Catching Up: Time to spring into some stellar fishing

  • Eric Rusnak, Brian Wargo and Yvan Marsan with a rare tagged shortbill spearfish recapture. (Submitted photo/Special to WHT)

It is now officially spring, and I can tell you from experience, great catches and memorable moments historically characterize spring fishing off Kona. Let’s not forget though, this past winter had many amazing catches and memorable moments too — a testament to how good the fishing is here. We are truly blessed to have such good year-round fishing in Hawaii.

This past week, big blue marlin continue to stay in the news, along with spearfish, a few striped marlin, and sailfish. There are some ahi and smaller yellowfin tuna around, along with reports of ono and mahimahi for those who happen to be in the right place at the right time. The fishing has been spotty, with some boats catching and some not. Overall though, it is still very good.

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First SWFSC

spearfish tag

reported in Kona

Fishing on the Kila Kila with Capt. Brian Wargo and deckhands Eric Rusnak and Kenton Greer, angler Yuan Marsan, caught a 30-pound spearfish while fishing in 1,500 fathoms off of Kaiwi Point. To everyone surprise, the spearfish had a Southwest Fisheries Science Center’s (SWFSC) tag in it.

The SWFSC is a branch of NOAA Fisheries, and for over 50 years the SWFSC has provided conventional billfish tags to individual anglers, charter boats, and tournaments directors across the Pacific. The small thin tags are placed in fish and used to help get a better understanding of billfish distribution, biology and to measure relative abundance over time.

The Billfish Foundation (TBF) is another organization that distributes tags to individual anglers, charter boats and tournaments directors. Both tags regularly get deployed off Kona and its easy to determine the difference between an SWFSC and aTBF tag.

While blue marlin are routinely tagged off Kona, spearfish are typically only tagged in tournaments, except by a rare few. After a fish gets tagged, a card is filled out with information about the fish, when and where it was caught, estimated size, etc. The card then gets sent to the SWFSC or TBF and put on file waiting for recapture information.

After catching the rare tagged spearfish, Wargo immediately contacted Liana Heberer of the SWFSC’s tagging program. Unfortunately, she could not find the information that corresponds to the tag number.

While the Billfish Foundation has had two tags returned from Kona, Heberer said it was the first ever recapture of an SWFSC spearfish tag in Hawaii. She and Wargo are hoping that somehow they can figure out who tagged this fish.

Another interesting fact is that the fish was caught on a new lure prototype made by Eric Rusnak, who manufactures Aloha lures. I guess its safe to say his new lure works.

Last Chance gets

biggest fish of

the week honors

Fishing on the charter boat Last Chance with Capt. Tracy Epstein and crewmember Ian Keinath, angler Ted Vonfeldt got an offshore fishing chance of a lifetime when he hooked into an estimated 750-pound blue marlin last week.

Fishing in an area near the airport known as the First Grounds, the enormous blue devoured a purple Tantrum hardhead lure known as the Large AMN. In case you were wondering, AMN means “any minute now.”

One of the top five fish of the year to date, the massive marlin did Vonfeldt a favor by jumping all over the ocean in a big circle, never getting too far away from the boat.

Amazingly, Epstein almost had the powerful fish to the leader in 15 minutes, but the fish, the size of a mini-submarine was determined to stay just far enough away from the boat to stay out of Keinath’s grasp.

The big fish was within 100 yards of the boat for another 30 minutes, testing Vonfeldt’s resolve. Knowing it could be his last chance to ever catch of fish of this size, Vonfeldt put it in overdrive, and with the help of a savvy captain and crew, the beautiful fish was alongside the boat after a 45-minute battle.

The mighty fish was then tagged and released unharmed to fight another day. Video of this fish can be seen on our Facebook page Kona Fish Report.

Three other big blue marlin were caught last week, and shout outs go to angler Kevin Kawamoto for weighing a 655-pound blue marlin fishing with Capt. Ted Toriano on the Breezin II and to angler James Lightbourn who released an estimated 500-pound blue fishing with Capt. James Dean on Blue Hawaii. I also heard just before press time that Capt. McGrew Rice on the Ihu Nui II weighed a 510-pounder.

Farewell to a legend

Legendary Captain Bart Miller passed away on March 6, 2018.

Miller rose to prominence in the 1970s and 80s as one of sportfishing’s top captains. Fishing out of Kona, Miller was always searching for the world’s largest blue marlin with a heated passion. Miller also crafted Black Bart lures, a line of that ultimately became some of the world’s most popular fishing lures.

The worldwide fishing community took notice when Miller weighed a 1,649-pound blue marlin in Kona fishing aboard his beloved boat, Black Bart in 1984. Miller hooked the behemoth on one of his famous lures — a Bart Miller Torpedo Taper.

The monster grander was caught on 130-lb test Cortland line and a bent butt unlimited class tuna stick. It was Miller’s second grander and monumental catches like his helped put Kona on the map as one of the world’s greatest blue marlin destinations.

Miller battled with Parkinson’s disease for the last decade of his life, but never complained and never quit fighting. May he rest in peace and wherever he is, and may he catch that elusive 2,000-pounder he was always looking for.

Nice Big-Eye

Congrats to angler Dwayne Figley for catching a 175.5-pound big-eye tuna fishing with Capt. Bobby Cherry on the Cherry Pit. The monster big-eye is the heaviest to date in 2018.

More Sailfish

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Capt. Jah Nogues on the High Noon continues to hold court as one of Kona’s sailfish kings by catching two sailfish on Monday. He and Capt. Shawn Rotella have been on a roll catching sailfish this year, which is worthy of attention as sailfish catches are usually few and far between off Kona.

See for yourself what the local boats are catching by visiting or following our Facebook page “Kona Fish Report” and if you think you have an interesting offshore, bottom or shore fishing story, please email: markjohnstoncatchingup@gmail.com or jdegroote@westhawaiitoday.com