The Bright Side: When you’re hot, you’re hot

  • “Painless” Paul Douglas having some fun with his marlin that earned a record purse at the Kona Throw Down. ( to WHT)

The 2019 Hawaii Marlin Tournament Series launched on June 22 with the Kona Kick Off, which lived up to its name, kicking off one of the most “rewarding” rolls in Hawaii tournament history.

At press time, the Skins Marlin Derby — leg five of the HMT Series — was heading into its third and final day, and up until that point, there had been 113 blue marlin caught during the first nine fishing days of the series.


Of the 113 marlin caught, 109 have been tagged and released, which means only four (3.5%) were brought in and weighed. Last year only five out of 320 blue marlin (1.5%) were brought to the scales during the series.

These are fine examples of how Kona tournaments employ conservation oriented rules and support marine science. However, the extraordinary thing about the HMT Series system is that these conservation practices also produce winners. Every marlin you catch and release or bring to the scales counts, in some form or fashion and most teams collecting checks have tag and released marlin on their score cards, even if they have weighed the largest marlin in the tournament. In fact, with only four marlin weighed and 113 tagged and released, more purse is won — by far — by tag and release each summer than by bringing fish to the scales.

In the not so distant past, this fact would have been dismissed as fantasy, but it’s the stone cold truth today. Let’s look at some numbers.

In the HMT Series to date, two of the four marlin harvested were caught on one boat: Marlin Magic II. One of those fish combined with another blue marlin that was tagged and released and earned the crew on Marlin Magic II a whopper of a purse — $355,360 — a Hawaii record.

In the Kona Kick Off, Grady Mulberry took the only blue marlin in the comp that was big enough to take to the scales, a 427 pounder. Marlin Magic II pocketed $46,620 to start off their roll. Their total earnings so far this summer are $401,980.

The following weekend, the Firecracker Open fielded forty three teams, and two blue marlin hit the scales. Andy Shiels brought in the biggest one which tipped the scales at 517.5 pounds. Andy’s blue is the largest to date in the 2019 HMT Series and was caught from “Benchmark” skippered by Capt. Chris Donato. Their fish earned them $121,740.

Second place was won with 600 points from three marlin tagged and released from “Ihu Nui.” Capt. McGrew Rice and company tallied winnings of $68,424.

Capt. Boyd DeCoito’s “Foxy Lady” actually tied “Ihu Nui” with three marlin tagged and 600 points. Unfortunately, they got to the tie position later on the clock than “Ihu Nui” so they grabbed 3rd Place over all with 3 marlin released and earnings of $48,584.

Edgar Artecona weighed the first blue of the Firecracker at 488.5 pounds/points but only held the lead for a few hours before Shiels and company on “Benchmark” topped them at the scales. Artecona was fishing from “Sapo” with Capt. Chris Choy. Their fish took home $18,000. If they had added a single tag and release to the 488.5, the final standings would have been far more, indeed!

During the Kona Throw Down tourney, “Painless” Paul Douglas brought in the only marlin to the scales, and that one set off all the buzzers and lights. The Kona Throw Down features a unique scoring format that was designed by the late Jack Sanford. The intention is to reward anglers for catching large marlin — 400 pounds or better. If no one catches a fish larger than 400, those who score points with tag and release will still win some, they just won’t win big.

Capt. Marlin Parker is a senior skipper among the fleet in Honokohau, and he showed how experience can be a definite advantage when he and his well oiled team captured a 428.5-pound blue in only twenty two minutes. If they had not added a tag and release to the 428.5, their earnings would have been far less.

Will Kona ever see marlin tournaments that are only tag and release? Not likely. The range in the size of the fish is too great in Kona waters. How does one equitably score a 150-pound marlin released versus a 1,200-pound marlin released? No one has been able to figure this out, and many have tried. Until someone solves what now appears to be unsolvable, the HMT series will continue to require a 400-pound minimum weight to qualify at the scales.

Female marlin are usually fecund by the time they weigh about 250 pounds. By the time they weigh 400 pounds or more, they have spawned hundreds of thousands of eggs, recreating themselves innumerable times. By not allowing marlin to be harvested until a few years after they have spawned many times already, the stock can be sustained indefinitely, and if the harvest by large scale industrial fleets were reduced, the stocks would be more likely to increase under this system.

Currently, the stock is managed by commercial interests, and they manage stocks under a biological system that employs a benchmark called “Maximum Sustainable Yield.” This simply means that they try and harvest as much of the stock as they possibly can up until it almost crashes — and if it crashes — well, then they slow up for a bit.

The Federal National Standards actually require that stocks be managed to “Optimum Yield” which takes in all user groups and their varying definitions of healthy fish stocks. However, international standards are still based on “Maximum Sustainable Yield” and since marlin travel across international boundaries, US Fishery managers punt to the international standard, which does not take local small boat fishers or tournament fishers in mind — at all.

Interestingly, due to interactions with whales and turtles, the large scale, Honolulu based commercial fleet is currently prohibited from fishing in the US territorial waters (EEZ) to the south and west of the Big Island, and has been for some time.

Our marlin catches in Kona have increased dramatically since this went in to place, more evidence that the “Optimum Yield” system can work.

With better fishing these days, look for more exciting reports from the Hawaii Marlin Tournament Series this summer.

For the final scores, to enter and/or more detailed information on all the events in the Hawaii Marlin Tournament Series, log on to


On Father’s Day weekend, The Kona Kick Off overlapped with the Wee Guys tournament, which is an incredibly popular local-style competition. One hundred and thirty teams turned out for this two day event.

The tournament is called Wee Guys because boats must be 23 foot 6 inches or shorter to enter, and it attracts fishermen from all over the Big Island. First started in 1980, it has run continuously, every year, for 39 years.

On Saturday there were 22 marlin caught. The largest was one tipped the scales at 560 pounds, even without it’s tail, which had been bitten off by a shark. Unfortunately this fish had to be DQ’d as a “mutilated fish.”

Another marlin made it to the scales within 5 minutes of closing, and weighed 562 pounds. This fish earned second place and was caught by James Hamora Sr. and James Hamora Jr. on their boat “Hamora.”

Anglers and keiki weighed five ahi, one mahi, and 41 ono on Day 1 of the Wee Guys.

On Day 2, 10 marlin were weighed, including one that ended up being the largest of tournament — a 772-pound beauty. This fish was landed by Ted Lau and Fred Lau, on board their boat named — wait for it … “Laulau.”

Of course it is!


There were 11 ahi were brought to the scales with the largest being 155 pounds. The largest of six mahi brought in was 15.3 pounds. Out of 39 ono weighed on Sunday, the top fish was 41.5 pounds.

The Wee Guys fishes every Father’s Day weekend, and if you want to take part, enter early because it always fills up — to da max!

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