Yellowtail kingfish are a highly respected sportfish and New Zealand has arguably the best kingfish fishery in the world. Out of the 37 IGFA claimed world records for Southern yellowtail, currently 35 have been captured in New Zealand and two captured in Australia.

This world class fishery makes them a popular sport fish for Kiwis as well as charter operators, some of whom target them exclusively for local and international clients. The economic and social value of kingfish to New Zealand fishers, visitors and regional economies is high. As such, it is in our best interests to understand and adopt best practice principles when catching and releasing kingfish.



Lures, live baits and well-presented dead baits are the most popular techniques employed to target kingfish. Fishers need to respect this powerful fish and use suitably heavy tackle as they have a well-known reputation for breaking gear, cutting lines on underwater obstacles and quickly escaping.

While leaving fishers in a state of awe when this happens, it can sadly lead to the kingfish’s demise. Carrying terminal tackle around will impede their ability to feed and could hinder the evasion of predators. A good choice is 24kg-37kg mainline as lighter line may result in longer fight times, reducing the chances of survival due to a shark attack. There are some exceptions such as fly fishers sight fishing for smaller specimens in clear, shallow water. The minimum legal size for a kingfish is 75cm, which is about a 6kg fish.

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Handling and Release Techniques

Kingfish are a species that can handle being caught and released fairly well as they are not susceptible to barotrauma, and if handled properly will recover fairly quickly. On the north east coast one Coromandel charter operator reported the same fish being captured and released three times in one week. While highly unusual, it shows that with careful handling kingfish can successfully recover from capture and release. Ideally, where possible, release fish whilst still in the water boat side.

Safely Landing Fish Intended For Release

Measuring and Photographing


Accurate measuring

The point of using a measuring board is to get an accurate length measurement. To achieve this the fish must have its lower jaw against the headboard of the measuring device. If you have a photograph of the fish you can then read the length at the fork of the tail. If not, you will need to record the length before releasing the fish, either on the tag card or your catch sheet. The correct measurement is the nearest centimetre down from the tail fork. In other words, if the fork is exactly on 87 cm, that is the correct length to record. If it is between 87 cm and 88 cm, then record 87 cm as the length. This is standard scientific practice.


Tagging kingfish is a great practice as it can help with gathering data and contribute to better management of the species. If you intend to tag the kingfish, place the tag on the upper dorsal surface below or just behind the dorsal fin, angled towards the back to improve water flow over the tag. Tags that have been correctly implanted can stay attached for many years and provide excellent information on growth rate for this species. Kingfish will try to rub off tags placed on the side of fish. These tags are often returned in a badly worn condition where no number remained and therefore the tagging had been greatly reduced in value. For more information on tagging kingfish, go to –