The Kingfish (Haku or Kahu in Maori).
The eastern coast of New Zealand is well known for its abundance of Kingfish (as well as the upper western side of the North Island), although warmer water temperatures have recently seen the fish numbers increasing south of these locations.The current size and catch limit in the area is a min 75cm and x3 fish per day per person, which is ridiculously generous and probably a bit of overkill, but there is science behind it evidently.
Males reach maturity at around 83cm, while females reach maturity at approximately 97cms. Females are often longer in length than males. The largest Kingfish in the world was “suggested” at 70kg and 2.5m in length (How’s that for a fishing tale?). However, official records (2016) advise it is 50.6kg at 1.6m (which is still a monster in any one’s book). There has been a couple at 52kg caught up north and further down south in the Bay of Plenty as well, in previous years.
The average catch weight of the Kingfish last year was 10.23kg according to the latest NIWA information with a staggering 52,000 plus being caught recreationally. Recreational taking of the species significantly outweighs commercial take in our region. Nationally, the commercial versus recreational take is fairly even. The good news is Kingfish are very fertile and very fast growing. They spawn after three years and become active breeders two years after that. Each female releases hundreds of thousands of eggs into the water which are inseminated my multiple males. This normally happens between December and March when the water warms up. A kingfish will normally weigh on average, 3.25kg per annum.
Because they breed so fast, Kingfish can also be farmed commercially. There is a Kingfish farm just out of Ruakaka that will export over 3000 tonnes of Kingfish per annum. On average, a kingfish will grow 20cm per annum, so in four years, you would be looking at an 75-80cm fish that would be 13kg (on average). That is the norm here in Whitianga for good kingfish. Kingfish put up a good fight; usually the smaller Kingys put up more of a scrap than the big ones. You will often notice the juvenile Kingfish are darker on the top than larger ones. This enables them to camouflage themselves more efficiently from predators that may attack them from above. Kingfish bellies are silvery white for the same reason, to prevent from being attacked from below.
Quite often we go out on “Bronze Whaler and Mako” feeding expeditions (also known as ‘Tax man’ expeditions). We nail a good Kingy and often wait until a Bronze Whaler or Mako turns up to assist us in landing the fish - or what is left of the fish, which is usually just the head. So once hooked, learn to turn the Kingfish around and get it in quick or it may well become the ‘tax man’s lunch’. The good side of this is it’s easier to wind in a kingfish head instead of a whole kingfish and no need to fillet the fish once you have it; the bad side is - well… same as the good side really.
Personally I enjoy my Kingfish as shashimi with wasabi and kikkomen soy (always carried on board). However, we are blessed here in Whitianga to have choices of very good smoking and packing facilities being Blinks Smokehouse 027 4994548, The Whitianga Butchery 07 8665191, and the Stunned Mullet 07 8664583. Give one of them a call for your smoking services.
Just be aware that Kingfish are very high in mercury content, so ensure you share those fillets and steaks about the whanau - don’t eat too much. We are also blessed to have some great kingfish charter operators here in Whitianga about 8 or 9 from the last count. These boats get very busy over the summer months, so get in early with your bookings. Even if you have your own boat, to learn how to catch Kingfish, go out on one of these charters and get some experience. It’s well worth it and the skippers are all very good and very experienced.
Keep an eye on those Easterly winds this summer, they can be unpredictable and sudden. Make sure you have all necessary safety gear on board including sunblock and plenty of fresh water. Wear a hat and good glasses.Take it easy on the beers until you get home and don’t forget to do your trip reports with Coastguard. (CH63)
Well that’s about all this week, be safe out there, and if in doubt, don’t go out
Kindest Regards Tony Marsters. AEROPACIFIC GSE/ WARFISH CHARTERS/ ODYSSEYRACING AND MARINE PH.021 2985750