During a two-day fishing trip out of Port Aransas, Texas, the Quantified team —Wills Scott group out of Beaumont, Texas — reeled in a massive haul. All were standup except the swordfish. This was the first trip on Quantified. Justin Drummond was captain with mate DA Hughes III.
A trip offshore on the Outage, a 60′ Jim Smith owned by Hans Kraas out of Los Sueños, brought in a nice haul that included sailfish and blue marlin.
The highlight was when a blue came in on the left teaser, with 13-year-old Cole, Kraas’ son, throwing the left pitch only for it to then fade off before Cole’s mom, Nikki Bates, on the rod, fed it perfectly on the right long, and hooked it, making it the first blue she hooked herself.
This was Cole’s second blue on the wire, handling it like a pro.
In total, the group hooked two blues and 11 sails the first day and 31 sails and another blue the next. Not a bad couple of days at all.
By Captain Kevin Deerman
For a number of years now, many Texas boat buyers have avoided bringing their boats to their home state after purchasing them. What could prompt Texan boat owners to register their boats in other states? The answer: high boat sales tax rates here in our state.
In recent years, many other coastal states have reduced or eliminated their tax rates and found substantial increases in boat sales and registrations. These tax savings make it much more appealing for Texan boat buyers to purchase their boats out of state. Were the sales tax paid at purchase not bad enough, there is an additional factor at play in keeping boats out of Texas. In order to register a boat in Texas (something that is necessary if you plan to keep a boat in Texas waters for an extended period of time), you must pay sales tax in Texas – even if you have already paid tax on the purchase of a vessel out of state.
The TMC is committed to re-establishing Texas amongst the other leading coastal states in boat sales and generally promoting growth in the marine industry
What is the effect of this double taxation? Some sportfish vessel owners who would normally have kept the boat in Texas for most of the year, and traveled only a few months a year, now do the opposite. Rather some owners instead keep their boat in other states for most of the year, only returning to Texas to fish the tournaments. The effect of this displacement hurts the thousands of Texans who make their living in the marine service industries. This includes sportfishing crews, yacht brokers, mechanics, financial services, insurance agents, marinas, fuel docks, boatyards, marine supply stores and many others.
To address this and other concerns, a group of marine industry professionals in Texas have joined together to form the Texas Marine Industry Coalition (TMIC). The TMIC was created primarily to address this issue head on. The group also provides a voice for Texas marine businesses, employees, venders, customers, and all men and women that make their living in the marine industry. The TMIC is committed to re-establishing Texas amongst the other leading coastal states in boat sales and generally promoting growth in the marine industry.
The TMIC is now working with lobbyists to pass pro-sportfishing legislation in the next legislative session. Primary goals of this legislative agenda are bringing our tax rate down, establishing a boat sales tax cap similar to those in Florida and other coastal states and reducing restrictions on out of state boats to make it more attractive for them to bring their boats to Texas. The net result of this legislation would be marine industry job creation and spurring more economic activity for the benefit of coastal communities and the many businesses that benefit from bluewater sportfishing. Hopefully, with the support of the people in our industry, we can look forward to getting more boats back into Texas waters. For more information on the Texas Marine Industry Coalition visit the website at tmicoalition.org.
– That’s the report from Texas!
By Elliott Stark
“I am a redneck, I eat gas station nachos. Before that phone call, I didn’t even know what a feminist was… and I certainly wasn’t trying to piss any of them off,” says Bobby MacGrath, director of the Marlin Grander Prix. “We’ve just been down here, minding our own business – running a fishing tournament for three decades. Aside from a couple weather cancellations, the events have gone off without a hitch. Then this happened.”
Bobby MacGrath has run the Marlin Grander Prix for the past 30 years. While the tournament has made headlines for big fish weighed through the years, the event itself has never been a focal point of the international news media. That all changed in 2017. “Two days before the 2017 tournament, I get a phone call. In and of itself this is not an unusual scenario. It was a lady on the phone – said her name was Dr. Martha Jones. She said she was the director of some organization. We give lots of money to charity each year, so I figured she was after a charitable contribution from the tournament. Turns out she wasn’t.”
Dr. Martha Jones is the director of the International Female Empowerment Symposium, or IFES. Traditional feminist groups focus on such things as equality of payment for men and women and ending sexual and workplace harassment. IFES’ cause, however, goes far beyond the standard platform of feminism. Dr. Martha Jones’ objections to the Marlin Grander Prix had nothing to do with the Lady Angler division. The following excerpt is taken from a press release published by the International Femalem Empowerment Symposium: “IFES aims to bring about a new world order.
Our vision is for a world in which females – human or animal – are treated fairly, equally and justly. We aim to end discrimination against females of any species, human or otherwise. The Marlin Grander Prix awards prizes for the boat that kills the largest blue marlin. All large blue marlin are female – male blue marlin, in fact, do not even grow large enough to be killed in the tournament. Because the Marlin Grander Prix targets only large, FEMALE blue marlin the event discriminates against women. This is gender inequality that is morally wrong and socially irresponsible. The International Female Empowerment Symposium stands with our blue marlin sisters in opposition to this injustice. It must stop.”
“Dr. Jones was nice enough during our first conversation on the phone, but she insisted on coming by the tournament office at the marina. I thought that was a strange request for someone who wanted a piece of the charity purse, but I told her to come on by. What a mistake that was….” MacGrath says. “I should have called Sheriff Johnson right then.”
“The next morning at 9:30 sharp, a convoy of Subarus pulled into the parking lot. There must have been 45 of them. All of them were the same… black with super dark tints. You couldn’t see who was driving or how many ladies were inside,” the tournament director describes.
“On the road leading to the marina, they were driving single file. When they hit of the parking lot out front of the marina, they spread out into attack formation. They looked like a flock of pelicans flying in a vee. All the Subarus screeched to a halt, spreading out to block all access to the weigh station and the registration table.”
“When they finally stopped, a single car door opened. Out stepped Dr. Jones. She walked over to my office door and knocked three times. I opened it up, thinking she was from the Ronald McDonald House or some place. I reached out to shake her hand… that was another mistake. Her grip was like Hulk Hogan’s… she actually dislocated one of my knuckles.”
“After shaking her hand, she told me ‘Bobby, there will be no tournament this year. Times have changed!’ I was pretty surprised, I still thought she wanted charity money,” MacGrath explains. “As she said this, three yellow Priuses drove into the parking lot. Out jumped eight man-hippies. They were wearing leather sandals and those pants that are half jeans and half shorts. My office is downwind of where they parked… they smelled like lemon balm. It was weird.”
“I am not sure what they thought was going on, but the man-hippies jumped out of their cars and chained themselves to the palm trees that sit out front of the office. They were chanting something or other… Apparently they thought someone was trying to cut the palm trees down for lumber… and they were not gonna let it happen.”
“The Subarus and the Priuses blocked the whole parking lot. Nobody – not the anglers, the vendors or even the band could get anywhere near the registration table. All of a sudden, all of the cars started a synchronized honk attack. They were layin’ on it,” MacGrath says with a look of wild bewilderment in his eyes. “At first I thought they were just trying to annoy us into cancelling the tournament. But it turns out that all the honking was a signal. They were starting their sea attack. It was a blockade!”
“As soon as the cars stopped beeping, I heard a horn blast from what looked like a cruise ship. It was one of them boats that is normally chasing the Japanese whaling ships in the Antarctic. It was backing into the fuel dock at the marina. There were two lines stretched from its bow. Each ran to a sailboat – one to its left and the other to its right. The sailboats were full masted. Their sails had logos of the International Female Empowerment Symposium and a Marlin Grander Prix logo with a big red x on it. That’s when I knew they were serious…”
“If the boats and the lines blocking the marina were not bad enough, they also bombarded our radio communications. Someone on the antiwhaling ship had teevo’d all 13 seasons of The View. They somehow found out that the tournament runs on VHF channel 68. Next thing you know we had the audio of 159 episodes of The View playing back to back on Channel 68! How the hell are you supposed to have a tournament in conditions like that?!”
“What all came of it? You might guess. Long and short of it, for the first time in 33 years, there was no Marlin Grander Prix. All because a bunch of ladies thought we were unfairly discriminating against their blue marlin sisters. Times are a changing I guess… it’s a dismal tide.”
By Elliott Stark
Kona, Hawaii is a wonderful place. In terms of distance from a continental landmass, the Hawaiian archipelago is one of the most remote strings of islands in the world. Kona sits on the western edge of the Island of Hawaii—the Big Island. Its rocky coastline is the result of millions of years of volcanic deposits piling atop one another. The Hawaiian Islands are mountains that jut from the sea floor, covering thousands of feet beneath the waterline and thousands more above it. The mountainous interior of the Island of Hawaii creates a giant wind block, large enough to create a permanent lee and break apart hurricanes.
Thousands of miles from the nearest large river mouth and input of nutrients necessary for green or brown water, the waters that encircle Kona are bluer than blue. Not only is the water blue, so too are the majority of the marlin that transverse them. Many of the largest blue marlin ever tamed on rod and reel were Hawaiian-caught—most of them caught out of Kona. Grander blue marlin have been caught in every calendar month here.
The combination of calm waters, big and consistent blue marlin, remoteness, and Hawaiian hospitality has created one of the most unique and influential cultural traditions in sportfishing. Over the years, what has happened in Kona has touched the sportfishing world at large in many ways.
Captain Bart Miller, fishing aboard the Kona-based Black Bart, is credited by many with having the tuna tubes. Many of the lures you see dragged everywhere in the world were first designed in Hawaii—the tradition of master lure makers here is too great to mention. Kona is also on par with any place in the world when it comes to crews coming to accumulate knowledge. For many, the place is so enamoring that what was intended to be a stint working in the cockpit of a Hawaiian master soon becomes a longer-term job or the place they make their career.
There are many charming things about Kona. These charms relate to the fishing and the place generally. If you enjoy being offshore or have ever dreamed about catching a bruiser blue marlin, you should fish here. The following provides some context to this claim.
If This Dock Could Talk
One of the most charming things about Kona (even more so than the fact there are wild mongoose running all over the place!) are the people who fish here. The careers and catch statistics, which are measured chiefly in the number of granders hung, are second to none. The lineup of captains and boats fishing out of Kononkohau Harbor could just as easily be found in the pages of a Zane Grey or Ernest Hemingway novel. There are too many great captains and boats fishing there to list here.
Most anyone who has spent any time fishing here has seen his or her share of big fish. As the fishing community is close knit, there are plenty of firsthand accounts of Bobby Brown’s world record Pacific blue marlin or Choy’s 1,805-pound monster or the exploits of Capt. Bart Miller. Captains are as excited to speak of the big fish they’ve seen and lost as they are about the granders they’ve captured. You can ask the question, “Have you ever seen anything bigger than the biggest you’ve caught?” in plenty of places. But when a man who has hung multiple granders and seen plenty of others weighed gets the faraway look in his eyes while recalling a sea monster lost, it makes you sit up a bit straighter in your chair.
To put this in perspective, we asked Capt. Fran O’Brien this question. When Bart Miller hooked up to the fabled 1,656, he called O’Brien in to leader it. There might be someone in the world with more big fish credibility than Fran, but I’m just not sure who it would be. In response to the query about whether he had seen anything bigger than what he had caught, he recalled this story…
“You can’t ever really know for sure, but one time we had been fighting a fish for 14 hours. It was the middle of the night… she took a big run and came up jumping. You could hear the splashing,” O’Brien recalled. “I looked up at the captain and he said, ‘We’re ___ed.’” The fish would go on to break the line.
A PhD in Lure Fishing super
While it has been years since most places in the world succumbed to the dink ballyhoo revolution, Hawaiian captains still proudly pull plastic. In some of places where lures still appear, their selection is haphazard… the old, “Grab that one over there and throw a hook in it” type thing. In Kona, lure fishing is equal parts science and applied engineering with a healthy dose of aesthetic appeal mixed in.
The scientific approach to lure fishing makes sense. Many of the lures used around the world were designed here—some by captains still fishing out of Kona. Many captains still make their own pulling lures (producing a batch whenever they need some themselves—keeping some, selling a few others). If you were to ask around, you’d probably find that by percentage there are about as many “craft lure makers” among the charter fishing docks in Kona as there are craft beer makers in a neighborhood full of hipsters.
The hook sets and rigging procedures are equally dialed in. Where mates in other places might spend the ride out rigging dredge mullet or swimming ballyhoo, Kona mates will meticulously adjust hook sets to match the day’s conditions. “Hook up for slant heads, hook down for everything else.” In 2019 it is a unique proposition to set out for a day’s marlin fishing without a cooler full of dead baits.
The global domination of dink fishing has been accompanied by the prominence of smaller and smaller high-performance reels, fitted with strong drags and hundreds of yards of braid. Kona has largely been immune from this. Hawaii, along with perhaps Bermuda, the Great Barrier Reef and Nova Scotia, is one of the last strong holds of the 130. Whereas some boats fishing the Northeast or the Gulf or elsewhere pull out a couple 130s to look cool, the big guns are used here for a reason.
Big fish and deep water have spawned a saying that we heard more than a couple times, “They’re big reels but sometimes they are not big enough.” Captain Gene Vanderhoek runs the Sea Genie II, a charmingly appointed 39-foot Rybovich. Vanderhoek is credited with four grander blue marlin here— and he has released another. A more than capable conversationalist whose perspective is as wide-ranging as the stories he launches into, Vanderhoek provides context for the captains’ preference to use the big stuff.
“We had a father and son fishing with us. They wanted to catch a big tuna on 30-pound. We caught them one, and they wanted to put the 30 back out. There had been a good class of fish around—a grander had already been caught. I suggested that we stick to the 130s as a very special opportunity could present itself,” Vanderhoek begins. “We put out the 30 as a shotgun. A little while later, a grander came up and guess what it ate? It looked to be 1,100-pounds…I warned them.”
There is more than a bit of charm to watching lures bounce behind the boat, cockpit equipped with four hooked 130s. This type of charm emanates from the fact that, statistically speaking, a day fishing in Hawaii has a greater chance to produce the largest blue marlin you’ll ever catch than do most places. Any bite can be that bite. Most captains seem to prefer to remove chance from the equation, 130s spooled to the brim. While other places a captain’s success is measured in numbers of releases or grand slams, the king metric in Kona is number of granders brought to the scale.
A slow day of fishing in Kona is given solace by the fact that after catching a massive blue in the afternoon, nobody in the history of fishing has ever cared that the morning might have been a little slow. There is additional comfort in the fact that it is most always calm fishing out of Kona and that big fish have been caught in every calendar month. This same charm does not extend to places where sailfish bite best in 8’ seas and it’s 40-degrees outside. When you’re having a slow day of sailfishing— cold, wet and getting your teeth kicked in, there is generally no hope that thing that will break the cycle of monotony might weigh 900 pounds.
But the Flight is So Long?
This is perhaps the biggest objection to someone from the eastern or central time zones planning to fish Kona. There are a couple of approaches to resolving this dilemma. Sure, it’s a long trip and it takes a bit of time to adjust to jet lag. But you can take solace from the fact that if you are tired while fishing, you’re still trolling around for giant blue marlin in one of the most productive, historically and culturally influential destinations in sportfishing.
You can also think about it another way, considering two scenarios.
Scenario One—Four Days of East Coast Marlin Fishing: Say you live in a spot on the East Coast and plan to go marlin fishing for four days. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that the ledge or canyon you are targeting is 75 miles from the dock and that you come and go from the dock each day (no overnighters). Let’s further assume that your boat cruises 25 knots and that there is no travel time between your house and the dock. Your total travel time for four days of fishing is 24 hours—three hours out and three hours back each day—six hours total per day, for four days.
Scenario Two—Four Days of Kona Marlin Fishing: Say you live in the same place on the east coast and decide that instead of marlin fishing out of your place, you decide to fish four days out of Kona. Assume that you decide not to cheap out on plane tickets and book a trip that includes one layover. You fly from
the east coast to LAX and then to Kona. Your total travel time each way is 12 and a half hours. Next you factor the run time out of Kona… the first day fishing with Gene Vanderhoek aboard the Sea Genie II, we nearly snagged the dock with our long rigger! (Not really, but you get the point…there is no run in Kona.)
For those keeping score, the total travel time, combining flights and runs to and from the fishing over four days, is within an hour or so of being equal. If you were so inclined, you could next factor the cost. The fuel tab on your four-day east coast endeavor would dwarf the charter bill for your Hawaiian marlin fishing expedition. The options for a day’s rate on a great boat out of Kona would set you back in the $1,000-$1,500 range, before tip. After all, costs are low when the fuel burn is minimized, and there’s no ballyhoo tab. A final benefit? You can get a much more awesome Hawaiian shirt in Kona than you can at your local marina store.
Beyond the draw of big blue marlin, Kona sits squarely on the list of most people who are serious about the Royal Slam. It’s perhaps the best place in the world to tick off the spearfish (the species that might be the most common bottleneck in the quest). The tuna bite here can be good too and certain times of year there is a great wahoo bite. So now that you’re thinking about booking your ticket, when should you come?
Captain Gene Vanderhoek provides a breakdown of Kona’s fishing seasons. “Up until about five or ten years ago, we had good winter runs of small stripies and spearfish. Now it seems that the blue marlin fishing is good year round—it has been the past two years. The best times to come for blue marlin would be June through September. The best days are dictated by the tides and the moon—Kona has always been a dark of the moon type of place. That said, this year there was a grander caught on the full moon—so who knows? There are blue marlin, tuna… everything. Lots of spearfish in June and July,” the Kona veteran describes.
“In the spring, April and May, there are lots of wahoo around. The Sea Genie’s boat record is 28 in five and half hours. The spearfish are best in May, June and July. The big tuna show up in late May and June, through August. We typically catch them on jets and lures… 200 is a big one here.”
As we near the end of our fishing season in the Texas Gulf, I began to reflect back on the incredible marlin fishing our tournament fleet has experienced in the previous few years. This year, on the other hand, has been a little off in comparison. While the bulk of the season hasn’t lived up to the previous few years, it seems to picking up here towards the end.
Last year at this time, this column described the Hoover/Diana Spar producing over 45 blue marlin in a five week period. These catches and releases were all reported between the Poco Bueno tournament in July and the Texas Legends tournament in August. Were the numbers not enough, many of them being solid fish and a few in the 600- and 700-pound class.
The Diana bite never really happened this summer. In fact, if you were to combine the action from all season in all of our normal tournament target areas that it would have matched last year’s bite from the Hoover/Diana Spar alone. What accounts for the difference in fishing results? For starters, the favorable current and bait conditions that produced the bite last year have not been present at Hoover/Diana in 2019.
While the overall number may have been down, there were a few boats that did have epic trips throughout the summer. In early June the Hook N Bull released six blues on an overnight trip to Diana. These early results had many thinking that the bite was about to go off again this year… but not much really happened at Diana thereafter.
In the Texas Billfish Classic, our tournament season starter this year, there was a really good bite at the shelf rigs for about a week. This area produced the majority of the 22 blues for the 26 boat fleet fishing the tournament. Of these 22 blue ones, the Bali Ha’i caught four and took home second place in the release division. The Done Deal, who won the release division, also picked up the last couple of their blues in the same area. Their total for the tournament was six blues and one white.
Fishing finally picked back up on Labor Day weekend with most of the boats reporting at least one blue marlin release. If the wide distribution of action were not enough, the Game Plan set a new Gulf record going 8 for 10 on blue marlin in a single day! Game Plan caught all eight of their blues at the Perdido spar rig using stand up tackle and estimated them all to be between 400- and 600-pounds.
Perdido is the southernmost rig that we fish off the Texas coast. In addition to the new single day Gulf record, the rig has produced many tournament winners in the past. The following weekend, the crew on the Sigsbee Deep headed back to the same spot and went three for four on blues with an extremely big girl that they gave a very conservative estimate of 700 plus pounds.
Before we call 2019 a thing of the past, we still have a little time before hunting season is full on. As long as the weather cooperates, we hope to tack on a couple more good reports.
– That’s the report from Texas.
Captain Brad Philipps led angler John Cole to the rare grand slam on the fly. This included sailfish, blue marlin and striped marlin on fly tackle in the same day. Extremely rare, extremely difficult. What a feat by captain, crew and angler.
Captain John Louis Dudas, Sandman, 63-foot Spencer
Homeport: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
1,200 points include: Buccaneer Cup, 3rd Place; Sailfish Challenge, 1st Place; Jimmy Johnson’s Quest for the Ring, 1st Place; Final Sail, 3rd Place
Not only is Captain John Louis Dudas in contention for the Captain of the Year in Florida every year, Dudas was named InTheBite’s Captain of the Year in both 2007 and 2009. Add to Dudas’ consistency and skill in finding sailfish in tournament situations, the Sandman fishing team is powered by an owner and crew who are as dedicated to fishing as is perhaps anyone in the world. The result of the combination is a high performance, high powered fishing team that is consistently successful – year in, year out. The consummate professional, Dudas is quick to deflect credit to others.
“For one thing, we’re lucky to be with an owner who fishes as hard as we do. She loves it and understands what it takes. You couldn’t ask for a nicer boss or a nicer friend,” says Dudas of Sandra MacMillan. Dudas next attributes success to the team and the approach to fishing. The Sandman’s tournament crew consists of first mate Jeffrey Liederman, mate Domi Adams “who is in charge of keeping the boat up and fishes, too,” and tournament anglers Alex Ramirez, Robbie Ramirez, and Robbie Waddick. For tournament fishing, Corey Ryan serves as the team’s camera man. Captain Chris Kaulen, who normally runs the Marlin Darlin, helped the team out for the Jimmy Johnson Tournament and the Buccaneer Cup. When it comes to the Sandman’s approach to fishing, it involves fishing as much as they can. “We fish as much as we can. We approach fun fishing the same way we approach tournaments,” Dudas explains. “For me, the crew is the best I think you can find. Everybody knows their role, it is like a well-oiled machine. It makes it really enjoyable to fish with everybody.”
Beyond overseeing a very skilled, professional crew, Dudas also manages a highly organized, precision-based bait program. South Florida’s kite fishing crews rely on an arsenal of live bait tactics that are near scientific in their approach. The Sandman’s approach exemplifies this well. “There’s lots of preparation – catching bait and bait care. Countless hours of preparation,” John Louis describes. “We catch our own bait – gogs, herring, pilchards and sardines. We keep feeding them and pen them behind Sandra’s house. We always have plenty of baits for the tournaments so we can focus on fishing instead of sourcing bait.”
“Every day we bring around 350 baits when we’re tournament fishing. We always have too much – but we approach every day like it could be a great day of fishing. It’s better to have too many than not enough,” Dudas says. “If we are fishing somewhere that we have to travel with the boat, we will bring extra bait and pen them up once we get there. If we have extra bait after fishing, we will put them back in the pen. Keeping baits for long periods of time builds up their strength and allows you to be able to move them.” With a great crew, a dedicated owner, and captain with decades of success, the next step in the process for the Sandman crew is belief in themselves. “Even if the fishing is slow one day, we know that we always have the chance to come back. Everybody believes in each other – that makes it a lot of fun.”
This approach paid special dividends in the Jimmy Johnson’s Quest for the Ring Tournament in Key Largo – a tournament that paid a purse of $395k to the winning boat. “We prefished the week before,” Dudas begins. “It’s always nice to learn the area where we are before the tournament. We were ready. On the first day, the fishing was slow. We caught three. The last day we caught ten. In the middle of the day, we were in the middle of the pack. In the afternoon, we caught five sails at once to take the lead. It was really exciting.” Captain John Louis Dudas even-keeled nature and eye for detail has resulted in sustained tournament success for a long time. InTheBite congratulates Dudas and the Sandman team for an outstanding 2018 campaign. If recent (and not so recent) history are any indication Dudas may well be in contention in years to come.