Billfish right under your nose from 4/24/06

Reprinted from The Kona Fishing Chronicles volume 6/7

From,  04-24-06

DSC_0012You never know where your next billfish will turn up.  

Steve Ross of Pismo Beach, Calif., joined Jay Lighty on the Mariah and found a 520.5- pound marlin right under his nose.  

After an early start and two hours of trolling inside, Steve and Jay had just one 30-pound ono in the boat.  Time to switch tactics and go live-baiting for bigger stuff.  

At about 8:30 am, they reached VV-buoy, hooked an aku for bait, got it right to the boat, and then watched in astonishment as a big marlin raced in and grabbed the aku next to the boat.  

 “It smashed the bait right in front of us,” Jay said.  “It took off and I assumed it had stolen the bait and gone for good.”

Jay says he got his aku lure out to try for another bait and started up the boat to begin trolling again.  

“Here’s the marlin about five feet behind my prop following us all lit up,” Jay said.  “It must have been hiding under the boat.”

Jay had no bait aboard and using the 30-pound ono was out of the question.  Instead, he picked up the closest lure to hand (a Gary Eoff design for Marlin Magic) and tossed it to the fish.

“As soon as the lure hit the water, the marlin grabbed it,” Jay said. “We hooked the fish and Steve fought it to the boat in about an hour and a half.   EB_MMShortPlunger1

“Normally, I release my fish –even the big ones- but this one got tail-wrapped during the fight and came up dead.”

Jay thinks his boat may be especially equipped for beguiling curious marlin.  

“I have a stainless steel prop so it flashes and may catch their attention,” Jay said.

 If so, he has other recent evidence. About three weeks ago, his angler was reaching down with a net to scoop up an aku.  He had just stuck the net into the water when a marlin raced out from under the boat, caught the net with its bill and took it right out of the guy’s hand.  

With the hoop stuck on its bill, “the marlin took off jumping all over the surface trying to throw the net,” Jay said.  Its gymnastic twirls tossed the net, which Jay recovered “with a big hole in the mesh for proof.”

Jay’s whirling-dervish hula-hoop marlin puts an entirely different spin on “catch and release,” as Jay approaches the anniversary of what may have been the biggest release of last year.

As incredible as the story sounds, Jay’s release of what might have been a grander was witnessed by a very credible observer. Mike Oshiro, a grander catcher himself, was nearby.

Jay was out with a charter on the day of the 2005 Wee Guys Fishing Tournament.  The event draws about 130 boats and the sea was crawling with skiffs.

Jay caught a bait at VV-buoy and dragged it a mile from the FAD to get away from the churning mass of boats. The bait disappeared down the giant maw of a marlin Jay estimates at “1100 or 1200 pounds.”

Jay’s angler soon tired of the battle, and the unconcerned marlin stayed up on the surface as though the fishing line didn’t exist.  Jay took advantage of the marlin’s indifference, backed down to the leader and clipped a second line to it.

Now fighting two lines, the marlin shook off its nonchalance and took off on a head-shaking surface run.  Mike Oshiro was fishing nearby on his boat Krista-O and saw the fish jump.

“It was huge,” Mike said. “We were 500 yards away when that fish was coming out of the water. I couldn’t say for sure it was a grander but it was a monster.”

Mike would soon get the chance for a closer look.

As the fight wore on past its second hour, Jay spotted two pairs of fins swimming around the marlin.

“I figured it must be sharks and they were there to eat the marlin,” Jay said. “With a closer look, I saw they were two smaller marlin.  The big female had two males with it.”

Knowing that Mike Oshiro was nearby and fishing in the tournament, Jay called him over to try to catch one of the males.  Removing it from the scene would also reduce the risk of having it blunder into the line and break it.

Mike put out his aku and tried for 20 minutes or so but couldn’t get the other fish to take the bait.  Eventually, one of the males left the scene but the other stayed right with the big female until the very end.  

Even with two 130s on it, the fish battled for six hours.

“When we got it next to the boat, the male was against the side of the boat and against the side of the female,” Jay said. “You could have reached over and touched the male.”

Now came the big dilemma.  Should he bring the big fish back to the scales for an official weight or release it?  The decision was a bit easier to make because the market was flooded with fish at the time and nobody wanted to deal with one so big.

“We decided to release it because it was hooked on top of the head and looked like it would survive okay,” Jay said.

Mike knows big fish – he once weighed a 1,051-pound marlin and has had other granders up to the boat – and says a thousand-pound fish in the water under your boat is “unreal.”  Some have compared it to looking down on a Boeing 747, “and that’s exactly what it looks like,” Mike says.


EarlY in the week, Guy Terwilliger and Chris Choy found a 454-pound blue for Paul and Patty Denvers  — a catch that shows the importance of equipping your boat with a tuna tube.

Guy had taken the Ho`okele out to OTEC buoy to look for mahimahi.  Instead, he found lots of shibi and other baitfish.

“We put a couple of shibi in the tuna tubes because they tend to last longer than aku and took them back to The Grounds where it was a bit calmer,” Guy said.  “We dropped them in the water at The Corner, went all the way down to The Middle Grounds and right there a fish showed up underneath the boat looking at the props.”

The marlin swung back and went after the long bait. It made one big swirl and turned on it.  When a marlin approaches a bait from the leader side, it frequently hits the leader before it gets to the bait – just like this one did.

“I could see the bait flashing on its side so I knew right away the marlin was wrapped up in the leader,” Guy said.  “Sure enough, he got snagged in the pec fin but the leader went right through its mouth.  It got pulled way back in the jaw hinges so there was no chafe, luckily.”

The odd hook-up worked to the anglers’ disadvantage.

 “It wasn’t hurt at all,” Guy said.  “It did a few jumps in the beginning then settled down and went swimming back towards Kona Village. We ended up 4.5 miles away from where we hooked it after an hour and 45 minutes. You could see the track of the fight in the marks left on the GPS — all of the little curlicues everywhere we went.”


There may be no meaner, nastier, more ruthless villain than the tiger shark.  I take that back.  It’s unfair to ascribe human qualities and emotions to a creature that is just going about its normal daily business.  Even when that normal routine seems blood-curdlingly brutal.

So choose your own adjectives to describe this encounter between some fishermen on the Fish Wish and two sharks – a hammerhead and a tiger.

A few weeks back, skipper Kent Mongreig hosted Scott King, a former deckhand from Kent’s charter days in Seward, Alaska, and his family.  The goal was to catch up on old times, and catch Scott’s nephew, Mark Gertner, a big fish of any kind.

Kent set out a live bait on the Grounds, sticking to the 100-fathom line where a lot of bait schools gather.  That’s good territory for marlin and tuna, but it is dangerously close to shark territory up on the ledge.

“We hooked a hammerhead, and had a great fight,” Kent said.  “I’m always amazed at how tough the hammerhead fights and this one really put up a battle worthy of any kind of gamefish.  

“We almost had him to the boat when another, much bigger shark appeared,” Kent said.  “This turned out to be a tiger, approximately 13- to 15-feet long and well over the thousand-pound mark.  It grabbed the hammerhead by the side, turned it upside down so all that we could see is the white of the hammerhead’s belly and then carried it around like a doggy bone.  

“It acted as though it was truly proud of its catch, until the hammerhead wiggled free and made a dash for it,” Kent said.  “This truly ticked off the tiger. It dashed off after the hammerhead, caught up to it and again grabbed it from the side just behind the dorsal.  No fooling around this time. It bit right through the hammerhead, taking off the back quarter and tail.  It quickly wolfed those pieces down.”

While the tiger shark was busy with the back end of the hammerhead, Kent pulled the rest of the big shark into the boat.  

“The tiger stayed right behind us watching and waiting for quite some time before finally moving off,” Kent said. “We brought the rest of the dead hammerhead back to the dock to weigh it out of curiosity.  The piece the tiger left weighed 148.5 pounds so we are guessing the whole hammerhead weighed well over 200.  But it really looked like a tiny toy in the mouth of the tiger.”

A week later, Kent hooked another fish that fared either better or worse, from the jaws of a tiger shark, depending on how you judge the ending.

“While fishing in ono lane down off Red Hill we hooked what we thought was an ono but turned out to be a 30-pound `ahi,” Kent said. “Again right behind the boat we are looking at the tuna coming up and all of a sudden a 10-foot tiger showed up right behind the tuna.  The shark followed the tuna right up to the surface right behind the boat, took a swipe at it and amazingly just missed it. All that the tuna had was one slice taken from the tail fin.

“The odd thing was that the tuna had put on a great fight all the way up to the boat, but as soon as that tiger showed up the tuna froze up,” Kent said. “I guess that it figured it time was truly up.  It was going to get it from the tiger behind or the boat ahead.”

Bye bye, tiger.  Hello, sashimi plate.


Don Nichols of Red Rock, Texas fished on the Pacific Lady and had to hold fish off to catch fish. Skipper Chris Kam and crew Karl Alvik had fish waiting on line for the veteran angler.

Chris said they trolled to the backside of The Grounds to look for a bait but turned away “when it started to kick up a bit.”  While angling out and south for deeper, calmer water, they picked up a 23-pound mahimahi.  With their kau kau catch in the boat, they headed out for a pack of birds on the horizon, drawing strikes and misses from fish along the way.

Eventually one held and Don fought a 110-pound blue marlin to the boat for a quick release. 

As soon as they were free of the blue, Karl set out three lines, started back up and got a double tuna strike.

Don worked the first fish to the boat while the second tuna waited its turn.

“The second fish kept the line tight on its own so we just kept the boat in neutral,” Chris said.  “That made it easier on Don.  He got the first one to the boat in about 10 minutes on 130.”

Time for a tired angler to tug on a rested fish.

“By the time I got the second one to the boat, I was sure it must have weighed 200 pounds,” Don said later.  

Close, but only if you count the two together.  The first weighed 100 and the second 101.5.  

The two tuna, the only ones reported last week, hit an old-school  chrome jet and the very latest hot lure in the fleet , a “Super-Ninja made by Erik Rusnak of Aloha lures.


With no change this week, here are the biggest fish caught on rod and reel (except opakapaka, for which we’ll accept hand line catches) in West Hawaii waters for 2006 in each of 21 categories. They are listed by species, weight, angler, skipper, boat and date). The list is updated every Sunday throughout the year (copyright 2006 by Jim Rizzuto). If we have overlooked you, give us at call (885-4208) or send an e-mail ([email protected]).

* Blue marlin, 1,049, Tommy Werner, Capt. Gene Vander Hoek, SEA GENIE II. Mar. 16.

* Black marlin, (vacant).

*`Ahi (yellowfin tuna), 193, Tsuji Tomohito, Capt. Guy Terwilliger, Ho’okele. Feb. 12.

* Bigeye tuna, 104, Cole Hoefle, Capt. Kenny Llanes, LEHUANANI. Mar. 13.

* Striped marlin, 138, Taylor Stamp, Capt. Guy Terwilliger, HO’OKELE. Mar. 16.

* Spearfish, 63, Chip Hoover, Capt. John Bennett, MARLIN MAGIC. Mar. 6.

* Sailfish, 83.8, Lee Hefner and Mike Thronton, Little Ono Lady. March 12..

* Mahimahi, 57, Mike DeWilde, Noname. Jan. 13.

* Ono (wahoo), 79, Monika and Ben Frazier, Kanani. March 22.

* Kaku (barracuda), (vacant)

* Kahala (amberjack), 131, Randy Russell, Capts. Jeff Rogers and Bob Dorigo, Grand Slam. Jan. 12.

* Ulua (giant trevally), 91, Rob Miller, from shore. Jan. 20.

* Omilu (bluefin trevally), (vacant).

* Aku (skipjack tuna), 29, Torben Larsen, Capt. McGrew Rice, Ihu Nui. Mar. 4.

* Broadbill swordfish, (vacant)

* Ahipalaha (albacore), 48, Tim Robertson. Capt. Alan Bakke, Howbadouwanit. Mar. 12.

* Kawakawa, (vacant)

* Kamanu (rainbow runner), (vacant)

* Opakapaka (pink snapper), (vacant)

* Uku (gray snapper), 12, David Hughes, Captain Del Dykes, Reel Action. Mar. 16 and 11.5, Doug Duffie, Capt. Jeff Rogers, Aloha Kai. Mar. 17.

*`O`io (bonefish), (vacant)