Hunting giant kingfish

By Reid Quinlan

Kingies find the sweet spot in front of the reef where the current hits the rock and heads straight up. They can just cruise this area slowly without working too hard. They often just drift around like a big blimp at the front of the reef, near the surface, or down underneath the school fish if they are hungry. If you are there first, they might just swim right up to you, eager to be threaded straight onto your floatline. Easy you say? Where’s the sport in that? Well, apart from being there on a breathold at 15 metres, for over a minute, waiting for them to show…

I recently dived at a spot I’d dived five years before. Same wall heading down out of sight, same hell current blasting either side of the rock. Same truck-sized kingies lazily patrolling the reef at a depth of 12 metres.

Of course, I was there first.

I duck-dived and held onto a rocky ledge as six kingies (20 – 30 kg each) swam straight towards the shiny tip of my spear, and veered off at the last second. I’d already shot one good sized kingfish for the trip, so I pulled out my camera and took a couple of snapshots as they almost ran into my speargun.

The day before, I had a much harder shot. A huge current in the gap and occasional big kingies cruising near the bottom. During a 15 metre dive three fish came past in the current, pausing to angle past me, but still at range. Confident with my double rubbered 140 cm gun, I loosed the 8mm spring-stainless spear at the large one – will it … won’t it … will it … ‘I’m on!’

That was the easy bit. The breakaway spear line pulled away from the gun, and the bungee stretched after it as I finned for the surface. Then the serious work began.

Landing big kingies is a test of skill. As soon as I’ve taken the shot, I start really focusing. First, where is my float line? Will it line-wrap me, or do I have control over it? Next, where is the current taking me? I swim into the current to keep from being swept away; this also helps keep the recovered floatline trailing behind you nicely.

Now, the fish. Kingies will head for the bottom and even with a bungee floatline and a float, you may not be able to stop them. This one headed straight for the nearest rocky ridge, 20 metres below me, and swung a hard left to snag the spear line.

I swam into the current to lead the fish away from the rocks, but it kept hugging the bottom. Too strong for me to stop it, all I could do was exert pressure to keep it out of the crevices, but not too hard – I wanted the spear to stay secure. If left to run with no pressure, the fish will tie up under a rock and bash around until the spear or the shooting line breaks. If pulled too hard, a less-than-perfect shot will wear a gaping hole in the fish and the flopper could collapse and pull through.

If you are going to take the shot, make sure you are prepared to shoulder the responsibility for the life of the fish. That means securing the fish as quickly as possible, not losing it due to a lack of skill.

This 32 kg (70 pound) fish was very strong, and several minutes passed before I had it up off the bottom. Then came the circling phase. The fish was below me pulling against the spear, pulling the float line in circles around me. I oriented into the current and passed the float line around me with each circle. Occasionally the fish gave a really hard run – still plenty of strength there – so I gave it some more line.

At this stage you can see if the shot is a good holding shot, and you should be extra careful if it’s looking a bit dodgy. If you play the fish gently now you are most likely to land it, but pull too hard and it usually ends in tears. Don’t be afraid to let the fish run again, it’s better to let it wear itself out before you have it in your arms.

Circling tightly now, the fish was weakening and I had recovered all the float line, leaving just the spear line.

I grabbed the end of the spear shaft, and let the fish swing in circles – I didn’t want to get line-wrapped with the monofilament. When I was sure the fish had calmed down enough, I reached my left hand around to grab the shaft protruding from the other side of the fish.

Now, the fish was trapped. They usually go ballistic at this stage. The best option is to swing it upside down and bear hug it with the tail between your legs. This calms them down.

The end comes with a careful ‘Iki’ for the fish with a knife – about five centimetres behind the eye. Thread the fish onto your float line before you pull out the spear. Then, you have landed the big fish, and can finally relax – although by now you’ve usually been swept away in the current, and have a half hour of swimming to get back to where you started from.

© Copyright 2004

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