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Catching up: Kona’s granders quiet but not gone

Updated: 
November 8, 2017 - 12:05am

For the past two years, something big has been missing from Kona’s weekly fishing reports.

That something big I am referring to is there have been no reported catches of a grander blue marlin — a rare occurrence for the marlin-rich waters of West Hawaii.

The last grander caught off Kona was on August 26, 2015, when Capt. Matt Bowmen on the ‘Northern Lights I’ put angler Michael Bilch on a gigantic 1,309-pound blue.

Bowmen’s grander that year was the last of five granders caught off Kona in the epic 2015 fishing season.

For those who don’t know, a “grander” is a blue marlin that weighs over a thousand pounds, and Kona has a long history of legendary grander blue marlin catches. These giant blues have made Kona famous and known as one of the world’s greatest blue marlin fishing destinations.

It’s worth mentioning that just because a grander has not been caught and weighed the past two years, it doesn’t mean they are not here. The granders have just been uncatchable lately.

Several captains have been hooked up to monster blues over the past two years which may have gone “over the mark,” but the massive billfish frustrate experienced captains when they either jump off or come off by the boat.

Just because there were no granders weighed in 2016 and 2017, it doesn’t mean that big blue marlin haven’t been caught during that time frame. There have been multiple big blue marlin catches reported in 2016 and 2017.

As for the biggest blues in those two years, last April, Capt. Guy Terwilliger and Cindy Cary boated a giant 925-pound blue aboard Cary’s 23-foot skiff ‘Cindy Lou.’ With less than two months remaining in 2017, Terwilliger’s prize fish is the biggest blue marlin to date in 2017.

In November of 2016, Capt. Marlin Parker’s fiance Carol Lynne caught and weighed an 898-pound blue marlin on the ‘Marlin Magic II.’ It was the biggest blue marlin of 2016.

It’s worth mentioning that before I talk about a few of the blue marlin catches that put Kona on the map. I would like to remind readers that it is perfectly legal in Hawaii to catch and keep a blue marlin, and licensed commercial fishermen are allowed to sell blue marlin, too.

While marlin are allowed to be boated in Hawaii, most charter captains tag and release them. Every week, more blue marlin are tagged and released than kept. If you are a potential charter client and taking a blue marlin is an issue, please be sure to talk to your captain while setting up your charter.

Numbers Don’t Lie, Kona No Ka Oi for Granders

There is a saying that numbers don’t lie and I have a few numbers that support why Kona, and waters around Hawaii in general, are a magical place to fish for gigantic blues.

Sixty-three years ago, in November 1954, legendary captain George Parker made headlines around the world when he caught a 1,002-pound blue marlin in Hawaii. It was the first ever certified world-record grander Pacific blue marlin.

Since George Parker’s historic day in 1954, Hawaiian state waters have proved to be the world stage for giant blues. Over the years, the warm water eddies and currents that surround the Hawaiian archipelago have produced approximately 140 recorded granders. While other granders may have been caught in this time frame, the 140 represent the granders that were caught and officially weighed. A fish is never a considered a legitimate grander unless it has been weighed.

Kona has produced the most grander catches of all the Hawaiian islands. Lucky anglers fishing the calm waters of the western coast of the Big Island have caught 83 of the 140 giant billfish, and four more granders were caught off Hilo.

Kona has had some outstanding years, unlike any other blue marlin fishery. In 1978, amazingly there were six granders caught off Kona, fantastic fishing took place in 1985, 1986 and 2015. Each of those years produced five granders, and 1985 included one black marlin grander to add to the mix. In 2001 and 2012, there were four granders weighed in Kona. Not too shabby.

Using simple math, you could say that Kona has averaged approximately two granders a year for the past 63 years. Pretty impressive, and undoubtedly, Kona is the real deal for big blues.

One of the reasons Kona is such a great blue marlin fishery is because it’s not seasonal like other blue marlin hot spots around the world. While blues are usually most common in Kona during the summer tournament season, from June through early September, blues of all sizes are here year-round. Kona claims the fame as the only place in the world where a grander blue marlin has been caught in every month of the year.

Kona is not dependent upon the lunar cycle either, unlike the effect different moon phases might have in other fishing areas around the globe. Years of catch reports show they bite during every phase of the moon.

Some Kona captains may have their preference to fish certain days close to the full moon or around the dark moon, but Mid-Pacific currents can supply West Hawaiian fishermen a fresh run or wave of blue marlin any day of the week.

For example, in April 2013, a blue marlin over 500-pounds was caught on every day of the lunar cycle, showing that the lunar cycle has little, if any, influence on the marlin bite in Kona.

Granders can be caught any month of the year too. The five Kona granders in 2015 were hooked up in January, February, May, July, and two were caught in August.

Historically, records show March has turned up more of Kona’s granders than any other month, including Capt. Bart Miller’s 1,649-pound Kona record blue marlin in 1984.

Catching a giant blue marlin is every marlin fishermen’s dream, and Kona captains and crews have made that dream come true for probably more anglers than any other place. Our hats should go off to them —they are extremely good at what they do.

I’m hoping this article is analogous to a football announcer who says a quarterback hasn’t thrown an interception in 20 games, and then the next play the QB throws one. Will I be writing about a Kona grander before the end of 2017? History says it’s highly possible.

A suggestion is if you’re ever near the Daylight Mind Coffee Company — across from the Kona Farmer’s Market on Alii Drive — check out the “Grander Wall” where there are great pictures of the Kona’s granders.

Shout Outs

To all the other Hawaiian Islands that have amazing grander catches too, especially Oahu, second behind Kona with the most granders.

Congrats to Capt. Tony Clark on the Ihu Nui I: On Nov. 4, the captain went 4-for-4 on blue marlin, meaning he had four blue marlin bites and caught all four. All four marlin were tagged and released. Further evidence that Kona is a year-round blue marlin fishery and we don’t kill every fish we catch.

In closing, if you live here or you’re just visiting West Hawaii, be mindful that when you look out over the ocean, you are looking at one of the world’s greatest fishing destinations. There are some monster-sized fish swimming around out there. Enjoy what this wonderful fishery has to offer, have some fun on the water, charter a boat, or if you have a boat, go holo holo.

You never know what you are going to catch on any given day off Kona.

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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