The Hawaii Marlin Tournament Series realizes an annual tag and release rate of about 95%. Through the first three tourneys — and into the final day of the fourth — 89 marlin were tagged and released. No big ones were scaled.
Angler Guy Arrington caught the 19th marlin of the Series, and it was the first keeper. Guy’s marlin weighed 672.5 pounds, and helped them seal the runner up position of the Kona Throw Down, one of only two places paid.
This was the third “place or win” out of the first four tournaments for Arrington and the team on “Wild Hooker,” so it meant a lot to them. To the rest of the fleet, it meant a lot as well, but for different reasons.
Guy’s fish kicked off a run of big marlin, a run that everyone had been trying to patiently wait for. “Trying” is the operative word here because after 89 fish and 258 boat/fishing days, the patience of many was wearing thin.
When asked what it was like to hook into the first keeper of the whole season after a long wait, Guy said, “It was great because we knew it was a qualifier. We also knew we didn’t want to do something to screw it up. When it first jumped it was too far away to judge. We also couldn’t see where the hook was, so we didn’t know how aggressively we could fight it. So, we took the fight pretty cautiously. When we got it up and under control, we discovered that the hook was in solidly and not coming out. We didn’t have to play it so safe, but it all worked out.”
The very next day, early in the morning, another big one struck behind “Last Chance” and this time, all hell broke loose. Later, one of the crew would comment that the fish had tried to kill them — a few times.
Chad Beaudry, owner of “Last Chance” commented on how his dream fish turned into something like a character from a horror movie, “It was shocking. It was only about three seconds from the time we saw it a hundred yards away to jumping right next to the boat, coming at us. Its speed was amazing! Tracy managed to get out of its way but while he was maneuvering to pick up the belly in the line the dang thing kept coming. As Tracy backed away, it was off the bow of the boat, chasing us. Once we got all the line up, Tracy turned the boat to face it and the dang thing started jumping at us again, mouth wide open. It was crazy! Mike, the deck hand yelled, ‘It’s really coming at us!’ What a rush.”
The gang on “Last Chance” survived the craziness and their fish weighed 765.5 pounds. Shortly after that, “Five Star” released one that they called 395 pounds, only 5 pounds short of being a qualifier. Around two o’clock, “Sweet Sadie” put one in the boat that would go 411 pounds.
With less than an hour to go in the Kona Throw Down, Capt. Jimbo Wigzell on “Go Get Em” hooked up. Four hours later, he called in a caught fish, estimated to be over six hundred pounds. Getting in after dark, Frank Luhan closed out the fifth series tourney with a 642 pound blue, the third largest.
After 89 taggers, four of the next six caught were “qualifiers.” No one knows exactly why the big ones all of a sudden started biting. Theories abound in fishing, and some said after spawning, the big ones eat and then leave Kona waters.
The big ones, however, had other ideas.
Tourney six in the Series was the Skins Marlin Derby, and it saw the marlin count climb to 108. One, however, stood out from the rest.
Tournament fishermen spend time in between bites thinking, trying to manifest a bite and the scenario that could clinch the win. One scenario seems universal; a giant fish climbs on a lure, jumps all over the ocean, then quietly expires so there is no tussle at boat side. This removes the “pucker moment” when most big ones are lost, for various reasons.
Rey Rubalcava hooked into one he said he knew was big, but he wouldn’t let his mind speculate how big. “I’ve been a fishing nut since I was four or five years old, but I’m relatively new to Kona marlin fishing. When I saw the size of this fish from shoulder to belly, I knew it was a qualifier but I just told myself it’s four hundred and one so I wouldn’t get too worked up. No matter the size of the fish, the job is same so I just focused.”
Rey said that the fish jumped a few times then came to the boat. When Ryan O’Halloran pulled the leader, it felt the change in pressure and dove, tangling the line around its tail, ultimately causing its demise. The rest of the battle was lifting dead weight.
“When it got to the surface it was done, which was great because so many things can go wrong if you try and take a green 800-pounder,” Rubalcava said.
Rey recognized that the “dream scenario” that fishermen hope for in tournaments had become his reality. He and his crew were ecstatic to win, but the best part was the outpouring of aloha from the crews on the other boats. “Everyone was so happy for us, it was really something. These are our competitors, and they all came by to congratulate us. It was a long time coming and we appreciate the whole thing.”
The statistics of last week appeared to skew the tag and release rate, but in the end, 103 marlin have been released alive and only five have been weighed. That’s a tag and release rate of 95.6%. Right at average, and very good for the fish.
For a full report on each tournament and the standings of anglers and boats in the Series, log on to https://konatournaments.com