The kite keeps the bait carefully suspended just below the surface without extra line hanging in the water to spook skittish fish. Originally invented in China and practiced worldwide, kite fishing has become increasingly popular off the Florida coast.
Experienced kite fishermen may want to customize their rigging depending on the effect they’re going for, but a standard kit should be enough to get a novice going on this exciting sport. With the right equipment, patience, and steady winds in the 10- to 15-knot range, a beginner should have little trouble getting a bait splashing attractively under a fishing kite.
Experts can handle all sorts of wind and current conditions, and may fly two kites with as many as three baits under each one. The basic rig consists of a specially designed square kite that is connected to a line attached to a stubby rod and reel.
There are many ways to customize the elements comprising the kite outfit, but novice anglers looking for a quick and proven system can find all that’s needed in many tackle shops and catalogs around the state. There are three main companies making fishing kites: Bob Lewis, Aft co and SFE.
The ideal kite rod is short and stout, about 3 feet long. It does nothing but hold the kite reel, guide the line, and stay out of the road.
Units such as these can be connected to a battery with alligator clips, or better yet, plugged into a marine receptacle hard-wired to your 12-volt system. We found one combo by a major catalog retailer with the XL601, a rod, plus kite line, for about $700.
There are lots of release devices sold for outriggers and down riggers; the ones you want for kite fishing are the pin-style, such as the Black’s Marine or Aft co Gold finger. A pair of Black’s clips for kite fishing, with pre-drilled holes, swivels and snap, sells for around $20; the Aft co set is about the same price.
The nice thing about the kits is that you don’t have to sort out which size swivel is needed for which clip. This eliminates the need for swivels and knotted connections, making it less likely that you’ll break off a kite down the road.
The Cadillac of sea anchors is the Para-Tech (www.para-tech.com), selling for a couple of hundred dollars, but adding a greater level of drift control. Kites have long been a tool-of-the-trade for sailfish anglers along the windy southeast Atlantic coast of Florida, particularly from October through April.
Many first timers have never seen it done and have no idea why it is so productive with certain species, so I thought I’d take a moment to explain the art of kite fishing. Some burrow in tunnels, some have tremendous speed and others might have armor or the ability to bite back, always a deterrent.
Those that can escape by flying up or beneath the surface of the land have the best shot at living another day. By chasing a school of bait fish, the weak fall behind and are singled out, just as predators do on land with herds of animals.
A small weight or two (depending on the wind) is placed on the outside corners of each kite, causing them to fly further apart from each other, and therefore giving us a wider and more controllable “spread” between baits. These are high tech precision fabric constructed fishing tools costing in excess of $150 each.
We carry ten kites aboard the Marlin My Darwin along with electric reels which are used to bring the kites back to the boat when kite fishing to replace tired or injured baits, or to completely clear out the spread if we happen to hook multiple large fish at the same time, which is always possible and actually quite common. The use of the electric reels on the kite line itself greatly speeds up the Captain’s time frame in performing his responsibilities and allows us to address situations rapidly and efficiently which means more baits in the water and in position for longer periods during a charter.
We just hit the switch and here it comes, allowing us to quickly focus on the developing situation behind the boat where the real action is taking place. The kite itself is launched from the fly bridge on its own rod and reel, totally independent of you the angler’s fishing lines.
Since our kites are essentially sky hooks, and we’re dangling our baits on the surface, virtually no tackle is in the water for the fish to see, just the bait fish and his struggles. The bait fish is well aware he is in a bad, unprotected place and constantly tries to swim deeper into the water where he has a chance to escape.
That struggle sends out surface vibrations that predators feel, and they are attracted to investigate. The bait fish can only swim a short distance before the pressure applied from the kite above will cause sufficient restriction and force him to change direction.
Fish like Tuna, King fish and a few others feed by accelerating toward the surface from beneath and are rarely seen before they make a splash at the bait’s position. Depending on the type of fish eating, the line is either paid out to allow time for the fish to eat, or in some cases, the line is made tight to set the hook quickly.
The boat is put in gear to help get some slack out, it does go all the way up to the kite line and back to the surface, and with luck, the hook is set, the clip releases the line and the angler is now tight with his fish. Since fish like Sailfish and Mahi-mahi usually travel in groups, leaving the rest of the spread out can mean more hook ups.
Sign up for FREE to receive the latest saltwater fishing videos, tutorials, product reviews, and fishing product discounts! And in this great kite fishing tutorial, Peter gives some of his best tips on how he catches sailfish using kites, including which kite clips, weights, and hooks he uses.
This is a great kite fishing video showing how The Jupiter Sailfish (aka Loop) sets up and catches fish with the help of kites. George Good of Reel Time Florida Sportsman goes over all the basics of kite fishing, including how each piece works when a pelagic fish hits your line.