Kite Fishing: The Complete Guide

Aug 23, 2022 | 8 minute read Comment
Reading Time: 8 minutes

There’s no other way to put it – if you’re new to angling, then the idea of fishing with a kite just seems weird! When you want to reel in a brag-worthy catch, it’s hard to see how a childhood toy could possibly come in handy. Well, as outlandish as it may seem, kite fishing is actually one of the oldest fishing techniques in the world. It’s truly stood the test of time, and is still going strong to this day.

Two men stand aboard a charter boat holding a Sailfish, a popular kite fishing target

Kite fishing is believed to have originated in the Polynesian islands. However, it’s now a popular fishing technique across the US, especially among saltwater anglers hoping to hook big game fish. If you’re looking to target hard-fighting fish that live in deep waters and spook easily, this technique gives you the chance to reach previously inaccessible waters and sneak up on ’em.

So how exactly can you go kite fishing? What can you target, and where are the best places to practice this technique? Don’t worry – we’ve covered all of this for you below, and more. Let’s dive in…

What is kite fishing?

Kite fishing is pretty much exactly what it sounds like – fishing with a kite. And that isn’t a euphemism, either. You really will be using a kite that resembles those from your childhood, albeit a special one that’s suitable for fishing. But more on that later!

But what’s the main goal of kite fishing? To fish live bait on the surface of your chosen fishery in the stealthiest way possible. This technique may seem a little strange, but the practicalities of it are pretty simple:

✔️ You’ll select your kite and attach your fishing line to the kite ropes with clips.

✔️ Your kite will carry the fishing line and bait away from you at a distance that can be varied.

✔️ When the bite hits, you’ll see your kite dip drastically.

✔️ You’ll then free your fishing line from the kite using the release clip.

✔️ Then it’s time to battle to your heart’s content!

Kite fishing lets anglers:

  • Cover vast surface areas.
  • Work live bait from a boat or shore.
  • Access dangerous or previously inaccessible waters.
  • Present bait on or close to the watertops.

And this is all without an obvious fishing line in sight!

What can I target when kite fishing?

Four anglers standing on a boat, holding a big Marlin they just caught

For many anglers, the real magic of kite fishing can only be experienced out on the open ocean. This means that this technique has become pretty synonymous with heading offshore to battle big game fish. Pelagic species in particular are a prime target, as kite fishing’s bait presentation is pretty irresistible to these predators.

Kite fishing was first introduced in the US to Billfish anglers by fishing legend Captain Bob Lewis. His belief was that the lively bait presentation would attract these fish, while the practicalities would appeal to hardcore Billfish enthusiasts. Experienced anglers could multiply their chances of catching fish by flying up to three kites from their boats. Kite fishing for Billfish has endured to this day, with Sailfish being the primary target.

That’s not all, though. Picture-perfect Mahi Mahi are also popular kite fishing targets, as they prefer to feed towards the top of the water column and are attracted to lively, thrashing bites. Then there’s the sheer action and acrobatic leaps they provide when hooked. If you’re going after Mahi, expect to encounter other pelagics such as Wahoo.

An angler stands while holding a Mahi Mahi freshly caught in the Gulf.

Tuna are also seriously fun to target with a kite, with Yellowfin, Blackfin, and Bluefin varieties all being drawn in by the thrashing bait this technique provides. If you thought watching a hooked Mahi Mahi leap out of the water as your kite flies high would take some beating, just wait until you see a 250+ lb Bluefin do the same thing!

Where can I go kite fishing?

The beauty of this technique is that, as long as you have the gear and access to a body of water, you can try it out pretty much anywhere. However, it’s important to think about what fish you’re planning on targeting and where you’ll be casting your line. If you’re looking to fish for Salmon in a skinny creek, for example, then kite fishing probably isn’t the best technique. The weather can also have a big impact on the success of kite fishing.

Below, we’ve outlined some locations where kite fishing is seriously hot. If you’re looking to give this technique a try and want to learn from the best, these are the places to put at the top of your list.

US Locations

An aerial view of Pompano Beach with fishing boats leaving the bay
Florida’s Pompano Beach

It’s safe to say that Florida is number one when it comes to kite fishing in the US. The Sunshine State is uniquely positioned near the continental shelf and the Gulf Stream, where plenty of deep sea fish lurk. Miami and Pompano Beach are particularly popular places for kite fishing, with plenty of experienced local charter captains based here. Sailfish is the top target, but Mahi Mahi, Tuna, and Marlin also love to hit kite fishing baits.

Is the West Coast really the best coast? Well, when it comes to kite fishing, it can certainly give Florida a run for its money! It boasts plenty of big game fish hunting, with San Diego, California being the jewel in the crown when it comes to kite fishing charters. Dana Point is also a prime kite fishing location. And when it comes to the fish? It’s all about Bluefin Tuna here.

Finally, the US’s Gulf Coast deserves a mention too. This area boasts a wealth of oil rigs, which means one thing – lots of Yellowfin Tuna waiting to attack your kite fishing bait. The Tuna here are ridiculously large, and port towns such as Venice, Louisiana are the perfect departure points for heading out onto these deep waters, armed with your best kite fishing gear and plenty of determination.

Non-US Locations

A view across beach towards the sea in Cabo San Lucas

Depending on who you ask, kite fishing either originated in Asia or Oceania, so it only makes sense that there are excellent hotspots located outside of the boundaries of North America. In New Zealand, for example, kite fishing from the beach has grown in popularity – and yes, you can still target big game fish! Marlin and Yellowfin Tuna are the main angling opponents here.

Head slightly west and you’re in Australia, which is also home to a thriving kite fishing scene. Melbourne, in particular, has seen a surge of anglers opting to kite fish from boats, shorelines, and even on freshwater fisheries. Popular targets vary depending on where exactly you’re fishing, but you won’t be going after huge pelagics here. It’s still plenty of fun, though!

Rounding off our list, halfway across the world, is Mexico. Cabo San Lucas boasts access to waters that are filled with Mahi Mahi, Marlin, and Sailfish. Puerto Vallarta and Nuevo Vallarta are also popular options thanks to the sheer number of kite fishing charters docked in these locations. Yellowfin Tuna inhabit the waters along Mexico’s east coast, as well as Wahoo.

How can I go kite fishing?

Although it’s one of the less conventional techniques out there, learning the basics of kite fishing is pretty simple. However, there are other factors that can affect how productive your day of fishing is, such as the weather and water conditions. Because of this – and because this technique can be a little fiddly to figure out right off the bat – chances are you’ll likely first try it out alongside a local charter captain.

An angler looks out of the back of a boat trolling in Puerto Rico

There are two main ways to go kite fishing: from a boat, or from shore. If you’re fishing with a captain, you’ll probably be fishing from a boat. In general, this is the most common way to try out kite fishing. Not only do you get a head start out on the waters, but you can also fish more than one kite from a vessel. This greatly increases your chances of a hook-up!

Trolling vs. Drifting

If you’ve had any big game angling experience, chances are you’re already familiar with trolling. And if you’re more of a freshwater fisher, you’ve probably done some drifting in your time. Never heard of either? No problem!

Basically, when kite fishing, you’ll either be trolling or drifting. Trolling is when you drop lines in the water and move your boat forward so that your bait “drags” along the water. Drifting, on the other hand, relies on ample wind to move things along. Both techniques have their plus points and, depending on the time of year you’re fishing, as well as weather and water conditions, you’ll likely try out both techniques.

A center console boat riding through the water.

Whether you’re trolling or drifting, most kite fishing trips take place on center consoles boats. This is because large sportfishing boats can block the wind. Kite fishing from them is possible, but you’ll generally have better results from smaller boats. Lots of rod holders are important, as they’ll let you set your kites in any direction.

What gear do I need?

  • A kite. Opt for a high-durability square kite, with carbon-graphite spars and tear-resistant fabric. Choose rugged material that can withstand some angling action!
  • A rod and reel. You’ll want a rod that’s about 3 feet long, paired with a kite reel to hold the line your kite is tethered to. A high-speed revolving spool reel with a 50–80 lb line will do the trick. You’ll also want a rod around 7 feet for reeling in your target.
  • A balloon. Attach this to your kite, and it’ll allow it to stay afloat even if it goes down when a fish bites or the wind drops. Pulling in a submerged, waterlogged kite is tough work!
  • Release clips. These work very much like release clips for trolling. The clip opens up when your fish bites, allowing you to battle it with a normal fishing rod and reel setup.
  • Terminal tackle. Weights, corks, and styrofoam markers to see which line is hooked up are all commonly used when kite fishing.
  • Live bait. Live bait is essential for kite fishing. Goggle eyes are the most popular choice, but they can be expensive. Cigar minnows, sardines, and blue runners will do the job well, too.
  • Backup kites. It’s possible to lose or damage your kite due to underwater snags, the line breaking, letting your kite run free, and more. Backup options are a must!

How do I set my gear up?

No matter whether you’re trolling, drifting, or fishing from shore, the setup you’ll use for kite fishing is pretty similar. Take a look at our diagram below, which shows the most common way to set up your gear for kite fishing.

An infographic showing a typical kite fishing set up with a boat, rods, a kite, kite line, and two fishing lines

Kite Fishing: Unique Angling at Its Finest

If you’re looking to try out a fishing technique that really can’t be compared to any other, kite fishing is the way to go. There’s something magical about reliving the nostalgia of flying a kite, while knowing that it may well just bring you the fish of a lifetime. And the bragging rights when you do catch something in this way? Well, let’s just say they’re unbeatable. In the words of Mary Poppins, let’s go fly a kite – and battle some deep sea fish, too!

Have you ever been kite fishing? Where do you usually fish? Any tips and tricks to share with us? Let us know in the comments below!

Comments (1)
  • Pat Shinsato

    Apr 21, 2022

    If you wish to fish with a kite, go to Kalae (South Point) Big Island of Hawaii or the Pali on South shore Maui or where the winds blow off shore on Oahu. For the first two spots, you will be rewarded with big catches of Ahi (Tuna), Marlin, Mahi Mahi and 100+ lbs. Ulua (Trevally). My Best Fishing buddy (Mark Pilgier) holds the un-official record for the biggest Ahi (Tuna) 260 lbs. caught from shore. We never bothered to get a true scale weight as the fish was cut up/divided up to all the surrounding fishermen and passing spectators, who were there.
    Fishing with a kite can be very rewarding if done right? and if the winds die down, it can get very frustrating at the lost of gear that you will lose at times.
    Just be sure to be respectful of your areas environment and other fisher persons, who maybe fishing there before your arrival to the spot your going to fish? Mahalo & Aloha! May the fishing gods be with you and Hana pa! Tight Lines….

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