Kite Fishing For Sails – I Get it!


Kite fishing for sail fish can be very exciting, as well as productive during the ‘bite”. No one argues that.

To get to watch a hungry sail fish pursue it’s prey on the surface of the water, swat it into oblivion with it’s bill, and then devour it before your eyes, is truly a thrill. To observe a live goggle eye, or blue runner being pursued, and trying so hard not to be eaten, knowing that the “ink spot below them is on the hunt, is exhilarating to say the least. I get it!

I flew my first kite for sailfish and big smokers back in the mid 1960’s on the head boat “Catchelot” out of Palm Beach Inlet, Florida. Kite’s for fishing were brand new to the market. The technology was not only new, but we had to improvise to make them even fly properly in variable wind conditions. Adjustable bridles came into being! I have fished kites for 50+ years, and have caught hundreds of sail fish using them. Again, I get it!

I have also slow trolled for sail fish with baits in the riggers, baits on balloons, and baits flat lined over the transom. Again, I get it!

What I don’t get, is some of the extremes that some anglers and crews go to today, in order to kite fish, as if that is the only way to catch a hungry sail fish. I see boats with $3,000.00 Lingren Pitman electric kite reels, hauling around kites with 3 foot round helium balloons strapped to their kites in a dead calm, fishing in the fleet all day long, and never seeing a sail fish behind their boat. What’s all that about?

I’ve seen 50+ foot sportfishing boats, with not one but two kites fouled in their riggers, while trying to launch kites in rough seas and swirling winds. I’ve seen kites spiral into the water, only to be changed out for a new kite, which in turn spirals into the water. I’ve seen kites launched, retrieved and relaunched a dozen times, just to get the right altitude the captain or angler wants. I’ve seen sail fish hooked up, with the line fouled in the kite clip, only to drag the kite down into the water, or worse yet, break off the fish. What’s all that about?

Now today, we must have a helium bottle or two on the bridge or under the console, or we cannot sail fish. I’ve watched mates spend 30 minutes or more of valuable fishing time, playing around with a 3 foot round helium balloon, trying to get it bridled properly to a kite, without any baits in the water. In the mean time three other boat in the tournament release several fish a piece slow trolling, or fishing “livies” from riggers. What’s that about?

“Back in the days”, we caught lots of sail fish on dead baits, drifting them flat lined off head boats. We caught them on live bait off piers, and trolling dead baits in sail fish tournaments when live baits were forbidden. For years, all of the world class tournaments in south Florida were dead bait only tournaments, including the Big Daddy of them all, the “Master’s Sailfish Tournament”.

Live bait fishing is what we did when we weren’t tournament fishing; “Just for fun”!

I have caught sail fish out in 400+ feet of water trolling for dolphin in the dead of summer. I have caught them in 25 feet of water while they are raining ballyhoo on the first reef off Palm Beach, and I have caught them on a botttom rig with a raw piece of bonito, while being free spooled to the bottom for snapper. I even caught one in the mouth of the Palm Beach Inlet, in between the rock piles, while trolling home, hoping to catch anything for a charter, after a long day of being skunked. That fish made our day, and went on the angler’s wall.

I guess my point is that Kite fishing for sail fish is fun, and often times worth some additional effort. But Kite fishing is not the end all for sail fishing. To me, it is just as exciting to slow troll for sailfish, when they are tailing down sea in a 8 or 10 foot ground swells, and watching them light up as the captain presents them a trolling mullet, or ballyhoo on a long rigger. A live bait slow trolled from a rigger, can give a similar thrill, as they panic on the surface just before being eaten by that black ink spot below them.

To bait a sail fish off a teaser trolled close to the transom with a flat line, or to emulate a world class angler and tease a sail up three or four times after the fish grabs a long rigger actually requires much more skill than any type of live baiting fishing.

The sail fish that grabs your dead bait, while drifting for kingfish, dolphin, or cobia, provides the same fight as the one caught off a kite flown on a $3,000.00 Lingren Pittman kite reel.
Think about it. Good Fishing!

Just a thought! I get it!

Captain Mickey Oliphant




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1 Response to Kite Fishing For Sails – I Get it!

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