The Bright Side: It’s time to get down to business

“It’s time …(dramatic pause) … to get down to busin ess.”

That’s how the Makaha Sons were brought on stage to record a live album, years ago.

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For some reason, this is what was going through my mind when I started this piece. Go figure. Guess my mind’s got a mind of it’s own.

Kind of an odd way to start a fishing column, but, that’s what this one is about. Time to get down to business. Time to talk more fishing. There have been lots of fish to talk about too. No problem — can.

Fishing has been off the charts of late for some of the charter boat guys. Reports of up to 10 marlin bites a day have been coming in. There have also been some pretty big ones getting caught, with one estimated to be a “solid 800 pounds” by Capt. Bryan Toney on Melee just last week.

In truth, there are not lots of big ones, but there sure are lots of small ones. There are ahi around too. Fishing has been unseasonably good, for winter.

I figured with this many fish around, this dang column will just about write itself. Thought it was gonna be a breeze.

Then I ran into Billy Kimi Jr. I told him I was starting to write this column and hoped to get some fishing stories from the guys in the small boats and skiffs.

He just laughed, “Good luck there, those guys never like tell anybody what they catch, and especially not where they caught.”

Uh. Okay. Hah — yeah I know guys like that. I shrugged it off and thought to myself, “I need to give Uncle Willie a call anyway. He’ll know what’s going on down Miloli’i. He’s always good for a laugh too.”

Piece of cake. Too easy.

Willie called the other day to say Happy New Year. When I told him I was looking for some stories for the paper he got a bit wound up, as Uncle Willie is known to do.

“You tell the Pilgrims the current stay going north and out, and no more fish anywhere south of Ho’okena!,” Willie said. “Everyt’ing down south stay make. No more nah-thing.”

He sounded like a Hawaiian Colonel Clink.

It was about here that it became apparent that this piece was not going to write itself.

How Hard Could It Be?

Kinky Friedman is a folk humorist who once ran for Governor of Texas. His campaign slogan was “How hard could it be?” He did not win.

With so many fish to write about, how hard could it be?

The New Year rolled into town with solid momentum on the fishing front. Go Get Em went 5-of-7 with three blues and two stripes to win the Charter Desk New Year’s Day Tournament. Granted, lots of dogs weigh more than some of the marlin caught on Jan. 1, but there was action. Hopefully, it will continue like last year.

January of last year started well too, and stayed good for almost the entire year. Last year, between New Years and early May, Kona tallied more than 60 blues over 500 pounds.

Then the summer time rats moved in. During the 17 days of tournament fishing in the Hawaii Marlin Tournament Series, more than 300 blues were caught. During the summer spawn, there are many more small males than there are large females. Only 5 fish over 400 pounds were weighed during the tournaments. That is a tag and release rate of more than 98 percent. That’s a good thing.

“More than” is the term employed because we simply lost count after 60 preseason big ones and again when the total during tournaments passed 300. Seems like losing count was going around like the flu last year.

Capt. Chuck Wigzell says his boat Hooked Up easily caught “more than” 100 blue marlin in 2018. Simon Brown had the boat for 90 days between June and September and logged 57 blues. Rocky Gauron caught 36 blues on Hooked Up in the fall, starting Oct. 13. That is 92 blue marlin right there.

Chuck was running the boat between January and June and this is where his “more than” comes in. During those six month, fishing was as good as any other time last year. But when queried, he did not know right off the top of his head what his count was. Fair enough.

Rocky Gauron stays busy by hopping around and working three different boats, Go Get Em, EZ Pickens and Hooked Up. He has tallied a total 49 blues just since Oct. 13.

“I took Hooked Up out in December when Rocky took days off, and we slammed some more blues on those days as well,” Chuck said.

Chuck didn’t quantify how many “some more” was, but he was more exact about last week, and his blog proves it.

Chuck and Capt. Chip Von Mols fished EZ Pickens in recent weeks and had a five blue day, a four blue day and a three blue day. It’s easy to lose count when you are hopping around from boat to boat, out almost every day and catching that many fish!

It would be entirely understandable if he climbed on the wrong boat and yelled at someone else’s deckhand a few times during that spree.

A chat with Capt. Brett Fay of “Humdinger” showed math prowess of a different sort. Asked how many he caught in 2018, Brett replied confidently, “I don’t know how many we caught in total, but I do know we caught 24 blues over 500 pounds.”

Fair enough, again. In most fishing holes around the world you would need less fingers than on one hand to count your big ones. Brett used both hands, both feet and a few of his deckhand’s fingers. That’s Kona.

Marlin Parker also knew some, but not all, of his stats. He and his crew won the Kona Crew Challenge last summer with 50 blues caught between June 15 and Sept. 15. “Marlin Magic II” won the Crew Challenge for the third year in a row.

He knows he caught 50 in that time frame because that is how they knew they won. It’s a fair guess that second place caught less than 50 blues, but that data couldn’t be found. As far as his total number of marlin caught in 2018, he too was less than exact.

“More than 80. Probably about 90,” he said. “That is usually where we come in. Between 80 and 90.”

Ah so.

But why? Fishing has been so good that skippers are having a hard time keeping count, so one can’t help but wonder why? Not why are they losing count but why has fishing been so good — for almost an entire year?

In past years, there were often very clear reasons, mostly dependent upon the current and the dynamics of the eddy system in the lee of the Big Island. The reasons why fishing has been good this past year appear to be as fuzzy as the fish counts.

Capt. Marlin has been fishing here all of his life and even he was stumpped.

“I don’t know why,” Marlin said. “It’s not like the old days when the current was steady and The Grounds would hold bait and fish. In the old days to break 100 blues in a year, you were mostly catching rats on The Grounds with live bait. Now The Grounds is like a tomb most of the time and the current seems to always be switching. The ledges don’t load up with bait for very long, when and if they do. These days, everyone trolls around and waits. There are tons of really small blues around now and the stripes are back and bigger than in recent years. Stripes are coming in over 100 pounds. We haven’t seen that in years. I’m not sure why, but we’ll take it!”

Can Science explain it? At the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission’s 14th Scientific Committee Meeting in August, researchers presented the results of a study called, “Impact of Climate Change on Pacific Tropical Tunas and their Fisheries in the High Sea and Pacific Island Waters.”

Scientific papers are not known to be exciting, but you could doze off before you got halfway through the title of this one. The contents, however, are interesting.

In a nutshell, researchers predict that climate change is going to decrease fishing opportunities for some Pacific Island nations, while others will experience fortuitous gains. Notable shifts are foreseen to occur in skipjack and yellowfin population disbursement. Island nations and territories west of 170E are expected to see declines in unfished biomass (whatever that is since they are all getting fished) from 19 percent to 40 percent.

Islands and territories east of 170E could see stocks increase from 40 percent to 60 percent, according to the study. The 170E line runs roughly from Majuro, Marshall Islands in the north, down into the South Pacific west of Fiji.

These fishery management commissions focus primarily on tuna stocks, as tuna is the cash cow to these fisheries. Could the marlin populations and biomass be shifting already? How hard could it be to know? Only time will tell with this one.

Now, from down under. Kona may have contributed to yet another record caught far from Hawaii. A 1,431-pound black marlin was caught in Queensland, Australia recently. This is the second largest black marlin ever caught in Australia, but the largest ever caught on a trolling lure.

Angler Rob Crane was fishing off of Lady Musgrave Island on board the Too Easy in late November. Black marlin have traditionally been taken by trolling dead fish as a natural bait, but in recent years, lure fishing has taken off down under.

Where there is lure fishing being tried, there is usually a Hawaiian connection — and there is here. The Australian black marlin season starts just as the Kona blue marlin season is winding down, around the end of September, so lots of Kona crews head down under to stay busy. Although there was no Kona crewman on board Too Easy there may have been a stowaway with Kona roots.

The story out for public consumption was that the giant black was caught on a homemade lure called a Gagey Super Plunger, made by skipper Russel Gage. When Gage took the lure to Aussie lure maker Peter Pakula with the intent of mass producing and selling replicas, Pakula recognized the shape and sent a message up to Kona.

“I’ve got the lure that got the 1,431-pound black last week and it sure looks like one of Rusty’s even though it’s a flop of an original,” Pakula said. “Russel Gage wants me to make some and I was going to ask Rusty to confirm the shape was his and ask his permission.”

The “Rusty” Paukula was referring to was Capt. Rusty Unger. It is to Pakula’s credit that he sought out permission before manufacturing someone else’s lure shape, even though there is no patent or copyright in place. As they say down under, “good on ya, Peter!”

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Pakula sent up drawings and diagrams with exact measurements, angles and shapes and those were delivered to Rusty’s son, Capt. David Unger. David took one look and said, “I’m pretty sure that is one of my Dad’s, but I need to dig up the molds and take measurements.”

The Unger clan was well known for their “Lollipop” lures and the three brothers, Rusty, Johnny and Jimmy all made lures under that brand. All three have passed away, so stay tuned for the final verdict from David and cousin Kalina.

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