Fort Lauderdale Deep Sea Fishing
utilizing Fishing Kites

By Rick Brady & Steve Souther

We talk about kite fishing in our Ft.Lauderdale fishing reports and to our guests at certain times a year. Many first timers have never seen it done and have no idea why it is so productive with certain species so I thought I’d take a moment to explain the art of kite fishing.

To begin we have to look at nature and how animals eat. Most land based animals chase their prey down. Speed and agility are what allow them to catch prey and, of course, prey has the ability to escape. Some burrow in tunnels, some have tremendous speed and others might have armor or the ability to bite back, always a deterrent. Those that can escape by flying up or beneath the surface of the land have the best shot at living another day.

When fish are looking for food, they see up toward the surface. Bait fish are silhouetted by the light of day and are easily seen from below. Most fish chase the bait fish to the surface where escape must be done with moves right, left or speed straight ahead. By chasing a school of bait fish, the weak fall behind and are singled out, just as predators do on land with herds of animals.

So, now that we have shown that fish prefer to eat up near the surface of the water, here is where fishing with kites comes into play. We’ll just go ahead and create the perfect eating position for a fish by dangling a bait fish on the surface. Here it is… come and get it!

We happen to use two kites at a time usually, allowing us to present more baits for more opportunities. A small weight or two (depending on the wind) is placed on the outside corners of each kite, causing them to fly further apart from each other, and therefore giving us a wider and more controllable “spread” between baits. Each kite is fished with two to three baitfishes making for a thorough and well-spaced presentation. These kites are especially made for fishing and fishing only.

There are actually five different weights of kites, each designed for a specific wind velocity. These kites range from “ultra-light” which is for minimal wind conditions, all the way to “holy heavy”, which is designed with holes spaced throughout the face of the kite’s fabric to allow extreme wind to pass through the kite itself to a certain degree and not be overpowered and crash in winds from 20 MPH and at times considerably higher. No tails here on any of these fishing kites. These are high tech precision fabric constructed fishing tools costing in excess of $150 each. We carry ten kites aboard the Marlin My Darlin along with electric reels which are used to bring the kites back to the boat when kite fishing to replace tired or injured baits, or to completely clear out the spread if we happen to hook multiple large fish at the same time, which is always possible and actually quite common. The use of the electric reels on the kite line itself greatly speeds up the Captain’s time frame in performing his responsibilities and allows us to address situations rapidly and efficiently which means more baits in the water and in position for longer periods during a charter. We just hit the switch and here it comes, allowing us to quickly focus on the developing situation behind the boat where the real action is taking place. The kite itself is launched from the flybridge on its own rod and reel, totally independent from you the angler’s fishing lines.

Clips similar to our outrigger clips are placed on the kite line at specific set distances from one another and the kite is sent out away from the boat with the independent fishing line and bait attached to these free running clips. These clips are spring loaded and the tension is set so that when a fish eats the bait, the clip releases and the kite stays in the air. The fishing line has the ability to slide through these free running clips so we can feed the fish without any kind of tension or pressure being felt by the fish.

Since our kites are essentially sky hooks and we’re dangling our baits on the surface, virtually no tackle is in the water for the fish to see, just the baitfish and his struggles. The baitfish is well aware he is in a bad, unprotected place and constantly tries to swim deeper into the water where he has a chance to escape. That struggle sends out surface vibrations that predators feel and they are attracted to investigate. The bait fish can only swim a short distance before the pressure applied from the kite above will cause sufficient restriction and force him to change direction. One of the great things about kite fishing is you usually get to see the bite when a fish comes along. Sailfish are usually quite obvious as they appear from the side or below the bait. Mahi-mahi are also quite easily seen streaking across the surface toward the bait. If it happens to be a Shark you wish to target you will be in for a show as the frantic agile baitfish tries to elude an excited and reckless Sharks intent on his meal. Fish like Tuna, Kingfish and a few others feed by accelerating toward the surface from beneath and are rarely seen before they make a splash at the bait’s position.

Depending on the type of fish eating, the line is either paid out to allow time for the fish to eat, or in some cases, the line is made tight to set the hook quickly. The boat is put in gear to help get some of the slack out, it does go all the way up to the kite line and back to the surface, and with luck, the hook is set, the clip releases the line and the angler is now tight with his fish.

Since fish like Sailfish and Mahi-mahi usually travel in groups, leaving the rest of the spread out can mean more hook ups. And of course, pitching baits from the boat aids this as well.

While kite fishing is mainly done for catching Sailfish, almost any fish can be caught by this method. Live bait is best but dead bait can also be used. When kite fishing for Sailfish have a very high rate of success this way, around 80% or better. Other species, like Kingfish, have a lower rate of success, somewhere around 60%. It’s usually the smaller fish that escape.

While fishing with kites does have its advantages, there are disadvantages as well, but only a few with the main one being mobility, which is not a game killer as these fish are typically very much on the move. You are somewhat limited to where you can go with the baits up in the kites. Short of reeling everything in and re-setting, mobility is dependent on wind and current. So instead of finding the fish, you attract them to you. Other things we do aid this but… we can’t give all our secrets.

So now you have an idea of what the fishing kites do and how they work. One thing about fishing is, no matter what technique is used… It never works out well for the bait.