Fishing for “Ray Riders” with HT 10 at Tauranga New Zealand

Fishing for “Ray Riders” with HT 10 at Tauranga New Zealand

Tim Kempton | Friday, 24 August 2018

Yellow tail Kingfish (Kingies) are one of the most ferocious and powerful fish that fisherman (particularly Kiwi) dream about. They are spectacular surface feeders, and generate immense power when hooked. They can be recognised by their dark green skin, silvery white bellies and a golden stripe that runs laterally along the body. They are also easily recognized by the bright yellow fins “hence called “Yellowtail Kingfish”. Their smooth stream lined bodies and strong caudal fin gives the kingfish its speed and power. They can grow to more than a meter in length and to over 45 kgs. The largest kingfish in the world are caught around New Zealand. The bigger kingfish can be identified with their fading colour while the younger fish have the distinctive green visible on their bodies.  Kingfish are active predators preying of other fish, squid and crustaceans. Juvenile fish start their lives eating plankton, but soon graduate to larger prey. Big kingfish are quite capable of eating live fish weighing several kilos.

Ray Riders are” kingies”  that swim behind black stingrays in shallow water, waiting for a baitfish, or crabs that has been disturbed by the feeding ray. This is the same behavior as found with trevally, permit and bonefish feeding behind stingrays and sharks. Unusually they are only found with Black Rays, and not with the more spooky, brown Devil Rays.

Ray Riders are found on the flats on falling and rising tides, when the rays move onto the flats to feed.  The kingies are easily spotted under good visibility...they are a pale blue, with a yellow tail.

Ray Riders are fished either wading the flats, or on flats boats, without the poling platforms…the Kiwi Government consider poling to be too unsafe. Look for black rays, and look harder for the lighter colored Kingies hanging off the back.  

I fished at Tauranga with Lucas Allen and Miles Rushmer. The weather was overcast and raining, and our only option was to search the flats from a boat.  Spot the dark shape, and look really hard for the Riders.  Make long casts just in front of the ray, and start stripping.  The kingies are thugs…they smash the fly but don’t always hookup.   I was using a Sexyloops Hot Torpedo 10 WT rod, with a 10 intermediate sink line, and 8’ of 40lb leader.  Kingfish pull hard.  They are in the same category as Jack Crevalle, and GT’s.  They never give up, and when they get close to the boat, they use the boat for cover.  I was told when you are fishing Kingies by wading, keep you legs together as they head for your legs for cover. ..if you are not careful you will be doing the Kingie  Dance.  They do not give up until their heads are out of the water.

Long accurate casts are the go.  Lucas was kind enough to say that I could land a 747 on a matchstick.  It certainly helped to put the fly in the zone, and make the first cast count.

We also fished for Kingies around the pylons. They could be seen on the sounder stacked up around the pylons. Cast in a popper, and bloop it back across the surface. My first fish was a spectacular 9kg Kingie.  We tried several other pylons, raised fish but they were not so dedicated, and could not be moved with either a popper of a wet fly.

Kingfish add another dimension to fishing in New Zealand. There are two renowned locations, Tauranga Harbour in the North Island and Golden Bay in the South Island.

Lucas Allen from KingTide Salt Fly is the kingfish guide at Tauranga.