Slow day of fishing on Day 2 of HIBT as Hurricane Hector approaches

  • Olympian Dream Fishing Club team members smile as their team puts points on the HIBT scoreboard after Day 2 of fishing on Tuesday. (Laura Aquino/Special to West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-Kona — The 59th annual Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament saw a second slow day of fishing off the Kona Coast on Tuesday.

With Hurricane Hector approaching, the blue marlin seemed to vanish, with only two tagged and released by the 24 teams out on the water representing the United States, Japan, Australia, Papa New Guinea, New Zealand and South Africa.

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Four ahi, all under 200 pounds, were boated and weighed, and three short-nose spearfish were tagged and released.

Most of the hook-ups came in the early morning, with the bites becoming less common as the day moved on.

With so little action, not much changed on the leaderboard, with Moreton Bay Game Fish Club still in command with the 700 points it earned on Day 1.

No marlin has been weighed through the first two days of the tournament, but if one is, the ruling body of the HIBT, the International Game Fish Association will oversee it.

The non-profit organization is committed to the conservation of game fish and the promotion of responsible, ethical angling practices through science, education, rule making and record keeping.

Every year, the HIBT is not only ruled by the IGFA, but they also team up to help track the pacific blue marlin through satellite tags, which do not come cheap at nearly $4,500 per tag. The IGFA looks for anglers competing in the world’s second oldest game fishing tournament to sponsor the tags, and thus, creating one of the many ways the organization looks to balance the scale between the science of studying fish and fishing.

The IGFA will celebrate its 80th anniversary next June. However, changes are beginning to take shape within the organization thanks to new president Nehl Horton, who took over a little less than a year ago.

Horton has a background that, at first glance, seems a little unbelievable. After a long career in journalism, Horton spent time at various political and government communications jobs, and his most recent career consisted of serving as Sysco Corporation’s chief public affairs and communication officer. He has had various other jobs, including working on the Miller Brewing Company’s merger with Coors.

“About two years ago I left Sysco and decided to back off corporate work,” Horton said. “I was in the process of moving to Colorado with my wife and I found out that IGFA was looking for a new president. I threw my hat in the ring, not thinking that it would actually happen, but I didn’t want to not go for it and then have to think about it for the rest of my life.”

After several meetings with the board and trustees in Florida and California, Horton got the job. On Tuesday, at Courtyard King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel, he laid out a five-part plan to help bring the IGFA into the modern era.

Horton’s plan is simple. He wants to strengthen the organizations international network, establish an “IGFA Day” to help energize that network, teach 100,000 kids to fish over the next calendar year, launch three new science and conservative initiatives — like the International Great Marlin Race, which Kona fishing captains have participated in for the last 10 years — and finally, reestablish the IGFA as a leader in competitions.

The focus of the plan, for Horton, is to modernize the IGFA, something that he could see helping the HIBT as well, which has been waning in numbers over the past couple of years.

“The HIBT is similar to the IGFA in some ways,” Horton said. “The HIBT is still attracting a diverse group of participants from the international world, but the tournament is not what it once was. It’s the same with the IGFA. We need to modernize the way be operate, using social media as a way to market to the next generation of anglers.”

Horton went on to say that he has nothing but respect for Peter Fithian, the founder of HIBT.

“What Peter has done in 59 years is create an event that introduces people to offshore fishing in Kona and it is a great benefit to the Big Island specifically, as well as trade and tourism on the Hawaiian Islands,” Horton said. “But we can always look for ways to make the tournament more relevant to the next generation and I am optimistic that there are a lot of opportunities to do that heading into the HIBT’s 60th anniversary next year. It is a historic, meaningful event.”

The start fishing call for the third day of the HIBT will come at 7 a.m. today, one hour earlier than normal. Weigh-ins will take place from 3-5 p.m. at Kailua Pier.

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Following Moreton Bay Game Fish Club in the standings is last year’s champion, Surfside Marina, and Kona Game Fishing Club-Osaka at 600 points each.

Waiopai, with three tags on the first day of fishing, leads the boat standings at 700 points with Capt. Kai Hoover at the helm. He is followed by Northern Lights II’s Kevin Nakamaru and JR’s Hooker’s Scott Fuller at 600 points each.