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Flying High

Kite fishing teases up angling action in form of sailfish

By: David A. Brown,

With the cool season igniting east coast sailfish action, anglers will be taking to the near shore waters in search of the spindlebeak ballerinas knows as much for their acrobatic leaps, as their distinctive dorsal assembly. Savvy sail seekers know that a key component of looking for these sporty predators is making sure that they find your baits. Essential to most game plans is the fishing kite.

Rigs and setups vary with personal preference and experimentation, but here's the basic deal:

A kite connected to braided or Dacron line provides the angle and distance for positioning baits at the surface, away from the boat via release clips. With kites deployed from specialized outfits comprising short rods and oversized reels (cut-off grouper outfits also work) a few feet from the boat, anglers attach a baited fishing line to a release clip and then simultaneously free spool both reels. As the kite ascends, the angler feeds out the fishing line at a rate that keeps the bait in the water, while allowing the line to match the kite's elevation.

Essentially, the fishing line runs from its rod tip, up to the kite's release clip and then down to the surface. With occasional adjustments, skilled anglers can keep the kite positioned over the outside of a reef, a rip line or whatever they're targeting, while the bait hangs just below the surface - sufficiently submerged for breathing, but restricted from diving out of sight.

Click Image for the Photo gallery:

The main benefit here is commotion - predators typically perceive topside activity as forage availability. Baitfish splashing at the surface make vulnerable targets and sailfish, king mackerel, dolphin, cobia and the occasional tuna can't resist inspecting the meal opportunities. Kites definitely raise fish, but even if a predator chooses not to eat the kite bait, they'll often strike one of the drift lines that compliment a kite set up.

Additional Points:

Popular baits include blue runners, small yellow jacks, goggle eyes and mullet. "Bridling" a bait - running a thread through the top of its head and then hanging the loop on a circle hook - helps ensure solid hookups.

Anglers keep a selection of kites designed for various wind conditions. If the wind is too light to loft a kite, taping a helium balloon to the back provides the needed lift.

Portable helium tanks are easily stored and retrieved, but dedicated hatches or racks promote efficiency and maximize boat space.

For video from The Spanish Fly, click here.

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