Fly Fishing helping research. Project #TagAKingOnFly.

Posted in 24 August 2016

Flytackle NZ and Sage products have been supporters of LegaSea for some time now. LegaSea is a public outreach initiative of the New Zealand Sport Fishing Council.

Flytackle have a new project to get behind now which is also supported by LegaSea. A fish tagging program focused on yellowtail kingfish (seriola lalandi). Not just any kingfish but those that inhabit the shallow water inshore environments around New Zealand.

In recent years in New Zealand more and more fly anglers have been encountering and targeting kingfish in shallow water areas commonly known as “flats” [among fly flingers]. The yellowtail kingfish is New Zealand’s premier small gamefish species. New Zealand has a reputation for the largest yellowtail in the world, and 25 of 26 world records are held by New Zealand anglers.

There are already established tagging programs in New Zealand under the Gamefish Tagging Program. This is a cooperative project between the Ministry of Fisheries, the New Zealand Sport Fishing Council and the current fisheries research provider  Bluewater Marine Research . Such programs have historically focused more on the costal and offshore fisheries and on fish species such as marlin, tuna, shark and larger kingfish. What is known about kingfish now is that the smaller fish travel the biggest distances around NZ and inhabit these shallow water environments during the warmer months. That is where the “known” mostly ends however. These fish and their habitats are likely more vulnerable to both man-made and natural environmental changes so there is a need to learn more about them.

A small king heads back to the flat. Where will this fish show up next time?

Generally tagging programs provide information on the size, distribution and movement of fish. Recaptures provide information on distance and direction of movement, time at liberty, and in some circumstances growth rates of the fish involved.

A small group of fly anglers selected for Bluewater Marine Research will assist with a pilot program focused on those kingfish and shallow water environments that are generally overlooked by regular anglers. These fisheries are no less important in terms of economic and social importance to NZ however and their potential value for fly fishing tourism is significant. The pilot will run for 3 years and the tagging undertaken by fly anglers is dubbed #TagAKingOnFly. It is hoped that this model can be used for other inshore fisheries by MPI in the future as more focus is put on sustainability and abundance for inshore fisheries around New Zealand.

The project adopted the international symbol for catch and release as well as a 1938 quote from one of the fly fishing greats, Lee Wulff. 

"A good gamefish is too valuable to be caught only once. The fish you release today is your gift to another angler tomorrow."



Saltwater fly fishing will grow in New Zealand and more international fly anglers will want to come here to sling a fly line in the salt. The time to start looking after these fisheries starts now and for these fly anglers involved in this project, that starts with a tag. Be sure to follow their journey, these are good times to be a fly angler in New Zealand.

#tagakingonfly team at the 2016 Winter Fly Fest held at Sporting Life Outfitters in Turangi. Left to Right - Anton Donaldson, Matt von Sturmer, Alex Waller, Paul Mills, Lucas Allen.


Typical tag used to tag kingfish. 











Founder of the #TagAKingOnFly initiative Millsie, sends another valuable kingfish home.













Another shallow water predator adding to the tally in Tauranga Harbour. What's this fish worth to a touring fly angler?