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Catching up: Future is bright and blue for young trio of anglers

December 6, 2017 - 12:05am

If anyone ever asks when is the best time to fish Kona, the answer is whenever you can.

The past two weeks, the blue marlin fishing has been red hot. Just ask Peter Baldwin’s grandsons — Colton, age 13, Jett, age 10, and 6-year-old Jack. The trio kept the legendary fishing family’s legacy alive last weekend when they fished two days with Capt. Kai Hoover on the charter boat Waiopai.

The three young men left the harbor on Saturday morning with high hopes. They knew their captain was on a roll and the marlin were biting. Two days before, Hoover, along with Joe Thrasher as crew, tagged and released two of three blue marlin bites. A few days before, Hoover put angler Abigail Friedman on what turned out to be the biggest marlin of the week, a feisty 600-pound blue that they tagged and released.

Hearing that a blue marlin bite was on, the boys were raring to go, feeling confident and ready for action. Colton and Jett had each caught a blue marlin the year before, so being old pro big-game fishermen, they were eager to see their brother Jack get his shot at a blue so that he could join their billfishing brotherhood.

Colton and Jett figured that after Jack caught his first billfish, they could then focus on catching a grander or a world record blue marlin like their great-grandmother, Haku Baldwin.

Since Jack had never caught a billfish, everyone onboard was hoping this would be his day. The 6-year-old was excited to become an authentic, world-class big-game fisherman. I wouldn’t be surprised if the young man didn’t have a few butterflies in his stomach. Thinking about getting into the chair at that age can be intimidating.

It didn’t take long for Hoover to hook into a 250-pound blue. The fish went crazy on the bite, thrashing its head back and forth and throwing whitewater everywhere. Hoover and crewmember Jonah Marks decided the fish might be a little too much for Jack, so they had Colton jump in the chair. The fish came off, but the excitement and everlasting vivid images of a blue marlin bite remained – like it always does.

Later in the day, another blue marlin in the 250-pound range jumped on a lure, and with the drag screaming Colton got in the chair again, and this time the fish remained on the line. Listening to the crew, Colton reeled the fish in like a seasoned veteran blue marlin fisherman, and had it alongside the boat in about 10 minutes. Young Jack’s eyes grew big when he saw the fury of the marlin jumping when it was close to the boat. The crew landed the fish to help feed a friend’s wedding party, and it ended up weighing 242 pounds.

The Waiopai ended up going 1-for-2 on blue marlin for the day. They had a few spearfish bites but could not get them to stick. Colton could now put his feet up since he caught a nice blue. Meanwhile, Jett and Jack would go home and dream about what might be in store for them the next day.

Whatever Jett dreamed about, I doubt he imagined he would be in the chair fighting a 150-pound blue marlin as soon as they put the lures out on Sunday morning. Hoover, along with Joe Thrasher as crew, found the perfect sized blue marlin for the 10-year-old right out of the gate. The year before Jett released a smaller blue that was in the 100-pound range.

Like his older brother Colton, Jett listened and followed crew suggestions. He expertly reeled the fish in amazingly fast. The lively, colorfully lit up blue marlin was alongside the boat in under 10 minutes. Thrasher tagged and released the still frisky fish, and everyone was all smiles.

After the excitement of an immediate bite, it seemed like things were starting to slow down. Jack patiently waited his turn but appeared apprehensive about battling a blue marlin. Like others new to the fighting chair game, images of him flying out of it probably raced through his mind.

Then it happened — the rod doubled over with a shortbill spearfish on the other end of the line, a perfect fish for Jack. The young man climbed into the fishing chair and prepared for battle as Thrasher helped him clip into the bucket harness. Another epic Kona billfish battle was on.

Jack showed his brothers he was paying attention when they caught their fish and listened to the crew too. With a crunched- up face of sheer determination, he furiously reeled the fish to the boat. Excellent table fare, the delicious spearfish was landed, and Jack had caught his first billfish!

The day was not yet over for Jack. A little later on him and Jett — now warmed up from catching billfish earlier in the day — caught a double-header mahimahi. Not to leave Colton out, Hoover found him a beautiful 25-pound mahimahi before the day was over.

Congratulations to all and especially Jack on his first billfish. I hope all three boys catch many more billfish in the future – something tells me that just might happen. Maybe I’ll be writing about them winning major blue marlin tournaments one day.

It’s worth mentioning the story behind these three boys not only embodies the sequence of generational fishing families, but it also reminds us to reflect on one’s own early fishing experiences. These are the kind of positive experiences that get fishermen hooked in the first place and remain for a lifetime. Sometimes as professional or tournament fishermen, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the business end and forget about the excitement these three boys probably felt last weekend, even though they are same feelings we have too when we go fishing.

Hooked Up has been

seriously Hooked Up

Capt. Chuck Wigzell on the Hooked Up with Shawn Slattery as crew caught nine blue marlin and two spearfish in four days. Only one of those days was a full day charter. A prime example of why I continually comment that Kona is not a seasonal but year-round blue marlin fishery.

I know I probably sound like a broken record, but this pronouncement cannot be overstated because there are no other easily accessible fisheries that have a continuous blue marlin bite twelve months of the year. Nor will you find a place to marlin fish with seas as calm as those found off the leeward coast of the Big Island year-round. Check out the Beasts of the Week fishing report, and you’ll see that multiple boats have had fantastic blue marlin catches.

So when’s the best time to fish Kona? Anytime you can go!

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