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Kite Fishing for Bluefin Tuna 101

Using a kite to catch big bluefin tuna is one of the most productive and exciting ways to generate ferocious surface strikes.

Kite fishing for bluefin tuna is the all jacked-up, steroided-out version of fishing a topwater plug for striped bass.  The two concepts are, at their foundation, very similar.  The only difference is that kite fishing can generate surface strikes from fish the size of small automobiles.

If witnessing a massive topwater hit from a car sized animal interests you, then I suggest reading on.  Kite fishing has become one of the most popular methods for taking large bluefin tuna, and for good reason - it can be extremely exciting and effective.

For the crew of the Miss Loretta, kite fishing during the season of 2010 proved to be quite the learning experience.  Our first few attempts at getting the kite in the air failed miserably.  We watched our kites plunge into the ocean and fly off into the heavens, all while tuna crashed around our boat.

However we stuck it out, and after some changes to our gear and techniques, we were able to get our kites flying high and strong and our baits swimming nicely on the surface. 

Later in the 2010 season, as we watched a 700 pound tuna crush a hapless bluefish, we realized why it pays to learn how to fish a kite.

The Kite Fishing Concept

Kite fishing allows an angler to keep a live bait swimming on the surface.  The kite physically lifts the bait, and prevents the bait from swimming downward.  The result is a live bait, virtually half out of the water, swimming and thrashing frantically on the surface - basically ringing the dinner bell for any tuna in the vicinity. 

Placing a live bait on the ocean's surface creates a silhoutte when viewed from beneath.  This increases the likelihood that your bait will be noticed by tuna passing below.  Baitfish rarely spend extended periods of time on the surface of the ocean, unless they are injured or being pursued by predators.  Kite fishing places live bait in an out of the ordinary situation that beckons predators to investigate.

The Gear

There are many variations of kites on the market.  Some of which fly with relative ease while others prove more difficult to get a handle on.  We have had success using Boston Big Game kites as well as Power Chute and Mega Mouth fishing kites.  Obviously kites need wind to work and the more breeze there is, the easier it will be to get your kite flying high.  However making a few minor adjustments in gear can make a big difference in how your kite will perform in breezy, as well as calm conditions.  

Utilizing a kite rod and reel loaded with 100 pound braided line has a few distinct advantages over a reel loaded with dacron.  Braided line does not allow any stretch, while also providing more line strength with less line diameter.  Essentially this means that the kite attached to braid will have to lift less weight than the kite attached to dacron.  The extra strength provided by braid will also help ward against snapping off a kite in windy conditions.

Loading your 50, 80 or 130 class reel with braided line will also help to make kite fishing more effective and efficient.  A reel loaded with 2oo pound dacron can still be fished with a kite, however the bulky dacron (when compared to the thin diameter of braid) will make it more difficult to fish with a kite during light and variable wind conditions. 

When we first began fishing kites we employed simple, run of the mill kite clips.  Now, with a year of experience under our belts, we discovered that using kite clips with rollers make life a bit easier.  The rollers allow the main line coming from our 80 and 130 class reels, to slide easily through the clips with less resistance.  This helps keep our baits positioned happily on the surface, instead of dangling in mid air-due to the friction created by non-roller kite clips.

Using an elastic bridle to rig live baits will help to minimize injury to the bait.  This is important because live pogies, mackerel and bluefish often times require a lot of time and energy to acquire.  It is vital to keep the baits alive and frisky.  Instead of traditionally hooking a bait through the top of the back or through the snout, a bridle allows an elastic to be threaded through the bait-much like stitches through skin.  This way the hole pierced through the bait is much smaller than that created by traditionally hooking the bait.   The bait will swim long and with more vigor due to this small alteration in technique.

Braided drop lines should also be part of an angler's kite fishing aresenal.  Drop lines run from the ball bearing swivels, which are spaced throughout the kite reel's braided line, down towards the ocean's surface.  The length of these lines will vary depending on wind conditions.  Attach a roller kite clip to the tag end of the drop line.  Your main running line will run through the roller kite clip.  Drop lines allow your main line to remain closer to the water's surface, instead of towering high in the sky.  

Check out the diagram above to get a better understanding of how this all ties together.

The Bait

Of course it is impossible to do any sort of kite fishing without quality live bait.  Fortunately Massachusetts Bay, Cape Cod Bay and Stellwagen Bank have no shortage of bait options.  Unfortunately extra time, effort and sometimes dollar bills are required to obtain live bait.

Pogies call many of our local bays and harbors home during the season.  Some years see more dense populations of pogies than others.  These fish can be caught using cast nets and gill nets, or can be bought from local live pogie suppliers. 

So far I am yet to catch a pogie.  This past week we gillnetted a shad, which resulted in exalted high fives and a sense of relief that finally we had netted a baitfish.  What I am alluding to is that catching pogies is a lot easier said than done.  Expect to put your time in.

Bluefish make fantastic kite baits.  Unfortunately blues seem to possess an uncanny ability to be everywhere when you don't want to catch them, and nowhere to be found when you need them.  To make our live bluefish supply a little more reliable, we have set up a network of live bait pens at friends' docks and moorings.  In an ideal world we will load up the bait pens with bluefish, providing a reliable bait supply for multiple tuna trips.

During the spring and fall, anglers fishing in our neck of the woods are blessed by a nice run of atlantic mackerel.  These fish are usually easily jigged up in water depths of 50-80 feet using sabiki rigs.  A high quality sonar system is critical to finding the mackerel schools.

Tight lines and good luck kite fishing!

Captain Ryan

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