Kingfish, Yellow Tail, or Southern Kingfish (Seriola lalandi lalandi) are a solid-bodied elongated / compressed pelagic game fish. Kingfish are easily recognizable by their distinct yellow tails and (dorsal, pectoral, caudal) fins. They are generally dark green in colour, with a white stomach, and a yellow stripe which runs along the pectoral line to their caudal fin. They are fast-swimming, streamlined carnivores with smooth scales. Their large yellow caudal fin is small in surface area, which results in little turbulence giving them excellent power and swimming ability. Most kingfish are counter–shaded which is more noticeable in the bigger adult fish, where they are bluish / greenish on the top half of the lateral line and silvery white below the lateral line. This results in an effective camouflage common in ocean- going fish. The darker top half camouflages it by making the fish difficult to see from above because it closely resembles the dark colour of the water. The lighter bottom half has the same effect when looking upward toward the light from the ocean floor. The silvery-white stomach blends in with the light rays shining downwards, making it difficult to see them against the light. The minimum size for MOF regulations is 75cm, with a daily bag limit of three per day – which is ridiculously generous. A kingfish of 20-25kg would feed an entire family. Conscientious spearo’s should limit themselves to one fish per day if it’s at least 1m or more in length.
HABITAT & FEEDING
Kingfish are a typical pelagic schooling fish however one can encounter juvenile kingfish hunting in the shallows. The depth at which kingfish are found can vary, as they do often move into the shallows to hunt. Divers have recorded them in depths ranging from shallower reefs and estuaries, to deep pinnacles reaching and exceeding depths of 50m. Generally, they prefer rocky reef structures and pinnacles; with current moving past them. Current in the water is one of the critical success factors to finding the fish. Another promising location that generally has a higher success rate would be FADs (Fish Attracting Devices) such as navigational buoys, or man-made FADs in the water.They are most abundant in the summer, but can be found year-round in far northern waters. Most divers however have to wait until the summer months when the water temperature warms up and they move further south down the coast.
New Zealand kingfish will hunt up and down the country chasing smaller fish species such as baitfish, piper, garfish, squid, octopus, koheru and kahawai. Often seeing these smaller fish in schools is a good sign that you may run into a kingi, as the kingfish will be actively seeking them. Shooting smaller fish such as koheru, or the use of burley, have proven effective in bringing in a kingi.
AGE & GROWTH
It usually takes a kingfish up to 21 years to reach its full growth size of 2.5 metres or more and they can weigh up to 40-45kgs. These are considered to be ‘large’ kingfish, in reality the 15-20kg range is the most common catch.Their lengths vary from smaller “rats” of 75cm up to bigger adults in the 2m range. Growth parameters show that female kingfish take longer to grow than males do, however females reach a greater overall length than the males. Adult kingfish are easily identifiable by the faded colouring on them.Smaller
“rats” have distinct green and white
Kingfish are excellent eating fish with thick white fillets; they have a pleasant flavour and only a few large bones. Kingfish have a moderate oiliness to them and they are easily adaptable to a variety of cooking methods. They make excellent sashimi and to cook, are best prepared in foil on the BBQ or baked to retain flavour and to keep the fillets moist. Avoid overcooking them as this results in a dry texture. Using a citrus or garlic marinade prior to cooking will also aid in the retention of moisture.