Blue Monday From the Kona Fishing Chronicles April 1990
If quality fishing depends on size as much as numbers, April 30, 1990 qualifies as one of the top billfishing days in Hawaii history. Twenty-two big marlin were weighed in at Honokohau that day, now known famously as “Blue Monday.” Eighteen were over 300 pounds, 14 over 400, 8 over 500 and 6 over 600. The biggest fish of the day weighed 748. And for every fish boated, there were three or four stories of broken lines, pulled hooks and stripped reels. Making the numbers even more impressive, relatively few boats were out. The catch was made by a small, non-tournament fleet on a working day when most of Hawaii’s local recreational fishermen were ashore.
“Can you imagine the staggering statistics if this mass of fish had moved in during one of our major mid-summer tournaments with 100 to 200 boats fishing?” asked Dr. David Grobecker of the Pacific Ocean Research Foundation. “They’d have broken every tournament record for total catch weight. Altogether, the 18 biggest fish weighed nearly 9,000 pounds. That’s an average weight of almost 500 lbs.”
By 8:55 am the Sea Genie was already hooked up to its third marlin. “Fish were hitting as fast as you could get a bait out,” Capt. Gene Vander Hoek said. “They were there and hungry. I haven’t seen a single day like this in years. A big wave of fish came through, and they were all concentrated in one area stretching from DD-buoy upcurrent for about a mile,” Capt. Vander Hoek said. “Even fishermen on Fishing Island (the buoy, itself) were hooking big marlin. I saw one guy hook a 400- to 600-pounder–which eventually broke off. You had to work your way through a maze of people fighting fish. At one point, we were fighting one of ours and a skiff next to us hooked up. Their marlin jumped straight at us before they got it under control.”
Though Vander Hoek got his three on bait, the Kona Lure and other boats were just as successful with trolling lures. Capt. Jim Wagner on the Kona Lure doubled with impressive fish of 619- and 465-pounds. “And we had a couple of bites in between, too,” Wagner said. “We trolled out to Double D, saw boats fighting fish and hooked the 465 right away. The day before, we caught a 406 and lost a couple of bigger ones. So we decided to stick with lures and keep trolling the edges of the area. We got all of our bites within the same couple of square miles.”
Wagner’s charter, Dick Dial of New Mexico, said he had waited 50 years to catch a marlin worth mounting and planned to hang the 619-pounder. But live bait took the biggest double of the day on theShadow. Capt. Tom Salisbury’s charter caught marlin of 748- and 622-pounds while working the same compact mass of schooling baitfish.
The Best Day Ever
“Baitfish were everywhere—and there were lots of different kinds,” Dr. Grobecker said. “We opened marlin bellies and found aku, yellowfin up to 35-pounds and an assortment of other stuff including squid. One belly contained a huge squid beak. From its size, I’d guess it came from a four- or five-foot long red squid.
“And all kinds of fish were feeding on them,” Dr. Grobecker added. “Boats weighed in ‘ahi over 100-pounds, spearfish of more than 40, some striped marlin, mahimahi and ono. Jiggers were hooking bigeye around the FADs. And the aku were ranging all the way up to the bigger otadu sizes (15 to 20 lbs or more).”
“I’ve never really seen that much bait before in one place,” Capt. Wagner agreed. “Even though surface conditions didn’t seem unusual, the fishfinder was showing thick schools down below throughout the whole area. We caught a big aku, and in its belly we found five or six kinds of smaller bait. Squid, crabs, nehu, filefish and even a perfect 2-inch ocean sunfish.”
Some fishermen also found longline hooks–relicts of escapes from the commercial operations around the Hawaiian Islands. “These bigger marlin are strong enough to tear up the longline gear,” Dr. Grobecker said. “In fact, the uniformly large size of the marlin in this bunch may mean there is some selection going on. A big school like this could pass through an area being fished with longlines and lose all of the smaller marlin. They get caught by the longliners while the big ones break lose.”
“That might explain the seasonal shift in fishing patterns we’ve seen over the past few years,” Capt. Vander Hoek suggested. “Our spring and fall fishing has been as good or better than the summer, which used to be the best season. The longliners increase their fishing effort in the summer when the tuna are around. And they sweep up the marlin with them.”
Just how unusual is it for the Kona fleet to boat 18 big marlin in one day? “We’ve gotten used to seeing maybe one or two big fish a day over the past several years,” said Capt. Vander Hoek. “Whoever gets the beast that day is King for the day.”
Was it the best big fish day ever?
“I don’t know,” said Capt. Wagner. “But if it was, I’m glad I was out there.”