Kite Fishing For Tuna
It is no secret that kite fishing for tuna has proven to be one of the most successful offshore fishing methods all around the world.
The best captains and crews on both the East and West Coast of the U.S. use similar kite fishing methods for everything from sailfish to yellowfin tuna.
The idea is simple really; present a struggling baitfish, on the surface of the water, in a way that keeps 90% of your terminal tackle and leader out of site from fish lurking below. For our fleet in the Northeast though, we have a few things that we do a little differently to give us an advantage, specifically with bluefin tuna.
One of the biggest challenges for us up here in the Northeast is, believe it or not, the size of the tuna we are fishing for. We are typically kite fishing for bluefin ranging from 200-800-pounds, and to do that, a lot of the time we are fishing BIG BAITS. It is not uncommon to see our tuna fishermen using an 8-10-pound bluefish as a kite bait. On a calm day with light and variable winds, we need any help we can get keeping the kite up and the bait at the surface.
The most important thing we use when kite fishing big baits is braided line. The boats in our fleet all have at least two 130-pound class setups loaded with 500-700 yards of 200-pound hollow braid top shot. The reason I say “braid top shot” is because we are fishing 130-pound class reels. Most 130-200-pound test hollow core braids out there have a monofilament equivalent diameter of 50-pound test. So to put that in relation to the line capacity specs on a typical 130-pound class reel; a typical 130 has a 1000 yards of 130-pound mono capacity and a 2000+ yard 50-pound mono capacity…there is no need for that much braid, so what we do is splice the braid top-shot into 200-pound Dacron backing. We end up with about 600 yards of braid and 300-400 yards of Dacron backing.
Why is braid so important for us? Because it is much lighter than monofilament. When using braid, you don’t get a large amount of sagging slack from your bait rod to the kite clip on the kite line, like you would with mono. The more line and line sag you have between your bait rod and the kite clip, the lower your kite will fly because the weight of the line, and the harder it will be to keep your kite bait swimming on the surface.
When I say on the surface, I mean on the surface. We typically keep the entire back of the bait and the hook out of the water.
Braid top-shot combined with a light wind kite and a large helium balloon attached is a MUST for fishing big baits in light wind.
Another key component of our kite fishing setups for bluefin is heavy leader. We don’t run anything under 300-pound test on the kite. 300-pound Seaguar fluorocarbon is our go-to leader material, but sometimes we will fish 300-400-pound mono as well. The only advantage to using flouro is it is more resistant to leader chafe during a long fight with a big tuna fish. Using flouro on the kite has nothing to do with “visibility” for us. The entire leader is out of the water anyways, so it really wouldn’t matter if you used 400-pound cable as leader either (which we have seen done up in Canada for big bluefin).
The final key tactic our crew uses when kite fishing for bluefin is “drop back.” As far as getting a bite while kite fishing, the standard with most crews seems to be; let the fish eat the bait, pop the kite clip, then simultaneously reel tight and set the hook. When fishing bigger baits with bigger fish though, we will almost free-spool the reel when we see a tuna grab the bait, but ONLY when we are 90% sure it has the bait in its mouth. We watch the kite bait marker (a bright colored float or deflated balloon attached above the swivel on the leader) start to be pulled down fast to judge this.
There are two reasons for this:
1) We don’t want the tuna to feel the resistance of the kite, kite clip, and line when it grabs the bait
2) When using big baits, we want to make sure HE HAS IT.
A lot of times when we see a big fish eat the bait, we will put the drag just above free-spool and let the tuna take line off the reel while it is still in the kite clip.
We will begin clearing the other rods, or drop the anchor, and then come back to the reel, lock it up, reel, pop the clip, and set the hook. There is no worse feeling than pulling the bait and hook out of a 600-pound bluefin’s mouth after you just watch him destroy a kite bait.
Hopefully you will find these little tricks helpful and applicable to your local offshore species while kite fishing.