Offshore Insights: The Skinny on Kite Fishing

Offshore Insights: The Skinny on Kite Fishing

 The Skinny on Kite Fishing- an Explosive Fall & Winter Fishing Opportunity

This quick guide will help you understand the basics of kite fishing and how you can use kites to catch more fish on your own boat!

Be sure to comment on this blog or connect with us on Instagram if you’d like more kite fishing articles from our captains!  

Traditional kite fishing illustration from 1899, depicting the basics of kite fishing.
Kite fishing traditions go back over 500 years, but it is still a highly effective technique in the 21st century. Illustration: Moluccan kite-fishing, Banda, 1899.


In the 1500s, European Explorers found Southeast Asian fishermen using kites to catch fish from their canoes. With a single large leaf used as a kite and a bundle of spiderwebs or baited noose used as bait, these brave fishermen would venture offshore to catch hound fish and other species in the needlefish family. Since it was first documented over 500 years ago, kite fishing has come a long way.

Thankfully, we have sportfishing vessels instead of canoes now and we’re no longer forced to use spider webs as a hook. While much has changed and many improvements have been made, the basics of kite fishing have essentially remained the same. 

In its simplest form, modern kite fishing methods use a kite to dangle a bait on the surface of the water to entice game fish to strike. 

The Method: 

Sailfish tail walking once hooked while kite fishing
A Sailfish, Tail-Walking Away from the Boat After Inhaling a Live Bait Dangled Under the Kite (Photo Credit: Bluefin USA Pro-Staff)

Kite fishing requires a few pieces of specialized gear. A short “kite rod”, loaded with heavy braided line or dacron is a necessity. That line attaches to a specially designed “fishing kite”.  Kites come in different varieties based on wind speed. Some of the finest fishing kites are made by Captain Jimmy Lewis out of Miami, Florida. The brand SFE also makes high-quality kites in a range of varieties.

Running on the heavy braided kite line are one or two “release clips” positioned at specific intervals. The clips run freely on the kite line, but they are held in place by stoppers that are integrated into the kite line when the line is let out. As the kite flies up and away from the boat, these clips move out over the water and stay at specified distances. While letting out the kite, fishing lines baited with live baits are clipped into the release clips and fed out over the water with the kite. When the kite is positioned all the way out, anglers close their bails and reel up line, so their baits will dance across the surface of the water. It’s this action that entices vicious strikes from pelagic predators offshore!

The Bite:

SFE All Purpose Kites
SFE Makes Great Fishing Kites for All Wind Conditions

When a fish strikes the live bait, the line pops free from the clip, and the angler reels quickly to come tight with the fish. In order to keep the boat positioned correctly in relation to the wind, many captains bring a “sea anchor” or “drift sock” along with them. A trident-style rod holder is a big help when kite fishing since it allows you to keep your baited rods close to your kite rod and in prime position when a fish strikes. Once you have the equipment and the know-how, kite fishing is absolutely addictive! Not to mention effective! Nearly all strikes while kite fishing are seen from the surface, as game fish struggle to demolish a bait that is flying away! This is a highly visual style of fishing. Trust us,  seeing a sailfish inhale your bait in mid-air will leave your jaw hanging! 

The Bait: 

How to catch goggle eyes for bait for offshore fishing. Sailfish, wahoo and Mahi Mahi bait.
The top bait for sailfish, goggle eyes are also tasty treats for Grouper, Mutton Snapper, Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, and Kingfish when you’re kite fishing the edge of the reef. (Photo Credit: Sport Fishing Magazine; 2019)

Live bait is crucial for kite fishing. Several artificial kite fishing lures are on the market but live bait is the ticket. The best live baits are goggle eyes, followed by threadfin herring or Spanish sardines. Many anglers use big pilchards or even small jacks as kite baits in a pinch. Finding live bait isn’t always easy. You can fish many live baits under a kite but goggle eyes are the best choice if they are available. Goggle eyes are strong baits and they are heavy enough to stay in the water even on windy days. The way a goggle eye swims downwards when it enters the water sends vibrations out for hundreds of yards- a dinner bell for sailfish. 

The Carolina Lures “Yummee Floating Flying Fish” is the main artificial offering we turn to when we can’t find or buy live bait. That being said, time spent finding live bait is always time well spent…

Check out our article on how to catch goggle eyes for live bait and learn the tricks to filling up your live-well!

Tackle for Kite Fishing: 

20 lb class offshore tackle is the norm for kite fishing in South Florida and the Caribbean. 20lb class tackle is strong enough to land trophy fish but light enough to be flown from a kite in light wind conditions. Many captains use lines as low as 12 lbs or as heavy as 40 lbs, depending upon the wind conditions. If it’s blowing hard, you can get away with heavy tackle. In light winds, step it down. Heavy lines will prevent your kite from staying up.


Rod & Reel Selection:

The Alutecnos Albacore 20 Veloce
The Gold Standard: The Alutecnos Albacore 20 Veloce has a lightning-fast pick up ratio and lets anglers connect with fish quickly.

Many anglers choose conventional reels for kite fishing as they seem to be more user-friendly in this fishing scenario. You must make constant adjustments in order to keep your bait in the water.  Opening the bail of a spinning reel can be cumbersome while lowering the drag on a conventional reel is quick and easy.

The Alutecnos Veloce 12 or 20 is the gold standard in kite fishing reels. The fast 6.2:1 pick-up ratio is perfect for quickly connecting with the fish once the bait has popped out of the clip. We like the Veloce 20 because it can stand up to any fish that takes the line, but the 12 offers a more exciting battle.

Seven-foot gimbaled rods with a fast action complete the kite fishing setup. Kite fishing rods are longer and lighter than traditional trolling rods of the same line class. This helps fishermen control the fish around the cockpit and makes the fight even more fun.

The Leader Set Up for Kite Fishing

A school of sailfish off South Florida
Sailfish often school together, so be prepared for double, triple, or quadruple headers when kite fishing. Photo Credit: Our Friends at Sportfishing Magazine

Leaders typically range from 30lbs to 60 lbs and stay around 15 feet in length.  On one end of the 15′ leader, tie a small perfection loop. The mainline coming off your fishing rod should have a snap swivel tied to it with a Bimini twist and catspaw- this will connect to the perfection loop in your leader. Above the snap swivel rests a brightly colored float used as a strike indicator. Above that strike indicating float sits a ceramic ring that you will clip to the release clip instead of running the mainline through the clip. This ceramic ring keeps friction between the line and release clip low and prevents devastating tangles. On windy days, mates will add a 1/8 ounce egg sinker directly above the float, but below the ceramic ring. They do this to prevent the wind from blowing the line and bait out of the water.

The Bluefin USA team recommends tying your hook on with a loop knot to allow the maximum amount of movement for your bait!

Sailfish are one of the most common targets people pursue when kite fishing. When chasing sailfish, make sure you have a high-quality pair of gloves on the boat. You’ll need them to grab the fish by the bill when you remove the hook. We always avoid cutting the line unless the fish is gut hooked. Bluefin USA’s Fishing/ leading gloves are absolutely perfect for this… well, they were designed for it!

A Perfect Opportunity to Use Circle Hooks

Mustad Demon Perfect Circle Hook
We Love the Mustad Demon Perfect Circle Hook in sizes 3/0-7/0

Kite fishing is a perfect opportunity to use circle hooks. Circle hooks ensure high hook-up ratios and the safety of the game fish on your line. After popping the bait out of the clip, the fish has time to fully swallow the bait.  That means that using a J hook would gut hook a high percentage of your fish. Thankfully, circle hooks nearly eliminate this problem! Hook sizes between 3/0 and 8/0 will usually match your baits so bring an assortment.


Kite Fishing on the Edge
Kite Fishing on the Edge: It isn’t always easy to get your kite flying, but once it’s up you know you’re in for a good time. Photo Credit: Our Friends at Sportfishing Magazine

Glossary of Kite Fishing Terms

Fishing Kite: A specially designed kite, used for flying live baits offshore. Fishing kites come in different sizes and ratings, designed for different wind conditions. 

Kite Rod: A short and stout rod used only to fly the fishing kite- not to fight the fish.

Kite Line: The heavy braid or spectra line, used to fly the fishing kite and hold the release clips. Typically 80lb + breaking strengthened several hundred feet long.

Kite Fishing Release Clips: A release clip similar to that used on outriggers when offshore trolling. These clips slide freely on the kite line until they reach a stopper. 

Goggle Eye: A large live bait species (6-12 inches), highly sought after in the South Florida area. A favorite of sailfish, mahi mahi, wahoo, and big bottom fish.

Sea Anchor/ Drift Sock: A parachute-like anchor made of flexible material such as PVC fabric. Use a sea anchor to slow and control the drift of your boat when kite fishing.

Trident Style Rod Holder: A style of rod holder attachment that converts a single rod holder into three rod holders. This piece of equipment makes kite fishing a world easier by keeping all of your rods at an arm’s reach!

Bluefin USA IGFA Shirt for Men

As water temperatures cool heading into winter, the kite fishing is heating up on the edge of the reef. Experience this explosive style of fishing yourself today!

Want more articles on kite fishing? Let us know in the comments! We could talk about it for hours! 


Good Times & Tight Lines

-Bluefin USA

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