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Catching up: Plenty to be grateful about fishing in Kona

November 22, 2017 - 12:05am

I am always grateful for any chance to get out on the water, especially off the coast of West Hawaii. The wonderous blue ocean has a mesmerizing charisma that I find good for the heart and soul.

Last Thursday I had the opportunity to crew on the charter boat Nasty Habit, and fish with Capt. Greg Hopkins and the boat’s owner Jack Sampson.

You couldn’t have asked for a nicer mid-November morning to be out on the sea. The trade winds were blowing, which in turn, created a vog-free, clear, gorgeous, pale blue sky.

Sampson had guests coming to visit, and he wanted to treat them to some of the wonderful table fares the Pacific affords. The game plan for the day was to fish for ono for a couple of hours and then head offshore and look for some bigger game, such as marlin, spearfish or ahi.

For those who don’t know, ono — also known as wahoo — is a gastronomical delight.

The beautiful 47-foot boat left Honokohau Harbor before 7 a.m., and the lures were already swimming when the sun made its more southeasterly late fall/winter appearance, peering over the shoulder of Mauna Loa.

As the saffron-yellow rays of the sun stretched across the sky, the captain worked the areas and depths where ono can be found close to shore.

With only three of us onboard the spacious boat there was plenty of room to spread out, and it seemed to be divided into thirds.

Hopkins was at the helm up on the bridge, overlooking everything and thinking of the day’s strategy. Sampson was in the salon relaxing and simply enjoying time on his boat, using his electronics and reading the morning paper. I had the entire cockpit to myself, which is rare on a charter boat, and appreciated the fact that I had the entire cockpit to myself.

With this type of arrangement and space, it’s really easy to fall into yourself, soak in your surroundings and simply cherish the day. Over the years, I’ve found that’s the best way to fish is to focus on the experience of being on the water with friends and enjoy the surrounding environment.

Catching fish is the icing on the cake.

I’m used to fishing offshore most of the time, and it was fun fishing closer to shore with a different perspective of the beaches and lava formations that line our majestic coasts. I was captivated watching the sea’s powerful waves crash into the rugged black lava formations, then cascade down as multiple white waterfalls back into the sea.

The small ground sea reminded me that winter is coming and a new ocean will soon appear. One with good fishing, cooler water temperatures, more northwesterly swells, and constant sightings of humpback whales. The real ground seas will arrive in the winter too.

Big swells that surfers love and the kind that shoot whitewater incredibly high into the sky when they smash into the rocks.

These onshore swells appear even when the ocean seems flat and calm offshore.

As I was reflecting on the ocean’s beauty, the long corner rod bent over, and the reel’s drag started singing a screeching song signaling we were hooked up.

Sampson, an experienced angler, rushed out of the boat’s salon and quickly grabbed the rod and reel, placed it in the fighting chair, and clipped the bucket harness to the reel.

With a smile on his face, Sampson steadily reeled the fish in until I had the leader in my hands. A smile grew on my face too once I saw the tell-tale blue tiger stripe markings of an ono, all lit up along the fish’s elongated streamline silver body.

The fish weighed about 25 pounds, and once secured in the fish box, the owner and I high fived and then simultaneously shouted up, “nice work” to the captain.

We got the icing on the cake, and a great meal, for Sampson’s guests.

Quickly getting the lures back out, it didn’t take long before we repeated the same process.

This time it was the short rigger rod, and the ono was a little smaller, just under 20 pounds.

With two ono in the boat, Hopkins turned the boat offshore. I switched the lures and changed the spread for the usual big-game suspects that patrol the Kona blue.

Once offshore, which takes about 10 minutes from land in West Hawaii, it didn’t take long for a small blue marlin — about 150 pounds — to nail the Dave Unger tube lure that was on the long corner rod.

This time the reel’s drag was really singing and the marlin made a spectacular appearance, showing its power, grace and beauty as it danced across the ocean’s surface.

Sampson got the rod in the chair and clipped the bucket harness into the reel. As I was clearing the other fishing lines, the feisty blue erupted from the water and did a tremendous flip throwing the hook.

One never tires of seeing a marlin bite, and even though the fish got off before we could tag and release it, the action was still extremely fun and exciting.

Thinking he may have found his spot, Hopkins pounded the area, and 30 minutes later, the same Dave Unger lure on the long corner got hammered by another blue marlin.

The blue marlin was slightly bigger than his predecessor and this time we thought we had the marlin for sure.

With the lines cleared out of the way and Sampson gaining line, the marlin decided to go crazy.

The marlin didn’t put on a big show when it originally bit, but now the marlin decided to perform 150 yards behind the boat, jumping and thrashing about the surface throwing sunlit whitewater in all directions.

Shorty after the aggressive, energetic display the line suddenly went slack, and the fish came off. While it’s always frustrating to lose a fish, smiles still prevailed.

The three of us have played the game a long time and know that anytime you get a shot at a blue marlin you should be grateful. Anytime you get to fish off of Hawaii you should be grateful too. There aren’t many places like it.

The half-day of fishing ended with the owner splitting the ono into thirds, and we all reaped the rewards of a wonderful day on the water.

That same day, Capt. Marlin Parker on the Marlin Magic II tagged and released one of two blue marlin, caught a spearfish, and lost a nice ahi by the boat.

And the fishing got even better the next day.

Big Congratulations to Capt. Rob McGuckin

The captain of the ‘Integrity’ had two outstanding days of fishing last week. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear about it until just before press time.

Capt. McGuckin, along with Capt. Guy Terwilliger as the crew, put angler Richard Ahart on a 600-pound blue marlin which they tagged and released. On top of that, they caught two ahis (yellowfin tuna) on the same day, weighing 80 and 100 pounds.

The following day McGuckin caught four onos ranging from 18 to 25 pounds for his guests. Terwilliger had his hands full as five onos hit five rods at the same time. They caught four of the five which is impressive.

Not sure what you would call five fish on at the same time. I know you catch a double-header, triple-header, and a quad but what’s five? Other than covered up? A five-banger? Great work Rob and Guy.

Happy Thanksgiving

I think it would be safe to say that all the charter boat owners, captains, and crews would like to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.

And a Happy Thanksgiving from me as well.

As you can see, fishing is good. Enjoy the holiday. Hopefully, you can get out on the water and see for yourself.

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: or

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