Employing a kite to catch fish seems almost whimsical, but it has a surprisingly rich sportfishing history and can be highly effective for enticing even the most challenging game fish. Simple versions of wind-aided fishing are practiced worldwide wherever open water, fish and a breeze can be found. In England, anglers or piers sometimes float baits on sheets of newspaper to present them farther out on windy days. In Malta, fishermen seeking garfish made little rafts of cork and reed, using a small sail to catch the wind and propel it offshore, and a tether to retrieve it. Underneath the raft hung numerous lines and baited hooks.
Modern big-game kite fishing was invented off Santa Catalina, California. One observer write that when he visited the island in 1900, the tuna were plentiful and could be taken by merely trolling a flying fish one hundred feet behind a launch. But when he returned in 1910, he found that it was impossible to persuade the now more educated tuna to take the bait unless it was skittered in front of their noses from a kite. Early applications there involved attaching a twenty eight inch silk kite with a rag tail (with wine corks added for flotation) to seven hundred feet of old fishing line. The fisherman’s line was tied to the kite about twenty feet from the bait with a piece of cotton twine. When a fish struck, the twine would break and the kite would fall into the sea as the fight began. This technique resulted in some notable catches for the era, such as enormous tuna and swordfish to 463 pounds, with one leading the launch for fourteen hours and twenty-nine miles, and sounding forty-eight times.
Kite rigs have improved over time and are used from boat and shore, mostly in tropical and subtropical marine areas where steady breezes are prevalent and clear waters accentuate their effectiveness. Australians appear particularly enamored with kite fishing. They use a range of models that work in winds of as little as three knots to more than seventy knots. They also work well for shore anglers where there are strong riptides that would lift up and sweep away a conventional tethered line. Some beach fishermen Down Under use longlines off kites with up to the legal limit of twenty-five hooks. A bottle filled with sand or water keeps such a low rig in the water column. The new generation of kites used in Australia also allows a tremendous reach for three thousand feet or more.
Kite fishing has evolved, like most modern things, into a high speed version. Rather than passively let the wind carry the bait, today some tuna anglers pull kite rigs behind sportfishing boats. When feeding tuna are surfacing, they sometimes spook from engine nose or bow-wave pressures the fishing boat attempts to troll near them. But by mounting a kite rig from the side of the vessel and then approaching at the correct angle, bait can be presented from hundred of feet away, and the fish remain unalarmed. and by travelling at twenty knots or more, the flying fish or similar bait skips over the surface in twenty- to thirty- foot bounds, so exciting tuna that they have been known to leap four feet high to nail one.