Kona when the ono bite turns on

From June, 2001.  Reprinted from The Kona Fishing Chronicles 2001. 

Rapping to “The Beat Goes Ono”

The latest rap hit on Kona radio (that’s fishing radio, of course) is “Be There When the Bite Turns Ono.” The stars of this rocking extravaganza are a hard-rapping group of heavy hitters the likes of which we’ve never seen before. Call them the Loco Onos and get there before they leave town.

“I’ve never seen a run like this before in my life,” says Randy Llanes, captain of the Terminator II, and he’s determined to make the most of it. During May, he chalked up a total of nearly 200 ono in some of the wildest wahoo action on record.

Over a quarter of that pile, 52, came from a single overnight trip to Okoe Bay with veteran San Francisco angler Norman Boyd. All of Boyd’s catches were substantial fish ranging from 20 pounds up to 69-1/2.

And the Terminator II didn’t have to end up at South Point to find them. “The farthest we went was Okoe Bay,” Llanes said. “We just kept working the ledges and hooking doubles, triples, quadruples and whatever you call five on at once.”

You call it unbelievable. And then, like everybody else, you ask, “How’d he do it?”

*Ono-52pc-MayWe pressed the seasoned young skipper for the answers. He’s keeping mum about some but he did share a few.

The first trick was to be there when the bite turns on, which is what an overnight trip positions you to do.

“Saturday morning we started fishing the hot spot at 6:00 am and hooked 21 by 9:00 am,” Llanes said. “Then they quit biting. We kept working the ledges until 5:00 pm and only picked up six more.”

I guess “only” describes six fish “only” if you already have 21.

What turns them on and off like that? “Maybe it’s the tide,” says Llanes. “Maybe it is tide and moon together. When I fish for ono, I like the new moon.” The lunar cycle may or may not explain anything. Even though this trip happened a few days after the new moon, Llanes had overnighters with 20 and 30 fish during brighter parts of the moon cycle.

Well then, how about the lures? Llanes caught them on a combination pattern including some that everybody else uses, such as leadheads, jets, and rigged ballyhoo. But his secret weapons are lures he makes himself and plans to keep secret. This much he’ll let me tell you. Think heavy. One pound is light. Two pounds may not be too heavy.

Where you fish them determines whether you get singles or whatever you call those high “fives.”

Run your best lures up front in the pattern, Randy says. They bring the fish up for the first strike and then keep their schoolmates at the surface when the rest of the pattern sweeps through them. “If your first strike is on the stinger,” says Llanes, that’s probably the only fish you are going to get.”

With only one angler aboard, why would anyone want multiple strikes? Llanes carries two crew, Kenny Boy Llanes and “Big Al” Henriques, who get plenty of opportunity to keep the lines sorted out on those quintuples (yeah, you knew I knew).

But the multiples give you a chance to experiment with light-tackle fishing. You can’t drag a two-pound lure on 12-pound class line. But you can tow light lures on light lines back further in the pattern to pick up the rest of the pack after the first strikers get “pounded.”

When Ono Riot

When wahoo riot, the unruly mob will stop at nothing to strike at everything.  That includes lures trailing behind their hooked comrades. Llanes has a rigging trick to keep the second fish from scissoring the first fish free.

First he rigs his lures on dull piano wire, “not the bright stainless steel kind,” he said. Then he attaches a second leader, a three-foot length of cable, to the swivel at the end of his trolling line. The cable is finished off with a connector, to which the piano wire leader is attached. When a fish runs, the lure is stopped at the second swivel and has piano wire on one side and cable on the other.

“You can feel when an ono is running and a second fish grabs the lure by the swivel,” Llanes said. “I did not lose one lure with all the nearly 200 ono I caught this month.”

And, it always helps to have an angler with good Karma, Like Norman Boyd. “The guy is really lucky,” Llanes said. “Last December we went through that period where nobody in Kona was catching ono. Boyd came along on a trip and got eight. Three fish on one triple weighed 48, 62 and 73 pounds.”

Those are big numbers even for the show in town right now.