Home' Afloat : AFLOAT March 2017 Contents 56 AFLOAT.com.au March 2017
with David Lockwood
The number of tagged, released and re-caught kingfish these
days is both encouraging and alarming. With so many fish
landed in the same locations, it makes you realise the
breeding aggregations are perhaps not that big after all.
Thankfully, the charter-fishing captains and guides who catch
the lion’s share of kingfish off Sydney have a pact to release most
of the big breeders. The smaller fish are better eating anyway, as
the big ones are prone to having mushy flesh from a microscopic
parasite from the class Myxosporea. Upon cooking, the flesh
collapses into a disgusting mess. The condition is more common
in warm water.
A big tagged kingfish that met its end on a game-fishing boat
on the NSW North Coast this year has provided something else
– valuable data the likes of which we haven’t had before. In short,
the fish has broken all records the longest time a tagged kingy
has been at liberty.
It was only by chance that the tag was found hidden under the
fish’s skin and in its flesh when it was being filleted. The tagging
archives revealed that the fish had been at liberty for 11 years.
The kingfish was tagged by Patrick Schofield of Eden Sports
& Game Fishing Club boat Shockwave on 11 November, 2005. It was
then recaptured by Port Macquarie Game Fishing Cub boat Reel
Trouble while fishing off Forster, NSW, on 27 January, 2017.
The Reel Trouble crew decided to keep the large kingfish for
the barbecue, but it was not until they were filleting the fish that
they noticed the small plastic tag in the flesh that was otherwise
concealed by the fish’s muscle tissue.
After 4,095 days at liberty, the kingfish had grown from 65cm
and an estimated 2.5kg to 130cm and approximately 20kg. The
kingfish spent over 11 years at liberty and smashed the previous
record of just under seven years for a king that was tagged in
Sydney and recaptured at Terrigal.
This record at-liberty recapture adds to the rich store of data
from other tagged kingfish. This includes a number of big kings
that have swum from South Australia to Sydney. The last one of
these big travellers was caught and tagged from the shore at Port
Augusta on September, 2014, by Anthony Everett, and recaptured
off Bluefish Point aka North Head in December 2016.
During the 810 days at liberty, the kingfish had swum at least
680 nautical miles (1,265km) along the Victoria and east coast of
Australia. The fish had grown from 118cm to 130cm fork length.
The big king measured in at 141cm total length and weighed
22.5kg when Joel Menzies speared the ‘brute’ while fishing with a
friend off Manly. He spotted the big king as his dive buddy wrestled
with a fish he’d speared in a school of approximately 10 fish. Who
knows, maybe they all came from Port Augusta?
This was the eighth and largest South Australian kingfish to
be recaptured on the east coast of Australia and the second one
to be reported swimming this route in 2016. The first fish swam
all the way from Port Augusta in South Aussie to Jumpinpin in
Kingfish numbers on the rise
Of the more than 36,100 kingfish tagged under the NSW DPI
Game Fish Tagging Program since 1973, at least 2,370 have been
recaptured to date. One of the great things about kingfish is their
extreme hardiness and the fact their thick skin appears to retain
the barb from tags very well. That they live a long time and travel
a lot adds to the impetus to tag not bag the big ones.
As we went to press with this kingfish column, the Riviera dealer
at Rushcutters Bay, R Marine, sent some phone footage across
of a feeding frenzy of kingfish chasing bait among the moored
boats at his local marina. There were heaps of fish in the melee.
As with other summers, ‘rat’ kingfish invaded the estuaries
this year and the obvious recruitment is encouraging. These small
kingfish used to be harvested commercially in floating traps
‘baited’ with reflective mirrors. Attracted by the flashing action,
the kingfish would swim in by the thousands like lemmings and
the fish were being decimated.
Good fisheries management and the banning of the kingfish
traps in the mid-1990s has seen an incredible turnaround. Now, the
small fish are growing up. Despite all the rats in summer, the size
of the kingfish in Sydney Harbour and Pittwater is on the improve.
It’s not uncommon these days to catch 100cm kingfish, and
big gold torpedo-sized fish from 8-10kg often patrol the harbour
marinas and wharves, creating absolute mayhem for anglers who
spot them cruising past, let alone those who manage to hook them.
Yep, the kings are back and from interstate it would increasingly
Kingfish setting new records
When it comes to kingfish, the crew from Sydney charter boat
OceanHunter Sportsfishing routinely find the big fish and pro-
actively tag them.
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