December 30, 2014
Handle with care, and be prepared for quick triage.
Fishing kites withstand a lot of abuse, but over time components may fail.
Even the most experienced kite fisherman occasionally dunks a kite, and now and then a strut, string or crosspiece breaks. At least for recovered kites, there's a good chance it will fly again. Torn ones won't, but can be kept for parts. Here are some ways to save your kites.
Pieces from other kites can be interchanged, provided the replacement item is identical to or lighter than what it's replacing. While this includes bridles, it also pertains to fiberglass struts. Kevlar spars need to be changed out with the exact same one only. Fortunately, these days many are either color- or numerically coded for easy matching.
Should a kite go in the water, even if it emerges intact, rinse it well back at the dock. Otherwise salt will soak into the fabric, rendering it so heavy it won't fly properly. Sadly, many frames collapse during retrieval. If at all possible, put the boat on plane and try to get behind a downed kite so you can pull it in backward. Very often it will come up to the surface and start skipping. Otherwise, it's like pulling on a very flimsy sea anchor. Even if the kite line survives and the sticks hold, likely it will be the crosspiece that gives. This is especially true of older kites with joints that have already been subjected to stress and the elements.
To help with emergency retrieval, Lewis Kites of Miami now sells kites with styrofoam floats mounted on the two lower spars. Besides keeping the kite from sinking, they prevent it from digging into the water. Savvy skippers have been adding their own flotation for years with balloons.
Another ugly scenario can result any time a kite being deployed falls into a crowded cockpit. If this happens, try to get out of the way without either stepping on it or inadvertently grabbing one of the spars. Watch out for falling or rolling downrigger weights and crushing buckets.
In an emergency it's sometimes possible to temporarily splint a spar, as long as it's only partially broken through. Cut a large fishhook at the bend and snell the shank against the fracture with monofilament.
For kites that crash during light winds without breaking off, try loosening the drag on the kite rod and working the boat toward the fallen bird. Only minimal pressure can be applied! Ideally, the kite will come to the surface on its own with just light sideways pressure. This is a slow process, impossible in any kind of a sea.
At left, author saves spars from old Lewis kites, to substitue if needed (mono is from old splint). The SFE kite at right will need a new spar from a dealer.
There are several major reasons kites go down: not enough wind, too much wind, an overly tight release clip, a broken kite line or simply too much slack. Using the wrong kite for the conditions is risky. On very breezy days, sometimes a strong gust can force even the correct kite to plummet.
Most kite lines break at the swivel used as a clip stopper. The traditional way to rig the kite line uses a series of progressively larger barrel swivels sized so the release pins are stopped at a set distance. The system works great at first, but over time as the kite rod is used and put away, those swivels begin to corrode. Using a quality swivel will help, but it's still vital to examine them often and replace
as needed. A better idea is to secure waxed rigging thread or dental floss to the kite line to serve as clip stoppers. Build up the thread wraps according to the size of the hole in each kite clip, and finish with a dab of super glue.
Fortunately, even severely damaged kites are not necessarily a lost cause. Merely pack it up in a shipping tube and mail it back. The address will be in a pamphlet that came with it, but many dealers will be glad to handle this for you. Tom Greene at Custom Rod and Reel in Lighthouse Point, for instance, keeps extra spars on hand for various makes. Factory repairs may take several weeks, but should cost much less than a new kite. FS
Originally published Florida Sportsman January 2011