Kite fishing is the main technique we use to target Pelagic fish here in South Florida. It allows anglers to fish a multitude of baits in various depths of water right on the edge of our reefline. It is the most natural presentation to a predatory fish and is especially effective when the Gulf Stream flows right alongside the reef. Many predators use that area as a highway in their migration pattern.
There is a bit of debate about when and where it was first used. It is said to have first been developed by the Polynesians in the 1500s using leaves and sticks to carry their baits away from shore. Other accounts dictate Europeans documented south eastern Chinese fisherman flying kites off canoes around the same time period.
In the 1950s Tommy Gifford and later Bob Lewis are credited for innovating the technique here in South Florida. This is where kite fishing really became popular and recently has been making its way around the world as an effective technique in multiple fisheries. Each location has a slight variation to their method specific to their fishery.
In Florida, most boats will fly two kites, a left and a right. Each kite, depending on wind speed, can hold 3-4 baits. Small rings on the reel line attach to a release clip which is sent out by floss marks pre-rigged on the kite line. An anglers job is to make sure the bait stays in the water as the kites height will fluctuate with the wind. There are indicators on the reel line that the angler uses to see where their bait is. Once a fish takes hold of a bait the angler will apply pressure on the line and it will pop out of the clip on the kite line. The angler can now fight the fish straight from the rod. While they fight their fish, all the other baits are still fishing and this can result in multiple bites.
Kite fishing is an artform in itself. It is also something where you are completely immersed in the experience, constantly adjusting baits or the kite, to really work it right requires extreme focus and determination. It is also a very visual experience. More times than not you can see the fish come up on the bait before they take it and that leaves a lot images burnt into my mind I go back and draw later.