately made a splash as being a very efficient way of fishing, even being banned in some tournaments because it was just too good.
What makes kite fishing so effective is the fact that it presents the bait near the surface, with the line above the water. It also allows you to reach inaccessible waters from any place. This makes it great for using on boats when you want to get to a hotspot that’s shallow or dangerous. At the same time, it’s really useful standing on the shore, as it was originally developed for that. You can reach the waters further away from the wave breakers and gain access to game you haven’t caught before.
However, the real adventure of kite fishing starts on the open sea. Big pelagic game is a prime target for this technique. Kites allow you to spread your live bait further out and keep it near the surface, making an attractive morsel for big predators. Kite fishing for Tuna is a fun and rewarding experience, while Sailfish and other pelagic big game also find the thrashing live bait hard to resist. You’re using the kites to spread your lures out, preventing tangles and making sure you cover a larger area. It’s also great for going after spookier fish, as it presents the prey with just the bait.
Despite the technique looking daunting, it’s not as hard as you’d think to learn the how top’s of kite fishing. All you do is attach your fishing line to the kite ropes with clips. However, using the appropriate kite for the appropriate weather conditions is a must. Certain types of kites fly in certain wind conditions and making sure you have the right type is paramount. Wind also affects the way you spread your bait and your line setup. An experienced teacher is recommended for people new to kite fishing.
Kite fishing equipment
You don’t need a lot of specific things to get started in kite fishing. You do need quite a few to have any proper success at it, though.
You want a kite, a high-durability square one, with carbon-graphite spars and tear-resistant fabric. Even though it’s a kite, it needs to be as rugged as the prey it’s used on. A handy trick kite fishermen use is to attach a balloon to their kite; allowing it to stay afloat if it goes down (pulling in a submerged kite is tough work!). Going one step further, attaching a helium balloon will help you use your kite even in weak wind conditions.
The rods you need for kites are short and stout (about 3 feet long), their only job is to keep the kite in check. You use regular rods for the fishing line itself. A fast reel is great, or one that evenly spreads the line as you reel it in quickly. An electric reel is best, but it comes with a notable price increase.
A kite fishing kit also requires:
- Release clips: While there are techniques which use the kite line as the fishing line, the most accepted (and tested) style uses release clips. It works very much like release clips for trolling, with the clip opening up once the fish bites, allowing you to fight it with your normal fishing rod and reel setup.
- Terminal tackle: weights, corks, and Styrofoam markers to see which line is hooked up are all commonly used when kite fishing. A wire leader is recommended if you’re going after Wahoo or Kingfish.
- The right kind of boat (if you’re fishing from one): Big center consoles are best. Bigger sport fishing boats can block the wind, and while kite fishing from them is possible, you can usually have better results from smaller boats. Lots of rod holders and live wells are important, to make sure you can set the kite in any direction.
- Sea anchor: This allows you to control your drift and makes it possible to fly multiple kites at once.
- Live bait: Live bait is essential for kite fishing. Goggle eyes are the most popular choice, but they can be difficult and expensive to source. Other options include Cigar Minnows, Sardines, and Blue Runners.
- Backup kites: It's always possible to lose a kite due to underwater snags, fall damage or the line breaking, letting your kite run free. Always bring spares.
Most kite fishing is done off large and pro-rigged center consoles. Their size allows two kites to be blown with up to six baits at the same time. The boats are also outfitted with riggers and many rod holders, to keep the kites spread wide and controlled. You can do all of this yourself on your boat, but it requires a lot of time and effort put into the modifications. Finally, the thing you cannot buy is experience and it takes a seasoned professional to successfully fly kites.
Experience is also very important and flying multiple kites requires a seasoned professional. A pro kite fisherman can even drag his hooks over kelp and it won’t snag but rather catch a shy fish, such as Mahi Mahi!
Where to kite fish:
Florida’s unique position near the continental shelf and the Gulf Stream make Miami and Pompano Beach fantastic places for kite fishing. Sailfish is the top target in these parts, with Mahi Mahi and Black fin Tuna also getting in on the action. Marlin also love to go for the bait dangling from kites.
The West Coast boasts great pelagic big game fish hunting and San Diego is perfectly situated for kite fishing charters. Dana Point is also suitable for this style. You can expect to go after the illustrious Bluefin Tuna and even Calico Bass.
The Gulf of Mexico
The Gulf’s oil rigs are home to famously large Yellowfin Tuna - and kite fishing for them out of ports such as Venice, Louisiana, is getting increasingly popular.
Cabo San Lucas is home to many charters that go out on the open sea for big game fish. Puerto Vallarta and Nuevo Vallarta also house many kite fishing charters. Yellowfin Tuna trails the seas to the east of Mexico, as well as Wahoo, they both love the active bait the kite provides.