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June 16, 2014

How to Fish with Kites

Master the finer points of an airborne attack.

Watching tuna pounce on flyingfish while they ignore your meticulously rigged trolling baits frustrates even the most patient anglers. In desperation to get a strike, captains increase and even decrease trolling speeds as fast as baits are switched out. It becomes even more aggravating when typically aggressive dolphin follow suit.

Chumming with live baits puts both species in a frenzy and makes ­catching them much easier. But what if you don’t have live bait? How can you catch selectively feeding game fish? Enter the fishing kite. With a long and hard-to-shake stereotype of being a tool for live-baiting sailfish off South Florida, some North Carolina offshore anglers figured out a long time ago that trolling nonlive offerings from a kite consistently fools finicky tuna and dolphin. By exploiting the aggressive angle of the fishing line from the kite clip down to the bait, they’ve discovered that a trolled bait will continually launch itself from the water and re-enter anywhere between a few feet to 10 feet ahead of its exit point. This presentation accurately mimics yellowfin tuna or dolphin showering flyingfish from the ocean where standard trolling cannot. Fine-tune bait size and hues to that of the forage fish in the area, and the fishing kite becomes a winning ticket. 

Air Out

Whereas live baits are used nearly exclusively under a kite while at anchor, drifting or slow trolling with lures and/or freshly rigged natural baits like flyingfish, mullet, mackerel and skirted ballyhoo are deployed as “­skipping” offerings when pulled with an airborne assist.

A freshly rigged flyingfish makes an ideal bait for this tactic. ­However, skipping a natural bait washes it out very quickly, hence the use of a skirt or a pure artificial. In the latter ­department, rubber flyingfish in different sizes work quite well. An example is the Yummee Fly ‘N Fishes, which are available in 4-, 7- and 9-inch-long models. ­Similar-appearing offerings include Williamson’s Live-Tuna Catcher Hybrid and Live Ballyhoo Hybrid, along with its Live Series line of soft, winged lures that include mullet and mackerel. All of these styles of ­artificials seemingly last forever. 

To rig one of these flyers for tuna, dolphin and even wahoo, use 4 feet of monofilament or fluorocarbon leader (100-pound-test for the smaller versions and dolphin, and 150-pound-test for the larger flyers and tunas). Tie a barrel swivel onto one end of the leader. Next, run the leader through the nose of the flyer and body cavity, and position the hook so it exits at the base of the tail, or very close to it (spacer beads might be required to position the hook). When trolling small flyers for school and medium dolphin and tuna, use a long-shank 7/0 or 8/0 hook; for pulling a big flyer on 50-pound-class tackle and for large tuna, opt for a 9/0 extra-strong long-shank hook. To thwart wahoo cutoffs, attach a short length of 270-pound-test, 7-by-7 cable to the eye of the hook and its opposite end to a barrel swivel, which should be positioned just in front of the bait’s nose (and then tie leader to this swivel); the cable will prevent cutoffs, while the swivel alleviates line twist.

Because the kite will be pulled up to 10 mph, and likely into some stiff breezes, add a 2- to 4-ounce egg sinker on the fishing line prior to attaching its snap swivel to the leader’s barrel swivel. This ballast keeps the lure down in the water, making it easy to fine-tune its position by dropping back or reeling it up. Note that the Williamson lures have weighted heads, eliminating the need for an additional sinker. Experienced anglers often pull two flyers from the kite, but initially opt for one until you get the hang of it.

Use a conventional 30- or 50-pound-class reel filled with 30- or 50-pound-test mono or braid (braid is best for minimum wind resistance), and add a ring guide onto the fishing line prior to adding the sinker and snap swivel. This ring attaches to the kite-release clip and provides a smoother, less-abrasive surface for the fishing line to ride on. If you wish, put a kite float on the line above the swivel to improve visibility.