Kite Fishing For Pelagics | Great Days Outdoors

Kite Fishing For Pelagics

By far, one of my favorite ways to target pelagics is to put the kite up around a floating oil platform or on a beautiful weed line. The best part of kite fishing is that exciting bite! The bait is right on the surface skimming across the top of the water naturally with no terminal tackle in the water and the explosion that a tuna creates when striking that bait is a sight to behold! I say tuna, because that is what comes to mind but I have caught marlin, king mackerel, even cobia on the kite! 

We had the kite out catching skyying King Mackerel around an oil platform 20 or so miles from Dauphin Island one time and we had a 50 pound Cobia swim up to the kite bait and I will never forget the sound of that Cobia trying to gulp that sardine down as it was scatting across the top of the water dangling from that big AFTCO kite

What Is Kite Fishing?

Kite fishing has grown in popularity in the past 10 or 15 years and when you look at the pros of fishing with a kite, the evidence is clear as to why it is exploding on the sportfishing scene. The primary advantage of kite fishing is the way the kite in the air presents the bait. The kite keeps the bait at the water’s surface, allowing it to swim or flutter naturally without the weight of the fishing line dragging it down.

Many different species of fish can be caught when kite fishing.

By using a kite, the main fishing line and terminal tackle is kept out of the water. This makes it harder for fish to detect the hook, line, swivel etc. Fish like tuna, king mackerel, dolphin (mahi-mahi), and sailfish are often attracted to the surface commotion made by the bait struggling on the surface. The kite allows the bait to be dangled right at the surface, creating an appetizing and seemingly easy snack for pelagics. Multiple kite lines can be employed from a single kite, allowing several baits to be presented simultaneously. We usually run two clips off of one kite, a short and a long. This increases the chances of catching more fish. Anglers can control the depth at which the bait is presented by adjusting the length of the drop line between the kite and the bait.

Kite Fishing Setup

Kite fishing is a good option due to the fact that if you have the right equipment, it is a fairly easy way to fish. You will need a kite specifically designed for fishing, which can handle varying wind conditions. A good kite fishing setup usually comes with several options for the kite sticks that you can take out and replace with heavy or light options depending on the wind speed. Also, a great idea for those super slick calm days is to have a helium bottle with a kite fishing balloon, you will be surprised how helpful this can be to deploy your kite and to keep the kite up in very low winds.


You will need a kite rod and reel to manage the kite line, this is how you let the kite and and reel the kite back into the back deck. Release clips are what you will be putting on the main line from your kite reel to the actual kite. When a fish strikes, the tension causes the fishing line to release from the kite line, allowing the angler to fight the fish on a normal rod and reel without interference from the kite. I like to use a weighted cork to put right above my main fishing leader to keep the bait down close to the water. This cork makes it much easier to regulate how much line you have out of the fishing reel, allowing you to present the bait properly and not have it too deep in the water, or flying too high in the sky! This is a problem if you do not have a weighted cork between the leader and your kite. The right bait is also very important. I like to Sabiki up some live Spanish sardines or cigar minnows. Those are my favorite, but a hardtail will usually get the job done as well. 

Kite Fishing Rod And Reel

Picking the best kite fishing rod is crucial because it has to withstand the unique forces associated with flying a kite, especially when it’s windy or when a fish strikes. Here are some factors to consider when choosing a kite fishing rod, along with some tips to help you select the best one for your needs: Kite rods are typically shorter than standard fishing rods, often ranging from 3 to 5 feet in length. This short length allows for better leverage when fighting the pull of the kite. 

The rod must be strong enough to handle the force exerted by a kite, especially in strong winds. Look for rods that are constructed with high-quality materials like graphite or fiberglass. 

kite fishing
Look for rods that are constructed with high-quality materials like graphite or fiberglass.

Ensure that the rod has a sturdy reel seat that can accommodate a kite reel. The reel seat should be corrosion-resistant, especially if you’ll be using it in saltwater conditions.  Look for kite rods with oversized, heavy-duty guides. This makes it easier to reel the swivels that are on the main line to hold your clips in place through the guides and onto the reel to reel the kite in. Ensure that your kite rod pairs well with your kite reel. Some manufacturers produce kite rod and reel combos that are specifically designed to work together.

Kite Fishing For Tuna

On a recent episode of the Alabama Saltwater Fishing Report Podcast, we interviewed Capt. King Marchand with Capt. Mike’s Deep Sea Fishing to get some kite fishing for tuna tips from a professional captain. This is what Capt. King had to say about Kite fishing for tuna. 

Q: How do you rig up for kite fishing? What kind of kite do you like and do you use a cork? What does your setup look like?


A: I have the traditional AFTCO kite, you cannot beat them. They are the best kites in town and they have been around forever. For my kite rod, I just have a stubby rod that I pulled out of the shed that I made myself. I have a 100 pound braid going to the kite from the actual kite reel. Now for the line that’s got the bait on it, I’m going to use a Talica 25 because they’ve got a good retrieve, a good ratio on them and make sure that it’s 80 pound braid and it goes down to a cork, the only reason for the cork is to give it enough weight so that it doesn’t reel up and knock itself out of the kite clip. I make sure I use a weighted cork either balsa wood cork or a traditional cork with the red circle around the top of them. And for my kite leader, you can go as big as you want. I like to have a 200 pound test leader so that we can really crank down on him. And for the hook I like a big treble hook because if that tuna comes up and hits that bait, I just want to hook him. I don’t care if I hook him in the tail.

kite fishing
Oil platforms are great places to try your hand at kite fishing.

Kite Fishing From Shore

Kite fishing from shore you will need all of the same setup that is above, kite, kite rod and reel, regular rod and reel and the clips. Your first step is going to be to choose the right location. Look for a beach or shoreline area where there’s a good wind coming from the land and blowing out towards the water. Ensure the area is not crowded, as flying a kite with baited hooks can be dangerous near swimmers or sunbathers. Deploy your kite using the kite rod and reel. Adjust the height according to the wind conditions. Ensure it’s stable and can handle the weight of your bait. Attach your bait to the fishing hook and line. Attach the fishing line to the kite line. Using a release clip, attach your baited line to the kite line. Adjust the length so the bait is just touching the surface or slightly below.

Final Thoughts

Yes this is cheesy, but when was the last time you flew a kite? It is a little fun to be able to mix an activity that we cherished as children, with a fun opportunity to take some top tier pelagics. After all, you are speaking to a Dauphin Island, AL Little Red Schoolhouse Kite Flying Champion for many years in a row! I would always win the highest flying kite award every year, because my Dad let me borrow a giant Gold PENN 80 wide for Kite Day, no one stood a chance when I had a 1000 yards of mono to work with! I would literally send a kite out of sight.

As we have explored in this article, using kites as a tool to target pelagic species has opened up a dynamic dimension in sport fishing. It allows anglers to present live baits to these predatory fish in a more natural and enticing way, increasing the odds of a successful catch.

For those new to the technique, it may appear daunting initially, but with practice and patience, the rewards are unmatched. To venture into kite fishing for pelagics is to invite innovation into your angling journey. It’s a testament to the ever-evolving techniques and methods in fishing, ensuring the sport remains fresh and exhilarating. So, the next time you find yourself on a boat, look for the potential to deploy a kite and you better have the GoPro rolling to capture the explosion! 

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