By Capt. Adam Peeples
There is arguably no better way to present a live bait to a cruising game fish than by suspending it helplessly splashing on the surface of the water using a kite fishing setup. Kite fishing has typically been associated with the South Florida sailfish and king mackerel fisheries, but it’s not unusual to see a kite flying in many other areas of the world—the guys in California and Mexico are using them to great effect to catch tuna.
Kite fishing allows anglers to fish multiple live baits on the surface while keeping the mainline and leader out of the water. The obvious advantage here is that wary and leader shy gamefish only see a frightened and erratic live bait on the surface. Keeping everything out of site increases the likelihood of a bite when compared to a standard flat line drift bait set up—where the leader and terminal tackle are visible to the fish.
While both large sportfish vessels and center consoles can effectively fish a kite spread, center consoles have a definitive advantage when it comes to suspending live baits from a kite and drifting. For proof of this advantage, look no further than the sailfish tournament results in South Florida.
Captain Chris Lemieux of Le-mieux Charters in Boynton Beach, Florida offers kite fishing charters from his 27 Conch. An expert kite fisherman and captain, Lemieux’s kite fishing setup involves one or two Tigress specialty lite wind kites, which he says can be used in ninety percent of the conditions he typically encounters. Lemieux operates his kites on Diawa Tanacom electric reels rigged with 50-80lb braided line.
He typically fishes three baits per kite, with the first swivel set at 100’ and then 75’ between each clip. Captain Lemieux also deploys a sea anchor while kite fishing. The sea anchor slows the drift speed with the wind and current, allowing the kites to catch more air and fly efficiently. This setup allows Lemieux to freely drift while not having to man the helm.
He can effectively fish multiple flat lines and a single kite solo. Adding one crew member allows him to fish two kites and multiple flat lines. This is a real advantage over kite fishing from a sportfish, as the captain is not constantly at the helm keeping the bow into the elements. This allows the center console crew to do more with less, presenting many more baits with minimal crew requirements.
While not a common sight in the Northern Gulf of Mexico, there are a few captains who utilize the effectiveness of kite fishing to their advantage. Captain Tim Kline of Recess Fishing Charters out of Pensacola, Florida taps into his South Florida roots and is known to use a kite for multiple applications aboard his Contender 31T. You wouldn’t normally associate kite fishing with sword fishing, but Captain Kline loves to put a kite up while drifting for daytime swordfish offshore.
Kline says that his favorite thing about fishing a live bait from the kite is the ability to fish heavier leader to fool leader shy and picky yellowfin tuna. In addition to tuna, Kline has hooked blue marlin, white marlin, jumbo mahi, and even wahoo on the kite while sword fishing. He typically fishes one large blue runner on the kite while sword fishing and has a dedicated crew member operating the kite fishing setup.
He has his kite rigged on a Diawa Tanacom 1000 with 80lb braided line, with the clip about 100’ from the kite. He also uses the kite to target smoker king mackerel during the fall run in Pensacola bay. Kline fishes from the anchor and uses a similar kite setup but adds a second clip about 50’ from the first clip. This allows him to fish two baits on the kite and two flat line baits simultaneously, covering as much water as possible. Kline says the 360-degree fishability of a center console is a definite advantage of fishing a kite in both situations.
When it comes to live bait fishing, kite fishing is king. Just because kite fishing has typically been associated with the South Florida live bait sailfish fishery doesn’t mean there aren’t a host of other areas and fisheries that could benefit from utilizing kites to present live baits or even artificial offerings. West coast crews and even some Northern Gulf crews are having success bump trolling artificial flying fish from a kite for jumbo tunas.
With an incredible amount of options for various kites, rod holder setups, electric reels, and rigging, a beginner to kite fishing may feel a bit overwhelmed at first. As with any specialized fishing tactic, kite fishing requires a lot of practice to become proficient. Rather than just diving right in to running two kites and several baits, novice kite fishing anglers should start slow and build up their skillset.
Start with launching and recovering the kite from the boat with no baits, and gain confidence with your setup and crew. As the crew becomes proficient with one element of kite fishing, adding an extra bait or even adding a second kite will become much easier than just diving straight into a two-kite spread. For any crew serious about live bait fishing, kite fishing is a skill that should not go overlooked.