Kingfish are a popular recreational fish in New Zealand. Learn about kingfish and the status of the fishery.
Kingfish image

About Kingfish

Māori name(s): kahu, haku

Scientific name: Seriola lalandi lalandi

Kingfish are green on top with a white underside and a green-gold band from the nose through to the yellow tail. About 75% of all kingfish harvested in New Zealand are caught by recreational fishers.

Kingfish are:

  • mostly found in the water column (semi-pelagic), at depths of up to 200m
  • most abundant in the northern half of the North Island but also occur from the Kermadec Islands to Foveaux Strait
  • found in open coastal waters, preferring high currents or tidal flows near rocky outcrops, reefs and pinnacles
  • sometimes found in areas with an open sandy bottom and in shallow enclosed bays.

Kingfish are large predatory fish with adults growing to over 1.5m in length. They usually occur in schools ranging from a few fish to well over 100. Recreationally-caught kingfish average 10kg but can be more than 30kg.

Check fishing rules for kingfish

Fishing rules for kingfish and other fish species differ around the country and can change. Check the rules for your area every time before you go fishing.

The kingfish fishery

The kingfish fishery is split into 7 fishery management areas. Catch allowances are set differently for each area depending on the health of the fish population and fishing pressure.


Kingfish fishery area image


2016 catch allowances (tonnes)

Kingfish are managed under New Zealand's Quota Management System (QMS). By controlling the amount of fish taken from each area, the QMS helps keep fisheries sustainable.

The QMS sets a yearly catch limit (total allowable catch) for kingfish in each management area. From the total allowable catch (in tonnes), an allowance is made for recreational and customary fishing, and other fishing-related deaths. The remainder is the commercial allowance.

Area Total allowance Commercial allowance Customary allowance Recreational allowance Other mortality1
KIN 1 673 91 76 459 47
KIN 2 170 63 18 65 24
KIN 3 3 1 1 1 0
KIN 4 3 1 1 1 0
KIN 7 41 15 2 20 4
KIN 8 92 45 9 31 7
KIN 10 2 1 0 1 0

1 Fishing-related mortality from all sectors such as discarding and poaching.

Stock status of KIN 1

Area Status1
Bay of Plenty Inshore At or below target (overfishing unlikely)
Offshore At or below target (overfishing unlikely)
East Northland/Hauraki Gulf Inshore Above target (overfishing likely)
Offshore At or below target (overfishing unlikely)

12016 estimate based on total mortality compared to target mortality

The table shows stock status of KIN 1 – the largest kingfish fishery management area by catch. Stock is assessed by comparing total mortality (from catch data) to a target mortality level. Fisheries New Zealand is managing the fishery to keep it around a target level of 40% of the unfished stock (stock before modern fishing methods were introduced). Status 'at or below target' means mortality is low enough to keep the fish population safe.

Find out more

For more detailed information and data about kingfish fisheries, download the latest:

Report poaching

Report poaching, suspicious, or illegal activity – call 0800 4 POACHER (0800 47 62 24) or email

You can help us by providing:

  • the location
  • vehicle/trailer registration number
  • boat name
  • description of the person

When reporting any suspected poaching put your personal safety first. All calls and personal details are treated as confidential.

Who to contact

If you have questions about this page, email

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