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The Ultimate Guide to Catching Kahawai via Surfcasting

Is kahawai the most popular species for surf casters? Most probably not. But, those who do know the thrill of the kahawai are always looking forward to more. There are many annual competitions for surfcasting, and many of them are targeted at kahawai. They are ferocious fighters, and if you know how to prepare them, you can make a tasty meal. But do you know how to catch Kahawai surfcasting?

Kahawai is one of the few species that will bite at any time of the day. This makes them an attractive fish to target for surf casters that want to catch during the day when most other species are nowhere near the shore. So, if you have a free day to hang out with the family on the beach, you will want to know how to catch kahawai surfcasting. 

Kahawai is the ideal fish for novice fishermen. They will go after almost any bait on a usual day, but there are some occasions when they can be finicky and overly cautious. This usually depends on the season, and there are a few tips that could enhance your chances of success when surfcasting for kahawai.

Kahawai: What You Should Know

Kahawai is known for its incredible mobility. If there is a hotspot one day, that same place can be empty the next. You might notice a boil-up of kahawai with all the usual birds in attendance in one spot. And in the next moment, the boil-up could be a few hundred feet away.

Author Note: A school of kahawai traveling fast will typically be chasing baitfish. So, when you are targeting kahawai, the best gameplan is to just follow the baitfish. Where the food is, that is where the kahawai will typically be.

Kahawai will frequent river mouths during the southern hemisphere’s spring. The summertime is the best season for fishing off the shore for kahawai. They love to frolic in the shallows and will chase the baitfish in the warm water. As an angler seeking out kahawai, you should seek them out around the edges of rocks. If you’re lucky, you might even have a school of kahawai chasing bait balls in the shallows straight from the beach. 

The Kahawai is an excellent predator who has exceptional senses. Both their eyesight and hearing can pick up the slightest of movement and sound. Some anglers have noticed that kahawai can identify lures from as far as 90 feet away. And once they have it in their sight, they will attack with remarkable speed. So, you should make sure you’re targeting areas where they will be and with the right type of lure to convince them to attack. 

How to Catch Kahawai

surf fishing

You can have the best lures for kahawai, but you could miss the opportunity if you don’t have the skill. Use these tips when targeting kahawai in the surf. 

Using visual aids can maximize your chances of success. Use flies, floats, and beads to help lure kahawai to take a bite. Rigs should have visual appendages to assist with attracting, but they can vary according to the day and the conditions. 

Using visual cues can help to exploit the kahawai’s keen eyesight. To exploit their keen hearing, you can use a rattle like a ball bearing or a lead-filled bubble float. 

When kahawai are biting, they will go after just about anything that even slightly resembles food. At the same time, real fish bait could be the best with the most consistent results. But there are excellent lures as well for excellent results when catching kahawai from the shore.

Author Note: Baits such as pilchards or other bait that resembles their natural food will work well. Lures are a cleaner alternative that has way less mess and fusses to worry about, and there are some expertly designed lures to ensure a kahawai will bite.

Surfcasting for Kahawai

If you decide to use bait, then you will have to watch the conditions to see what bait to use. When kahawai are particularly bold, you could use pilchards as bait. The pilchards should be combined with a big float bead. This helps to enhance the bait’s attractiveness and encourages the kahawai to take the bait. You should also be aware of nearby barracuda, as they also love this setup.

On days when the water is clear, kahawai will be much more discerning about the bait they go after. If you are fishing on a day when the water is clear, then there are a few hints for success. Firstly, spend a little bit of time observing them. 

You should watch them from the rocks and observe how they hunt. We have already mentioned the kahawai’s excellent eyesight, and when the water is crystal clear there, it can be difficult to fool. But that doesn’t mean you can’t catch them. Stray line baits and lures may be enticing for them, but they can lose interest just when you think you’ve got them. If you watch them from the surf, it won’t be so easy to check their habits. But if you do see a bait ball, then there are a few tips to hook one. You should use smaller baits, lures, beads, hooks, and floats when the water is clear. This will help to entice the kahawai- the bigger the bait, the more they will be able to tell it is not a palatable baitfish. 

How to Catch Kahawai Surfcasting: Equipment

Use a hook that is 2/0 or 3/0 in size. If you are using bait, you could try to use pilchard tails. And if you decide to go the float route, then rig a bead that is roughly a centimeter in diameter, no larger. You can also check out our article on the best lures for Kahawai for more info.

When you are casting from the shore, and the water is still, then you should try using a float or bubble rig. A rig with a float will be the best option when casting into deep water. The floats will ensure the lure or the bait stay out of reach of annoying bottom feeders. 

Where to Cast

Tourist fishing with his rod under an orange umbrella

Kahawai can be slightly unpredictable when it comes to knowing precisely where to cast. Casting above the line of breaking waves if you are casting from the shore is usually the action plan when surfcasting. But when surfcasting for kahawai, this is not also necessary.

Unlike other fish species, the kahawai will often swim in shallow white water. They can also swim in deeper water just beyond the break line. So, whether you cast in the shallows or in the deeper water is totally up to you. But always check to see if you can spot the kahawai first and see where they are.

Remember, they are fast-swimming fish, so don’t worry if you cast a little further than the school itself. Chances are, they will reach your cast faster than you will be able to reel it back in. 

Kahawai: Day or Night?

You can fish for kahawai during the day and the night. However, you are more likely to be successful during the dawn and the dusk

You might have a heightened chance of success when the water is murky, as the kahawai will have more trouble discerning the hooks. 

So if you are in the planning stages of your fishing trip, then you might want to check the weather report. Head out on a day when the water will be murky if you want the best chances of success. While the murky water will mean you won’t be able to spy on them off the rocks, at least it will help you when surfcasting. Kahawai’s exceptional eyesight will not be able to tell whether they are biting into danger (i.e., your hook) or into a typical food source. 

How to Catch Kahawai Surfcasting: Top Tips

Once you have a biting kahawai, be prepared because you are probably going to have a fight on your hands. They can be aggressive fighters, and as we have already mentioned, they are swift swimmers. Don’t be surprised if they start to leap and jerk their heads from side to side.

This is just their way of trying to get free, and yes, they won’t give up easily. It will help if you use a 4/5oz surf casting sinker. These heavier sinkers will help to slow them down and stop them from screaming off with your line. If you don’t watch out, the kahawai could throw the hook. 

Here are some tips so that it doesn’t happen:

  • Firstly, use a 4 or 5 oz sinker to help slow them down.
  • Keep the tension in the line and hold it steady.
  • Don’t put too much pressure on the line.

Don’t panic if the kahawai constantly change direction. As already mentioned, they can be aggressive fighters and won’t give up easily. To counter this, you should try to counter the slack and begin winding in as soon as you can, and do it rapidly. 

Author Note: You might also have to keep moving with the fish too. You will not fare well if you stay still. Prepare yourself for running up and down the beach. 

Fighting a Kahawai

Surf fishing At District Thai Muang Beach

When you have finally begun reeling in the fish through the waves, then you should start putting pressure. Ensure the pressure is even. The kahawai’s mouths are quite soft, so if you apply too much pressure, then you could tear the hook right through. Not only will that cause unnecessary pain, but you’ll end up losing the fish you fought so hard for. 

If you have cast your line into the shore, then don’t leave them unattended. The kahawai will hit fast and hard, and if your rod is unattended, you could miss it before you realize it. 


Kahawai you catch in the surf will typically be less than 2 kgs. If you’re seeking a large kahawai, then the summertime is your best bet. And if you’re looking for a recipe, check out our article on how kahawai taste

Remember, kahawai are unforgiving of lazy fishermen. Make sure you’re prepared by having the best lures to enhance your chances of success. We hope you enjoyed this article on how to catch Kahawai surfcasting.

Happy Hunting!


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