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Catching up: Hawaii’s helping hands

October 25, 2017 - 12:05am

As a slender October crescent moon slowly descended into the sea, two fishing boats left Honokohau Harbor in hopes of catching mahimahi.

One boat, an 18-foot Radon captained by Kristopher Ishibashi, turned south as it passed the green buoy floating in front of the harbor entrance, and the other, a classic Hawaiian 41-foot classic sampan captained by Bill Jardine turned north. The two fishing vessels and captains were unaware of one another when they left that fine morning, but little did they know, Ishibashi would be fishing on Jardine’s sampan before the day was over.

With gale warnings reported on Sunday, Oct. 15, it appeared the northern leeward side of the Big Island would experience sporty wind conditions and whitecaps. The northerly winds were a reminder that summer had ended and fall weather patterns were starting to influence a change in the sea. Coinciding with the seasonal change were reports of big aku and mahimahi being caught along the coast, tempting hardy sport fishermen who don’t flinch under these types of conditions.

Captain Bill Jardine, Dauber Higgins, Andrew Erickson and Captain Shawn Palmer on-board the Nalu Kea headed north into more challenging seas looking for mahimahi. They hoped the winds and current eddies to the north might have pushed flotsam (floating debris also known as “floaters”) into the area. Flotsam acts as a fish attracting device and mahimahi are generally caught around “floaters.” Believing the fall run of blue marlin might be over, the crew rigged a dozen ballyhoo on 100-pound mono leaders for mahimahi and fished the bumpy waters at the top to the “grounds,” north of the airport.

Just like they had hoped, when they reached the “grounds” the Nalu Kea was surrounded by birds and baitfish, along with two small boats trying to catch aku. As on cue, according to longtime captain Jardine, “The long rigger, featuring a well-rigged ballyhoo, snapped out of the clip and we all cheered, but in no time we were crying, ‘Oh no!’ as a feisty blue marlin stood on its tail, shaking its head in the wake. We tried, but there was no way the 100-pound leader could hold a fish that big, and soon it had broken off. Dang!”

The next ballyhoo bite came shortly afterward, and of course, it was another blue marlin. This time they knocked back the drag, stopped the boat and began light tackle maneuvers in the choppy seas. Higgins carefully took up the line and fortunately the fish managed to hook itself in the perfect spot at the jaw hinge, protecting the light leader from damage. Erickson tagged the fish as Palmer hung tight to the bill, removed the small number No.7hook used for mahimahi, and released the fish unharmed.

After hooking the two blue marlin on the “grounds,” Jardine decided to turn the Nalu Kea south. The water ironed out as the captain steered the classic sampan into the lee of Hualalai and headed down the 1000-fathom line looking for floaters and telling tales fishermen like to tell one another.

Meanwhile, Captain Kristopher Ishibashi, his father Rocky Ishibashi and his cousin, Robert Gracidis on the Debra Ann were having a productive day as well. Ishibashi found the mahimahi in the calmer seas south of the harbor. Using lures, Ishibashi caught six mahimahi and a blue marlin fishing off of Keauhou and the Red Hill area.

As the trio of happy fishermen were enjoying their success, talking story, a big 500-pound plus blue marlin crashed a 7-inch Kachi bullet lure. The drag on the 80-pound reel screamed as the marlin went ballistic taking line. Ishibashi knew the marlin was over 500 pounds, a week and a half before he destroyed the gunwales on one side of his boat fighting a 502-pound blue marlin out of the rod holders. He didn’t want that to happen again, so he backed off the drag put the rod in one of the good rod holders and started dialing his cell phone for help.

Ishibashi and his crew did a great job managing the blue marlin for two hours while he called a host of friends to see if they might be available to help him transfer the rod onto another vessel so he could boat the gigantic fish without destroying the gunwales on Debra Ann. After a series of calls, he learned Shawn Palmer was out fishing and called him.

“Shawn got a call about a fisherman needing help outside of Keauhou and asked everyone if it would be OK to help a small boat with three guys hooked up to a big fish. Off we went,” Jardine said. “We found the small, green skiff miles off Red Hill, struggling against a big marlin and not making much headway. They had a broken rod holder and no fighting chair, leaving their angler in a pickle. They tied a stout cord around the rod and reel and threw the end to us, so we could manage to get the pole onto Nalu Kea, and quickly the angler, Kristopher Ishibashi, followed the rod on board and got into the fighting chair. With a better fighting platform, Kristopher got to work and had the fish at the back of the boat within and half hour. His family had many hungry family members and friends in Hilo, so we tied the marlin alongside and headed for the scales. Once the fish stretched the rope on the gantry, we could see her weight was 562 pounds. Well done, Kristopher!”

Jardine is no stranger to helping others and is a big part of the Hawaiian fishing community. Over the years, he has participated in and has shared many experiences similar to this story with others. Look for Jardine’s stories in Hawaii Fishing News.

While the main theme of this story is about the close-knit fishing community of West Hawaii, it’s pretty amazing that in October, two boats went out of Honokohau and both caught two blue marlin in two completely different areas. The blue marlin fishing off of West Hawaii should never be taken for granted. Kona is one of the only places on earth where big blue marlin are caught year round.

Even though fall is in the air and we are currently experiencing heavy rain, sea surface temperatures are still in the 80-degree range, which is favorable for blue marlin. Mahimahi and big aku are around too. It’s a good time to fish, charter a boat, or go holo-holo (fun fishing) and have some fun!

Captains, crews, shore fishermen, please like, follow or post your pictures on 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.

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