Kona Marlin Fishing in November 2006

Kona blue marlin fishing in 2015 has been remarkable by any measure, whether you are counting the number of granders or the number of fish tagged and released. As we count up the November catch for 2015, here is a blast from the past. Nine years ago November looked very good, too, so we have pulled up one of our weekly reports from back then to show how good it was. Look for some encouraging catches, and you will also pick up some tips to help your fishing.

Kona Fishing Chronicles Archive report from 11/06/2006

The blue marlin year is upside down.  When you hear the story of a one-day catch on Silky, you won’t believe it ‘s not summer. Skipper John Bagwell and crew Clayton White hosted Jeff Harms of Gilbert, Arizona.  This was his third trip here and the third time was definitely the charm.  In September he and his DSC_0012wife had fished with John and lost a marlin they’d estimated at over 800 pounds.  This time, he made up for it by catching his first, second, third, fourth, and fifth blue marlin, John said. Those were five blues in seven strikes, a fishing record you seldom see even in the peak season of July or August.

None were giants but all were respectable.  With the biggest estimated at 275 or better, and the probability that they were all males, they were all better than average size for males, the smaller marlin sex. 

Action happened early and often. “We caught  two off the top corner of The Grounds,” John said.  “Then two more in about 700 or 800 fathoms off Makua.  All four before noon. We missed one then caught the fifth one off VV-buoy around 1:30 pm.”

Helping to keep the action going, Jeff also caught a mahimahi – another first for him.  And he hooked his 200-pound and 275-pound marlin back to back. Being feisty males, most of the fish fought for 20 minutes or so before reaching the boat and being released.  The biggest blue took the least amount of time, just 12 minutes.  “It was jumping all over the place,” John said. “We took advantage of its errors and got to it quickly.”

All of Jeff’s fish were hooked in the corner of the mouth or the hard part of the upper jaw so they could be released safely with no injury to the marlin and little risk to the crew. John says he always runs a ballyhoo on the stinger line off the center rigger and it’s been extremely successful.  He runs it with no drop back – no loop of slack line to give them time to swallow the bait. “If they knock it down and are not hooked, I take the bait away from them,” John said.  “They see the bait escaping, come back and inhale it.”

 John gets his ballyhoo from local waters when he can but imports them from the mainland when the local supply runs out.  “I ran out of Hawaiian ballyhoo back in July and have been bringing in the large-size ones from Florida,” John said. To appreciate the luck involved in catching five blue marlin, note that very few boats have caught five blue marlin in one trip, let alone all by one angler.  

And to do it in just seven strikes? “We were 0 for 5 on marlin the previous Saturday,” John said.  “I told Jeff he needs to stop off in Vegas on the way home.”


“John Bagwell and I are in the ballyhoo importation business together,” says Wayne Knight, skipper of the Playtime.  “We both catch our baits from the Fed Ex truck.” Wayne and crew Matt Bell may not have duplicated the Silky’s success with blue marlin, but they made a visiting foursome happy by fulfilling their dreams with mahimahi caught on ballyhoo. “We hooked four nice ones for Billy Brill, a pastor from Mississippi, his wife Charlotte and several of their parishioners,” Wayne said.

“We caught them while working a current line on the 500 outside The Grounds,” Wayne said. “The pastor said it was his lifelong dream to catch a mahimahi in Hawaii, so we were out looking for floaters on our way to OTEC Buoy. We got into the current line and started getting covered up with mahimahi.  So we stayed there and caught four.  The biggest weighed 40 pounds.”

The Playtimers didn’t find any floaters, found no big mahimahi schools, and had no clue about what was attracting individual mahimahi to the current line.

“We were just catching them one here and one there over a stretch of about five miles,” Wayne said. That stretch also produced a 90-pound marlin for Charlotte.  The fishing party elected to release the marlin but have it mounted, too.  The taxidermist does this by preparing a fish mount from the specifications and pictures of the fish.  (It’s your way to keep your fish and release it, too!) They also mounted the mahimahi. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see both fish hanging on the wall of their church in Mississippi,” Wayne said.

Back to some ballyhoo talk for an important tackle tip.  Wayne pulls his ballyhoo at the normal trolling speeds used to give lures their best action.  To help keep the baits from tearing apart, he rigs them with a skirt over the nose to break the water and keep the bait from washing out.


The Smiley family went Halloween trick-or-treating Hapa-Laka style.  Their treat was a hat trick plus one.   The Smileys bagged three blue marlin and released a fourth.  “This was definitely a glory day for us,” said skipper Alan Borowski.  “The Smileys  are a fishing family from Seattle and they knew that fishing might be slow.  But they decided to go anyway.  We went two miles straight out of the harbor and hooked two blues on a double.”

Mathew Smiley, 10 years old, reeled in a 108-pound blue and Tyler, 14, brought up a 117-pounder.  Because they were still so close to home and the 24-foot Hapa Laka was full of fish and people, they doubled back for the dock to weigh the marlin. It was now only 8:00 am on a supposedly “slow” day. Gamer than ever, they headed back out, reached the same spot and caught two more marlin. Dad, Robert Smiley hooked and released a 200-pound blue and Teri Smiley boated a 141-pounder.

“It just seemed like every time we went by the spot, we hooked another,” Alan said.  Not bad for a trip with the game plan to run out to F-buoy and hook mahimahi.  In fact, they were towing small lures on 50-pound outfits along the way because they anticipated having their best chance at smaller fish.

They ended up catching three of the marlin on 50 and the fourth on 80. “All of the fish were tough and we were on all of them for over a half hour each,” Alan said. “They were happy they had caught the first one and were glowing after they hooked three more later.”

And they probably left the dock wondering what the catch is like when it isn’t a “slow” day.


Kevin Nakamaru, skipper of the Northern Lights, answered one of our most frequently –asked questions  — and did so in the most dramatic fashion possible. The green-stick/ dangling-squid/towed-bird rig may be the most effective method ever devised for catching yellowfin tuna.  We know it catches `ahi like crazy, but does it catch any other kind of fish?

 While working an `ahi school earlier this week, Kevin hooked two blue marlin simultaneously on the dangling squids.  “We were watching Silky fight a fish and Pacific Lady fighting one, too,” Kevin said.  “Two marlin came up on our stick at the same time. We got them both hooked up.

 “We’ve hooked marlin before on the stick rig and know other people who have, too,“ Kevin said. “We don’t like to because we are really after tuna.  But we bring the marlin in and release them unharmed so we can go back to catching tuna. 

Hooking a double header on what is basically the same line is a remarkable sight and a unique challenge.  “The marlin in front, about a 250-pounder, didn’t know who was pulling on whom,” Kevin said. “The little marlin behind was pulling on it. He’d pull away from that marlin.  We’d pull on the other end. He didn’t know what side he was on.  So, we managed to catch it pretty quick. “

 The back marlin broke free.  Kevin and crew John Kelmer tagged the other and went back to catching tuna.

 Make that lots of tuna.

 After returning from the Bisbee’s Tournament in Cabo this week, Kevin and John took their wives, Elizabete and Jessica out for a few days to reacquaint themselves with their home grounds. “We went out to the school,” Kevin said.  “It had a lot of fish in it. Jessica caught four `ahi and a blue marlin.”

Jessica Kelmer’s `ahi quartet weighed 103-, 116-, 119-, and 131-pounds. When they released the blue, they estimated it at 225 pounds.

Alan Bakke arrived  on the scene aboard Howbadouwanit after the Northern Lights had boated their first and hooked their second.  “We got our rig out right away and hooked a 148.5-pound `ahi,” Alan said.  Alan’s tuna on was the largest boated here last week.

The next day it was Kevin’s wife Elizabete’s turn.  “There were a lot of marlin around and we hooked Elizabete up to a 150-pounder,” Kevin said.  “While she was in the chair fighting that one, another one was chasing the lures.  It made a pass at every lure while we were clearing lines.  It was just slapping them around and wouldn’t really eat.  So we didn’t get the double after all.“

But Elizabete did get the biggest mahimahi of the week, a wary 43-pound bull that required a lot of convincing. “It must have been caught before,” Kevin said.  “It ate everything we fed it but nothing with a hook in it.”

John switched to a thinner, less visible 30-pound test leader and fooled the mahimahi into thinking the bait was now free. Elizabete hooked it and fought it while they chased the fish around to lessen the stress on the light leader.

Back to the green stick rig for one final note.  The leaping strike of a tuna on a dangling squid is spectacular, as you can imagine.  But you don’t have to imagine it.  Mike Wengler was aboard the Northern Lights when a 130-pound tuna came went five feet in the air to take a plastic squid as it swept across the surface.  He was ready with his camera when Kevin yelled “now.”   “He had the camera up and shot it when the fish jumped,” Kevin said. “I heard him say ‘I got it.’  It was on digital so we could see it right then. A priceless shot.”

You can see it, too. Stop by Kona Fishing Tackle where Mike’s amazing shot is on display.


Skipper Jeff Rogers may have discovered the secret of the success of the purple Softhead trolling lure.  You might think marlin strike the lure because they like the color. Maybe they hit it because they hate it!!

 Jeff tagged and released a 500-pound blue last week, the biggest tag reported to us, and a 600-pounder the week before.  Each succumbed to the temptation of the purple-and-black wide-range Softhead that is now so notorious among billfish. But Jeff says they smashed the most beat-up and nastiest old Softheads he has.

“The silver color on the belly is just about scraped off and the purple has been faded until it’s just about blue,” Jeff said. “I bought a new one with fresh colors in case I lost the old ones and it hasn’t been touched. Instead, the nasty ones keep getting nailed.”

Jeff’s advice, dig out the old faded Softheads and keep them running.  

 If you do have a new one that isn’t catching fish, borrow the marlin bill from someone’s trophy mount and beat the color off it.  

 Either the lure, or the fish, will get the right message from the thrashing.

 Tag N Release

Oct. 29: Blue marlin (130) Glenn Trusty, Capt. Kevin Hiney, Bite Me

Oct. 29: Blue marlin (200) Ray Kelly, Capt. Dennis Smith, Nimble

Oct. 29: Blue marlin (120) Jason Peterson, Capt. Howard Whitcomb, Bill Fisher II

Oct. 30: Blue marlin (200 and 500) Larry Linder, Capt. Jeff Rogers, Aloha Kai

Oct. 30: Blue marlin (160, and 180) Jaydeen & Mike Karr, Capt. Gus Sellers, Kona Rainbow

Oct. 30: Blue marlin (100) Unknown, Capt. Alan Borowski, Hapa Laka

Oct. 31: Blue marlin (150) Tony Srebrnjak, Capt. Alan Armstrong, Sea Wife II

Oct. 31: Blue marlin (200) Robert Smiley, Capt. Alan Borowski, Hapa Laka

Oct. 31: Blue marlin (250) Shawn Bebeau, Capt. Vinny Maggio, Lurline

Nov. 1: Blue marlin (125) Kevin Kane, Capt. Chuck Haupert, Catchem 1

Nov. 1: Blue marlin (200) Nancy Stacey, Capt. Howard Whitcomb, Bill Fisher II

Nov. 1: Blue marlin (90) Charlotte Brill, Capt. Wayne Knight, Playtime

Nov. 1: Blue marlin (130, 150, and 350) Don Pyle, Capt. Dennis Cintas, Intrepid

Nov. 1: Blue marlin (400) Peter Manasse, Capt. Mike Sells, Bite Me 3

Nov. 1: Blue marlin (180) John Zupanovich, Capt. Kevin Hiney, Bite Me

Nov. 2: Blue marlin (100, 200, 240, 275, and 325) Jeff Harms, Capt. John Bagwell, Silky

Nov. 2: Blue marlin (150 and 175) Alex Test & Jeff Barber, Capt. Bruce Evans, Layla

Nov. 2: Blue marlin (150) Larry Plutehak, Capt. Alan Bakke, Howbadouwanit

Nov. 2: Blue marlin (160) Jim Oates, Capt. Chris Kam, Pacific Lady

Nov. 2: Blue marlin (225) Jessica Kelmer, Capt. Kevin Nakamaru, Northern Lights

Nov. 3: Blue marlin (150) Elizabeth Nakamaru, Capt. Kevin Nakamaru, Northern Lights

Nov. 3: Blue marlin (130) Melanie Irwin, Capt. Dennis Cintas, Intrepid

Nov. 3: Blue marlin (85) Roger Maynor, Capt. Howard Whitcomb, Bill Fisher II

Nov. 4: Blue marlin (200) Alex Handcz, Capt. Wayne Knight, Playtime

Nov. 4: Blue marlin (175 and 200) Ray Kelly, Capt. Dennis Smith, Nimble

Nov. 4: Blue marlin (350) Jordan, Capt. Kent Mongreig, Fish Wish

Nov. 4: Blue marlin (200) Laura Van Dorn, Capt. Gus Sellers, Kona Rainbow

Nov. 4: Striped marlin (65) Ed Moore, Capt. Neal Isaacs, Anxious


Notable Catches

Oct. 29: Blue marlin (270) Roque Tayaba, Capt. Trisha De Fusco

Oct. 29: Ahi (100) Mike O’Toole, Capt. Daniel Schneider, Centipede

Oct. 30: Blue marlin (335) Karl Lizza, Capt. Peter Hoogs, Pamela

Oct. 30: Mahimahi (7 fish to 38 pounds) Unknown, Capt. Kevin Hiney, Bite Me

Oct. 31: Blue marlin (108) Matthew Smiley (10 yrs. old) and (117) Tyler Smiley (14 yrs old), and  (141) Teri Smiley, Capt. Alan Borowski, Hapa Laka

Oct. 31: Ahi (130), mahimahi (5 fish to 25 pounds) Shawn Bebeau, Capt. Vinny Maggio, Lurline

Nov. 1: Mahimahi  (30.5) Jennifer Kane, Capt. Chuck Haupert, Catchem 1

Nov. 1: Ahi (143) Chip Collester, Capt. Dick Peterson, Aquaholic

Nov. 1: Ahi (106 and 117) Steve Skillman, Capt. McGrew Rice, Ihu Nui

Nov 1: Mahimahi (18, 25, 35, and 40) Claudia McCurley, Capt. Wayne Knight, Playtime

Nov. 2: Blue marlin (257) Mike Jake, Capt. Mike Sells, Bite Me 3

Nov. 2: Ahi (148.5) Larry Plutehak, Capt. Alan Bakke, Howbadouwanit

Nov. 2: Ahi (103, 116, 119, and 131.) Jessica Kelmer, Capt. Kevin Nakamaru, Northern Lights

Nov. 3: Mahimahi (43) Elizabete Nakamaru, Capt. Kevin Nakamaru, Northern Lights