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The buzz word around Victorian fishing scenes lately is certainly Kingfish. Over the previous 2-3 seasons we have seen a healthy population increase in both size and numbers.
Almost fished to the brink of extinction due to pressure from recreational and commercial fishing up the NSW south coast, the schools of Kingfish that used to inhibit our southern waters just seemed to disappear. Tales from the ‘good old’ days in the 80s-90s when lead lining areas like the Port Philip Bay Rip would produce fish up to 30kg seemed to be a memory resigned to history.
Over the previous two seasons Victorians have seen reliable and regular schools of Kingfish show up in huge numbers all along our coastline from Lakes Entrance, Wilsons Prom, Phillip Island and of course the entrance of Port Phillip the ‘Rip’.
Interesting to note, while Victoria has seen two great seasons on the Kingfish, the NSW South coast has had two very tough seasons with famous Kingfish hotspots like Green Cape, Eden and Montague Island at Bermagui barely seeing any schools show up, maybe the fish are moving further south due fishing pressure or following bait? Only time will tell if this is a short term shift in their movements or something more permanent.
For this article we will look at fishing the closest location to Melbourne to go and test your skill and tackle on these hard fighting fish, and that’s the Rip.
The Rip is a very serious stretch of water, with up to 6 knots of current running at times it makes it a difficult place to fish and also dangerous so you certainly need to take care, and make sure your boat is up to the task. It’s also very important not to enter the shipping channel when fishing this area, big ships come through at great speed and have very little room to manoeuvre so stay out of their way! If being run over by a container ship isn’t enough reason to stay out of the channel, there is also a big chance of getting a fine with the ‘Steer clear’ boat usually present and issuing huge fines to boats that break the rules! Your sounder will clearly show the channel, so stay out of it. Anyway – the fish are on the edges, so no need to fish in the middle of the channel.
The Kings show up when the currents fast running and blue clean water. If the water is green, don’t waste your time!
Tide changes are critical – especially on the school fish, the end of the Ebb tide seems to be the pick of the tides for the Rip.
New moon has bigger tides, and this seems to fish really well.
Prime months are Jan – April, but it all depends on water temp 20 degree is ideal.
Here are a couple of GPS marks that hold Kingfish in the Rip:
Fishing techniques for catching Kingfish in the Rip are the same as in other places, however with the strong tide it’s more of a case of when to use which technique.
Probably the most common method, and also the most productive for the bigger fish.
The biggest problem in this area is that sometimes catching livies can prove as difficult as catching kings. Slimy Mackerel are the number 1 bait and can be caught by burlying up around Blairgowrie marina, the mussel farm at the back of mud island and offshore in 30+m. Squid are a fantastic option, and normally much easier to come by at places like Portsea between the moored boats. Yellowtail scad and small salmon also make great live baits. Often the days when the live bait is hard to catch is when the Kings fire the best!
I like to bridle my fish live baits, with a simple Dacron loop, or even a rubber band. This allows the hook to sit well out from the livies head, and as the Kings swallow the bait head first the hook up rate is dynamite.
With the bait now secured freely, you can troll the bait and the bait will swim naturally at the depth you set it.
Live Squid I like to use a single hook, and lightly pin the tip of the hood so as not to kill the squid, again this will now troll at your desired depth once set.
My favourite way to target Kingfish, the action is very fast and multiple hook ups are common.
Jigging is hard work on the body, so you need to utilize your sounder to locate the fish rather than spending hours tiring yourself out jigging for no reason.
Using smaller jigs are working really well for me in the Rip, the new style of Gomoku jigs are dynamite! The Storm Gomoku rod certainly packs a punch for such a light weight rod, but has no problems stopping most of the school kingfish you will encounter in the Rip.
A quick video clip of a double hook up on knife jigs in the Rip
Kingfish pull hard, really hard! In the Rip you’re not fishing overly deep water so line capacity isn’t a huge concern, you’re not going to get spooled – but you will get busted off on the reef!
A good quality reel with a decent drag is what’s required to stop these fish, especially when you hook them close to the bottom.
I like to fish braid, because it gives a really direct feel on livebaits, you can really see when they start getting hassled, and once they hook up there is no stretch in the line so the hook sets itself.
30-50 pound braid is fine, with a decent amount of shock leader around 60-80 pound I find works the best.
When fighting a kingfish, the ‘gently gently’ approach is the only way to go. If you fish heavy gear, and pull heavy drags you upset the fish and they just put you straight into the reef. If you take your time, and just gently leader the fish up, without applying excessive pressure the fish will just tire itself out and come to the boat.
A perfect example of this is the Storm Gomoku rods, I have this matched with a Shimano Stradic Ci4 4000 with 16 pound braid and last trip this outfit out fished everything else we had on the boat! The bite sized jigs were just inhaled by the school sized kings around 75cm and with a gentle touch had no problems landing them on this light gear.
Kingfish are one of the toughest fighting fish in the ocean and that’s what makes them so fun to target! They are good eating, but we certainly need to make sure we take care of this fishery as it’s just recovering and getting better and better, so don’t take more than you need and make sure you put some back for another time.