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June 15, 2011

Kite Fishing Tour

Seven great kite fishing spots coupled with local experts' tricks that you can employ for success

Keys Bull Sharks, Yellowtail and More
Farther south, in the Florida Keys, Capt. Jim Dalrymple (, based in Tavernier, takes the opposite approach for inshore bull sharks and ­blacktips. He anchors his bay boat in shallow water with a Power Pole and uses the kite to suspend baits in the fast-moving water of deep channels that cuts through the banks where sharks travel.

Dalrymple also flies kites for tarpon, primarily in the spring, when he uses mullet for bait. “I’ll put the reel in gear and just let the tarpon pull the bait out of the clip. With that drop-back, they hook themselves,” he says. Dalrymple cautions that his hookup ratios are lower when he switches to crab as his preferred bait, in the summer. “The drop-back on the kite kills you with crabs. They eat the crab, crush it and blow out the top of the shell in one motion, and spit your hook along with it,” he says. But even late in the season, when he prefers crabs, Dalrymple often flies the kite for tarpon using mullet just to enjoy the spectacular surface bites.

Some Islamorada fishermen have found interesting and surprising uses for kites. For example, “when we’re bottomfishing, there’s always a kite up,” says Augie Wampler, charter captain in Islamorada ( “We’re not targeting a species, we’re targeting the edge of the reef. Kingfish, cobia, African pompano — I don’t care what swims by: If it sees a threadfin herring or a sardine, it just can’t help but eat it.” Wampler even uses two kites to fish multiple depths at once, increasing his chances for a wide variety of hookups on any given day.

Interesting kite catches include reef-dwelling yellowtail. In the Florida Keys, yellowtail can often be chummed to the surface from just over wrecks and reefs 80 or 100 feet below, particularly during spring spawning. If the yellowtail are running on the small side, “throw some live pilchards out, and pretty soon you’ll see the big ones busting right on the surface,” Wampler says. Then, use kites to keep live baits right on top where the big, 5-pound flag ’tails eat.

Southeast Kingfish

Kingfish bites on the kite are considered a nuisance for those targeting sailfish in South Florida — a fact not lost on Capt. Jamie Ralph, who runs charters from Boynton Beach, Florida ( Ralph fishes both kingfish and sailfish tournaments. His 2010 SKA Yamaha Pro Championship Angler of the Year title came when Steve Glanz, owner of the 36-foot Invincible Skin Deep, passed the trophy to Ralph for his truly slick kite work as the boat’s captain. Ralph says the tricks he used should work in much of the Southeast. “The fish were eating bluefish right on the beach in 10 feet of water,” Ralph says, but a stiff onshore breeze and breaking surf kept him out in 17 feet or deeper. “We put up three kites with one large bait on each kite. As the kingfish bounced back and forth along the beach, having three kites helped us stay right on the pod of fish,” he says. Ralph’s expertise helped him steer two kites far apart with leads in the top corners so he could slide the third kite between.

“The kites caught about two-thirds of our fish in that tournament,” he says. Yet during many tournaments, Skin Deep’s kites don’t leave their storage tubes. “It’s just another tool,” Ralph says. “Kites help us out when we need them.” Another of Ralph’s favorite kite tricks: “In the springtime we get the big flying fish showering,” Ralph says. “I’ll put out a tiny goggle eye, the smallest I can get, on the kite. It’s a great way to mimic those flyers.”

Of all these kite experts, Wampler probably hit best upon why flying a kite seems to get into fishermen’s blood. “It’s fun. You feel like you’re fishing instead of sitting in the chair watching four ballyhoo behind the boat,” he says. Kite-fishermen continue to break boundaries in terms of new applications, target species and areas. One might say more and more anglers are rethinking the old maxim that the sky’s the limit.