Prepare to Repel Boarders

From April 15, 2002

Published in the Kona Fishing Chronicles 2002



DSC_0001In the long history of legendary sea battles, victory has often turned on the skillful maneuvers of captain and crew. So it was last week with an epic engagement a mile or two offshore of Kailua-Kona.

Capt. Randy Parker was steering the classic vessel Huntress home, about to surrender after a day with little action. Built in 1965, the sleek, quick boat has a venerable provenance dating back to its early years as the Black Bart. It looks sharp and new despite its 37 years of service; decades of lovingly applied paint hide most of its hard-earned scars. 

With the sea already gray from the late-day cloud cover, the Huntress crossed “grander central station” outside VV-buoy, an area known for attracting big, powerful, heavily weaponed sea monsters. You challenge such waters at your own peril, regardless of your skill and equipment.

From the bridge, Capt. Parker saw a boil under the blue Marlin Magic baby blue lure on one outrigger. The fish vanished, then reappeared as a bronze shape further back in the wake where the stinger line trailed. Parker runs a chrome jet lure behind the spread for the occasional ‘ahi and small fish like striped marlin, spearfish, mahimahi and otadu. big blue marlin generally leave the malingering stinger alone, preferring to mix it up right behind the boat in the white water churned up by the propellors.

As the reel carrying the lure started chattering steadily, Parker quizzed his crew, Capt. Boyd De Coito about the hooks with which he had armed the lure. De Coito flashed a resigned smile. He had opted for light stainless steel hooks for better hookups, gambling that they might never have to hold a half-ton of fighting blue marlin10-DSC-01291

But that was just what they saw when the ocean blew up from the explosion of a 1,174-pound billfish.

De Coito transferred the rod to the chair where angler Jeff Russell was waiting. Russell and his wife were visiting from their home in Fairbanks, Alaska, and chartered the Huntress on the advice of former Kona fishermen Kelly and Jocelyn Everette.They were hoping just to hook something to tell the Everettes about when they visit them in Florida next week. Instead, Russell found himself battling the biggest fish caught off Kona since January, 2000, more than two years back.

And this fish wanted to fight. When it hit and began peeling line, Parker chased it stern first at full reverse. He maneuvered back through the lines while De Coito reeled the remaining lines back in, clearing them from where they trailed off the bow.

That’s when the marlin decided enough was enough. It was tired of running and wanted to see how the Huntress liked being chased. The huge fish turned and ran straight at the boat, body blasting across the surface in a series of jet-propelled jumps “60 miles an hour,” Parker said. For Parker, De Coito and the Russells, it was time to haul butt or prepare to repel boarders. The skipper had painted over enough bill marks on the outside of the hull and didn’t want to start repairing gear and people from the havoc ofan onboard invasion.

Parker rammed the throttles forward and the Huntress dug in for a second as the diesels blew a cloud of black smoke like an octopus surrounding itself in clouds of ink to fool an attacker. Then the props bit in and yanked the Huntress out of the path of the maniacal blue marlin.

The inadvertent actions of the fish combined with the intentional tactics of the captain, crew and angler to bring the fish within gaffing range in just under half an hour. Knowing that the slim-shanked hooks might not survive a long fight, Parker hollered to De Coito from the bridge, telling him to grab the leader, then ran down the ladder to run the boat from the deck controls. Indeed, the hooks did not survive the strong pull of leadering. While the fish was still out of gaffing range, Parker heard the “doink” of the hooks releasing from the fish. De Coito felt the leader go slack, then turned to grab a gaff. The fish was just out of gaffing range, still paddling upright and ready to shoot away free. Still at the helm, Parker pulled the throttles back and reversed the boat to close the gap. The maneuver brought the boat close enough for Parker to reach it with the gaff and his arms full extended. De Coito set a second gaff and the battle was over. Another victory at sea.


* Capt. Randy Parker is only the second Kona skipper to boat two granders in a twelve-month period. He caught his first grander on July 12, 2001, just nine months ago. Capt. Bart Miller caught granders in September, 1983, and May, 1984, just eight months apart. Both remarkable milestones happened on the same boat.Parker’s Huntress was the Black Bart back then. The lucky 42-foot Merritt may be the only boat to have weighed four Pacific blue marlin granders.

* Parker’s 1,174 was never hooked. The bend of the hook was looped over its bill. If at any time the fish turned toward the boat with the line straight and tight, the hooks would have simply slid off. When the fish raced toward the boat, the line formed a loop behind it. The water resistance on the loop held the hook in place.

* The grander-catching jet was trimmed with 9-1/2-inch skirts varicolored in pink, blue, white, and silver with black stripes on the white. The riotously colored lure-dressing is easy to spot as it gaily bobs along in the wake where it makes a very inviting target for fish of all kinds. “I don’t catch fish on that skirt and can’t stand it,” Parker said, “But Boyd likes it. Every once in a while he sneaks it out there. He was definitely right this time.”

* The Huntress’s catch is Kona’s sixth grander in just over 12 months dating back to April 6, 2001. That’s the best “12-month” grander data in several decades. (Maybe even forever, but I still have to finish my taxes so you look up the last time it happened.)

Being one of 12 months, April seems to get its turn as the year’s tops for big billfish about every 12 years. You hear veteran skippers speak in awe of “Blue Monday,” the day when every angler on the scene caught a marlin and boats were hooked up by the dozens everywhere you looked. That was April 1, 1990, just about 12 years ago. With April, 2002, only half over, it has already recorded two granders and a half dozen other fish certain to make the top 25 for the year. April 8, the day of the Huntress, may not rival “Blue Monday” but it also turned up 700-pounders on the Northern Lights and the Deceiver (see the weekly dock report). “I was in drydock that day and missed it,” Parker said.

* The biggest blue marlin don’t usually show up until the spring run of big yellowfins arrives. This year, the sashimi-hungry marlinseem to be here waiting for them.

Russell fought the fish on 130-pound test line loaded on a Shimano Tiagra reel. Lever drag, two-speed reels strongly aid line control. “We backed off the drag on the runs and jumps and pushed it up all the way to sunset when we got the fish close,” Parker said.

Stainless steel hooks come in two shank weights, standard and triple-x strong. Skippers often pick the heavy metal hooks for blue marlin because of their extra strength and the lighter onesfor smaller lures trolled for smaller types of fish. The thinner spears penetrate more easily with less pull. Sometimes, however, the fish get it all mixed up.

This is De Coito’s first grander as a crew member.  “Last summer we tagged and released a fish we estimated at 800 to 900 pounds, which would have been his biggest if we had weighed it,” Parker said.  We were fishing 80’s in search of the men’s IGFA record and broke off a grander a few days later. Boyd has had been that close to granders before.


Like all stimuli in the world of the true fishermen, whales are another good excuse to go fishing. Paul and Kathleen Coleman and Bill and Lara Randag of El Paso, Texas discovered that when theychartered the Anxious so the ladies could watch whales and the guys could catch a big blue marlin.  Before the ladies could spot one of the last whales of the season, Lara hooked a 25-pound bull mahimahi.  From then on, the guys got to watch whales as the reels sat silent.  Until just about quitting time.  As the lures were coming in to rest up for another day, Paul hooked a 33-pound spearfishthen boated it in 8 minutes.

Good, but the pyschology of rising expectations is somewhere on the list of rules fishermen live by.  At the dock, the guys watched another boat weigh a 523-pound blue and the testosterone of competition kicked in.  We gotta beat that.  

The ladies went shopping, the guys went out again, and the Anxious teased a 656-pound blue with a purple softhead lure.  Bill hauled it to the boat in an hour and a half. The gals came back to the dock from shopping in time to watch the guys weigh a whale of a fish.