Fishing peaking as tournament season approaches

  • Tom Renaud, Capt. Bradley Damasco and JJ Baulcan pose with the biggest striped marlin caught this year off the Kona shores. Courtesy Photo

Analogous to the NFL’s preseason, the incredible springtime bite affords captains, crews and anglers plenty of opportunities to prepare and practice catching marlin and ahi before the big money competition begins.

Even before spring, Kona’s blue marlin fishing had already been off the charts, going all the way back to the beginning of the year. I challenge any fishery in the world to match the numbers of blue marlin that have been caught or tagged and released since Jan. 1.

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From New Year’s Day to May 13, fortunate anglers fishing Kona’s calm waters have reeled in and either caught, or tagged and released, a total of 49 blue marlin over 500 pounds. That’s amazing.

Of the 49 marlin, 10 were between 700-800 pounds, 18 were between 600-700 pounds, and 21 were between 500-600 pounds. Remember, these are only the fish that are reported. Many private boats do not report their big blue releases to the charter desk.

Those impressive numbers are only the big fish. The numbers for blue marlin under 500 pounds that were caught or tagged and released is in the hundreds.

In a tournament, the points tagging and releasing smaller blues can be just as valuable as catching a big fish. Many tournaments and optional money divisions are won by tagging points from multiple hook-ups of small blue marlin.

As for the offshore fishing over the past two weeks, just like the two weeks prior, fishing has been fantastic. Boats have been getting multiple shots at blue marlin and shortbill spearfish.

A few huge striped marlin were caught and several released. Nice sized ahi between 100-150 pounds are showing up and have been biting in the blind, meaning away from buoys or the porpoise school. Mahimahi are occasionally jumping on lure spreads and the ono are still biting nearshore.

Here are a few examples of what’s taken place the past two weeks off our beautiful coast.

Big day on Blue Hawaii

Before Tyler Steele’s wedding, his father Thomas decided a little offshore fishing with family and friends would be fun. He chartered the beautiful 52-foot Blue Hawaii captained by James Dean, with veteran crew member Tobin Hudgins.

As it turned out, before Tyler’s big day, his family and friends had another big day, a day I’m sure they will all remember.

Right out of the harbor off Kaiwi Point, with the lines barely wet, Hudgins was going through what is known as the rundown, explaining to Thomas the proper way to fight a fish from a fighting chair.

While demonstrating the procedure with one of the rods, one of the other rods with a Koya bullet on the end of the line went off, and lo and behold they had a 150 pound blue marlin throwing up whitewater and dancing behind the boat.

Hudgins quickly swapped rods, and Thomas did a nice job fighting the fish from the chair. The frisky marlin was tagged and released in short order. Everyone onboard collectively thought “that was pretty cool, right out of the gate too.” High fives flourished, and the lines were wetted again.

Thirty minutes later, in the same area as the first fish, a big blue was up on the long corner bait, this time hitting a Koya 861 lure. The big marlin crashed the bait and Thomas’ son-in-law, Andrew, jumped into the fighting chair.

Adding to the excitement, the captain had to do some tricky boat maneuvering in bumpy seas and the boat took some whitewater over the transom while fighting the aggressive big blue. Andrew did great in the chair and in 25 minutes the battle was over. The marlin was estimated at 425 pounds and was tagged and released. Once again, smiles, high-fives, and celebratory comments kept a good vibe alive.

Sure enough, within an hour of their last fish, the long rigger clip snapped and everyone onboard sprung into their positions as they watched a small blue, estimated at 125 pounds, ripping across the ocean’s surface with a blue Koya bullet lure hanging in front of its mouth.

This time it was Tyler’s turn, and possibly pre-wedding jitters gave him the adrenaline to get the marlin to the boat in racetrack speed where it was tagged and released. Smiles stretched across faces and another round of cheers filled the air. Three blue marlin before 10:30 a.m. What a day.

But it wasn’t over yet. Less than an hour later, lightning struck a fourth time when an estimated 225 pound feisty blue marlin attacked the same Koya bullet lure on the long rigger that Tyler’s fish ate.

As the line peeled off the reel with the drag screaming, Will Fallows jumped into the fighting chair and fought the blue. Like the previous three anglers, he did a nice job in the chair and reeled the marlin to the boat where it was tagged and released.

By this time I’m sure Dean, an excellent long-time Kona captain, checked the bottom of his shoes to see if he stepped in anything with four out of five anglers reeling in a blue marlin by 11:30 a.m.

Another knockdown occurred not long after, with the captain calling it either a small blue or big spearfish. But the fish was never hooked and disappeared back into the deep.

Around 2 p.m. a spearfish did appear in the spread and the fifth angler, John, got to join in on the action. John caught the nice sized spearfish and it would end up providing delicious portions on plates at Tyler’s wedding. Four blue marlin, a spearfish, and a mystery bite make for an unreal day of fishing. Congrats to all involved.

It is also worth noting that Thomas’ daughter, Alyssa, came along for the ride. She is 3-months pregnant. Who knows, maybe she’s carrying a good luck charm.

Remember I said this was like the tournament preseason?

Making for what would be an interesting tournament, two days later, angler Pete Grima, Capt. Chip Van Mols and crew member Ryan O‘Halloran, on the 40-foot charter boat Luna, went out and tagged and released four blue marlin too.

Grima got a workout reeling in all four marlin, ranging in size between 120 to 150 pounds. The boat had two other shots at blues too. Six blue marlin bites in a single day is not just good fishing, its incredible.

Grima must have some serious marlin mojo as you will be seeing his name again a little later. He should be signing up for a tournament with his luck.

Biggest fish honors for past two weeks split.

What about the biggest fish for the past two weeks? Two enormous blues estimated at 750 pounds were tagged and released by Bwana and Topshape for starters.

Craig Lindner tagged an released a 750-pound blue marlin and 120-pound ahi on the same day, fishing on his boat Bwana, with Capt. Teddy Hoogs and Capt. Randy Parker as crew. The very experienced Lindner caught the big blue in tournament fashion in around 15 minutes.

It is worth noting that Parker grabbed an old lure from his arsenal at home and asked to run it. It turned out to be the lure the monster blue ate. Hoogs, who is the full-time captain, was busy doing something and had Parker at the helm when the big fish hit. That’s nice teamwork.

Angler Aaron Hoffer also hit big while fishing with Capt. Al Gustavson and crew member John Bennett on the charter boat Tophape. Hoffer reeled in an estimated 750-pound blue marlin in approximately 35 minutes.

Making for another incredible day of fishing off Kona, Matthew Hoffer caught a 115-pound ahi and an ono the same day too. Dressed in ABC’s finest Aloha shirts, two visiting anglers had big smiles on their faces when they left the dock. They both caught the species they were hoping to catch.

Also worth mentioning, on the same day Bwana caught their 750-pound blue marlin, two other huge blue marlin were caught. One boated and the other tagged and released.

Angler Rochelle Potter, fishing with Capt. Chip Fisher on the Hanamana, boated a 696-pound blue marlin and angler Cub Jensen tagged and released a 600-pound blue marlin while fishing with Capt. Kevin Hibbard and longtime crew member KJ Robinson on the Divergent.

Three big marlin like that on the same day, along with other boats with multiple tags and release would certainly make any billfish tournament interesting.

Monster striped marlin

Angler Tom Renaud got a big surprise when he landed a beautiful 155-pound stripey while fishing with Capt. Bradley Damasco and crew member JJ Baulcan on the 46-foot charter boat Bite Me 2. Renaud’s fish tops the big fish list for striped marlin and I have a feeling it’s going to be a tough one to beat in 2018.

Angler Pete Grima, after warming up by catching four blue marlin the day before, got his share of big striped marlin action too. Grima landed a 146-pound stripey fishing with Capt. Chip Van Mols and crew member Ryan O’Halloran on the Luna.

Marlin Magic II, with Capt. Marlin Parker, Ryan Thurner, and Carol Lynne, also tagged and released an estimated 150-pound stripey not so long ago as well.

Historically, the springtime provides the biggest striped marlin. The Hawaiian state record striped marlin is 212 pounds and was caught off the Kona airport, Keahole Point, by Capt. Kent Mongreig on the Sea Wife II in March of 2011.

Another Royal Slam completed in Kona

Congratulations to angler Bart Carey for catching a shortbill billfish while fishing on the Sapo with Capt. Chris Choy on the Sapo. The spearfish completes Bart’s Royal Slam of capturing all nine species of billfish from around the world. Nice going to all involved.

Tournament season is fast approaching

If you want to fish one of Kona’s premier tournaments or just charter a boat for a day trip, you should book a boat ASAP. During tournament season, many of the visiting tournament fishermen book the boats for the non-tournament fishing days too. Be advised, boats get booked in advanced fast. Prices for plane tickets to the Big Island are currently down as well.

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Aspiring Writer Needed

New work endeavors require me to write my last column for West Hawaii Today on June 13. If anyone is interested in taking over my bi-weekly writing position please contact me at markjohnstoncatchingup@gmail.com or WHT sports editor JR De Groote at jdegroote@westhawaiitoday.com.