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April 16, 2009

Kite Fishing 101

Kite fishing works! One of the best kite pros in the business reveals tips and tricks to get started and get better...

Flight Plan
Exactly how you deploy kites depends on your boat. Center consoles offer the greatest versatility for flying/ fishing kites. For the simplest approach, put out one kite from the bow and one from the stern of a drifting boat. Avoid putting out kites in the wind shadow of T-tops, small towers or the like. Let the kite go just until the first swivel comes out of the top of the kite rod. Attach the first baited fishing line through the first clip. With the fishing reel in free-spool (clicker on), slowly let out the kite and fishing line. Repeat this for the next two clips. You'll need to adjust the three baits so each works at the surface,  pretty much straight up and down from the kite clip. Keeping it on a short leash prevents your bait from swimming too deep and possibly tangling adjacent baits while giving the bait little slack to avoid the strike of a predator.

Since winds are notoriously uncooperative, varying throughout the  day, you'll constantly need to adjust baits. When a kite goes up, your bait comes out of the water. Unless you're targeting birds, you'll need to let out some line from the fishing (not kite) reel to drop the bait back into the water. Conversely, when the kite drops a bit, the bait's short leash grows longer; reel in some line to bring it back to the surface. Drifting abeam the wind allows you to also deploy flat lines and deep lines from the side of the boat opposite the kite lines.

It can be very useful to also tie a sea anchor from a midships cleat while drifting side to the wind to slow your drift and allow baits to stay in productive water longer. On my 34-foot SeaVee, I use a 15-foot Paratech (www.paratech.com) sea anchor.

If your platform is a larger sport-fisher (convertible or express), you'll need to deploy kites from the stern. That means keeping your bow pointed into the wind. Sending up kites on a large boat might seem intimidating, with cabin, flybridge and tower prone to block the wind. To adjust for this,   simply turn the boat sideways slightly until you can get the first kite up and away. Put out your kite and fishing lines on that side as described above. Then turn the boat and send up the other kite with baited lines. After that, turn the bow back into the wind and power drift.

The same tactics used in a big boat can also be employed in a center  console, with two kite lines deployed from the stern. You can power drift as you would in a large sport-fisher or use a large sea anchor tied to the bow to drift silently, bow first, through the water. Not only does this slow your drift tremendously, it allows the bow to take most of the punishment in a significant sea.

It's worth reminding you that effective as kite fishing can be, you have to be fishing the right area. In south Florida, we usually put our kites out along an "edge" - wherever we have blue water from offshore meeting green inshore water. It pays to cover both sides of the edge. Kites can be deadly around rip lines also. If you see a rip, usually caused by different currents meeting together or by upwellings, try your spread there. Kite lines work well around structure as well, either man-made (wrecks or oil rigs) or natural (reefs). Anywhere that looks like a fishy area is a place you want to try a kite spread.

If you're just starting out, start slowly. Start by fishing a single kite; once you get comfortable, go to two. You may want to fish just two baits on a kite line at first since it makes more sense to have two or three properly presented baits than six baits presented poorly.

If winds are too light, wait for a better breeze to try fishing your kite. Nothing can be more frustrating than a kite that doesn't fly properly because it lacks enough wind. It's worth noting that kites can be flown in virtually no wind with a helium- balloon assist - but look for that in another feature on advanced kite-fishing techniques!

Kite fishing can be a lot of work, but as you'll discover, the benefits are well worth the effort.

About the Author: Capt. Dean Panos (www.doubledcharters.com; 954-805-8231), a full-time fishing guide in south Florida waters for more than 20 years, runs a 34-foot SeaVee center console with twin Mercury outboards. Even after so many years, Panos says he remains passionate about doing it every day, still getting excited to see a sailfish eating a kite bait or a big swordfish showing herself for the first time in a fight.

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