When it comes to big bruisers, yellowtail kingfish are up near the top of the list. Fishing with live bait set under a balloon, you watch as the balloon starts to move across the surface of the water, a sign of nervous baitfish below trying to escape the jaws of a predator. Suddenly the bait is inhaled and the balloon breaks free of the line to drift away. Meanwhile, the ratchet on your reel signifies the fish is running away with the bait, so you push the lever drag setting up and set the hook, and then hang on as 20 kg or so of yellowtail kingfish steams off. The experience is awesome. Your adrenalin rushes so fast, your arms shake and you wonder whether you have the stamina to outlast the fish. As a metre or so of kingfish nears the surface you spy the yellow, crescent-shaped tail and marvel at the band that appears mask-like across its eyes.
Yellowtail kingfish are a serious opponent. In deep water, they will run straight down and drag your line through reef. Hook a big one on a pier and you can count on it running straight through the pilings beneath your feet.
SA boasts the biggest kingfish in the country, with anglers catching them up to 48 kg. One of the few areas where big yellowtail kingfish are in good numbers, and the terrain favours the angler, is Coffin Bay. Situated on the west side of the Eyre Peninsula, about 45 km from Port Lincoln, the township is a favourite destination among anglers in the know. Those with the knowhow catch kingfish, squid, garfish, silver trevally, snook, big snapper and kidney-thumping King George whiting.
Coffin Bay is nestled on a sheltered coastal lagoon complex near Port Lincoln. It is a beautiful, idyllic destination surrounded by national and conservation parks with an abundance of flora and fauna. The exposed jagged cliffs, sand dunes, long white beaches and wild seas of the Coffin Bay Peninsula contrast starkly with the sheltered, tranquil waters of the bays.
Kingfish have been caught at various times, but the spring tides that occur over the new and full moon periods are most productive. There are several hotspots for the kings, but it depends on weather as to where you can fish.
The entrance to Kellidie Bay, about 2 km from the Coffin Bay boat ramp, is popular. The water depth is 3–5 m and there is a sandy channel that connects the two bays. Sandbars surround the stretch so you won’t hit reefs as easily as in other areas, and it is very well sheltered when the wind is blowing from the west.
Other hotspots are Crinalin Point, at the north-west extremity of the township, and the rock ledge that divides Kellidie Bay from Coffin Bay, which is most popular when a northerly is blowing.
The wharf produces most species, but hooking and landing are two entirely different processes: big kingfish are rarely landed from the pier due to the close proximity of boat moorings, but you will catch snapper, Tommy rough and silver trevally.