Kite fishing is fishing technique involving a kite from which hangs a drop line attached to a lure or bait. The kite is flown out over the surface of a body of water, and the bait floats near the waterline until taken by a fish. The kite then drops immediately, signaling to the fisherman that the bait has been taken, and the fish is then hauled in. Kites can provide the boatless fishermen access to waters that would otherwise be available only to boats. Similarly, for boat owners, kites provide a way to fish in areas where it is not safe to navigate such as shallows or coral reefs where fish may be plentiful. Suitable kites may be of very simple construction. Those of Tobi Island are a large leaf stiffened by the ribs of the fronds of the coconut palm. The fishing line may be made from coconut fibre and the lure made from spiders webs. Modern kitefishing is popular in New Zealand, where large delta kites of synthetic materials are used to fish from beaches, taking a line and hooks far out past the breakers. Kite fishing is also emerging in Melbourne where sled kites are becoming popular, both off beaches and off boats and in freshwater areas. The disabled community are increasingly using the kites for fishing as they allow mobility impaired people to cast the bait further out than they would otherwise be able to.
Offshore kite fishing
Offshore kite fishing is a sport fishing technique used to keep live bait on the surface of the water to attract and catch surface feeding predators. It is primarily used in Florida along the Atlantic coast and in the Caribbean for sailfish. It is also used for blackfin and yellowfin tuna, dolphin or mahi-mahi, wahoo, black grouper, and yellowtail snapper.
Most boats fly two kites at once off of either side of the boat. Which kite to use depends on the wind speed out on the water, so many captains bring a wide variety of kites. The reason these captains bring many different kites is because you can not use the same kite for a high wind speed that is used for a slow wind speed. Also, captains will fly different color kites so that they can tell their crew exactly which rod is going off without leaving the steering wheel. Kites may fall into the water and have to be retrieved, rinsed with freshwater, and dried before being sent back out. When a kite falls into the water they can sink and retrieving a kite that is 10 feet under water is much harder than retrieving one that is on the surface. Many captains will attach a helium balloon so that kites will not sink and help keep them in the air. To regulate the height of the kite weights are attached to the line or line is taken in or let out. A better way to keep the kite from sinking is a small fishing cork inserted on one of the kite's fiberglass spars, usually on the top side corner that we want the fishing kite to lean to. This helps in positioning two kites away from each other and if the kite hits the water it will not sink. Floats used are about 3-4 inches in length and about 1 1/2 inches wide.
The hardest part of kite fishing is the launch of the kite. On large boats where almost all of the fishing is done in the stern of the boat it is hard to launch a kite because the cabin of the boat blocks the wind from helping the kite up into the air. This is because the downdraft over the cabin and tuna towers pushes on the top of the kite and forces it towards the water. On boats like these the captain will turn the boat sideways so that the wind is coming across the back of the boat for an easier launch.
The kites are launched and retrieved on reels, occasionally electric. The rods that the kites are mounted on are super short rods with only one or two line guides on it. Line clips are then attached to the kite line and assigned a rod and reel. An experienced crew can get up to three lines on one kite. To the end of each leader is attached a neon Styrofoam marker to know which line is hooked up. These leaders are normally anywhere from 50 to 80 pound test and are about 15 feet long. Occasionally you may have to throw on a wire leader if wahoo or kingfish are biting.
The reels used for the tackle are usually high-capacity, open-face bait casting reels. When kite fishing you want your bait still alive so it can move along the surface and make splashes. As bait, many kite fishermen use a fish called a goggle-eye as live bait. The problem with these fish is that they are nocturnal and are caught off of the reef at night so they are hard to catch yourself but can be bought. More commonly used are Spanish Sardines, Cigar Minnows, Pilchards, and Blue runners. Circle hooks are becoming very popular because they do very little damage to large fish. To live bait a fish you must run a wire with a hook on one end and a loop on the other and run it up the bait’s back until it sticks out right before the dorsal fin. Then take the leader with a hook attached to that and put it through the loop on the wire and attach it and hook it through the fishes nose. This way the fish can still swim freely. With four to six bait fish skimming along the surface your boat is almost guaranteed to get a hook up.
When the fish does finally bite the hook and run with it the line it comes out of the clip on the main kite line and is only on the tackle rod. Once you have landed the fish you have shown that the kite fishing technique is one that works, and works well.
Kites are also used in fishing that can operate underwater (paravanes) or on the surface of the water.
In commercial fishing, net-spreading underwater kites and kite vanes are used to aid the control of large fishing nets. Arrowhead paravanes, flexi-wing paravanes, and bi-wing paravanes are used in tuna fishing operations. Trolling-for-fish devices that are paravanes or water kites do not always use the descriptor; George Dahl in 1957 taught how to kite his device underwater in order to place bait at the desired depth; and he wanted to have a boat have several of the devices being towed at the same time without the devices and bait interfering with each other—so his device was able to be set for different deflections, that is, the various water kites would be set to fly in the water at specified positions.
Variants of water kites are also used in sport fishing. In 1905, Martin Flegle of Minnesota invented a lighter-than-water water kite that could be operated from boats or from the shoreline for the purpose of trolling for fish; the paravane or water kite would float on the surface of the water, but the vaning was in the water; the device would move oblique to the towing effort; his device's operation had a way to fully change directions. Paravanes carry bait to specific depths. Some fishing lures are themselves paravanes.