InTheBite received a cooking-101 at Keoni’s Point of View in Kona, Hawaii and the restaurant delivered. The seafood hotspot, which sits on the west side of the island, is well-known for its fresh fish dishes—from Hawaiian-style poke to smoked marlin dip—that come out of the busy kitchen.
Owners and husband and wife team, Keoni and Kalina Llanes, have built the restaurant from the ground up making it a current favorite among locals and visitors alike. And the restaurant has also become a way to honor Keoni’s uncle, Capt. Randy Llanes, whose life was cut short when he was impaled by the bill of a swordfish while spearfishing. According to Keoni, his uncle dreamed about one day opening up a restaurant of his own.
Today, that dream has taken root on Honokohau Harbor. InTheBite brought a mahi-mahi that was cooked up at the restaurant and prepared for a meal that did not disappoint.
CAPTAIN SHANE O’BRIEN
43 Merritt, Kona, Hawaii
Wild Hooker: 68 Blackwell
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Owner: Allen Stuart
By Charlie Levine
Multigenerational fishing families run deep in Kona, Hawaii. The Big Island breeds good fishermen because the well-worn skills are handed down from captain to son (or daughter). Once inherited, fishing ability is modified, improved upon – rinsed and repeated. Thirty-year-old Captain Shane O’Brien is definitely part of that tradition.
Shane’s father, Fran O’Brien is one of the best wiremen in the business. He’s pulled on more granders than any other person in Kona. When Capt. Bart Miller had the notorious 1,656-blue marlin on, Fran jumped over from Bobby Brown’s No Problem and wired the fish. His fishing acumen runs deep, and he has passed it down to Shane. While the two O’Briens never fished together much professionally, the elder captain opened many doors for his son.
“My dad introduced me to everyone and made it easy to get in the fishing business here,” Shane says. “He gave me every contact in the world.” At 12-years-old, Shane scored his first fishing job as a mate on a small charter outfit, making a whopping $20 a day. “I would’ve done it for free,” Shane says. “On the first day we caught a 465-pound marlin and I got to gaff it. Th at was the first fl yer I ever threw. He probably gave me a little more freedom than he should have, but I’m glad he did. It worked out.” Shane never looked back.
The next captain to take Shane under his wing was Kerwin Masunaga, a commercial captain and just about the fishiest guy you could meet (Masunaga was named InTheBite Hawaii Division Captain of the Year in 2017 and 2018). Together they’d target tuna, wahoo and a lot of bottom fish from Masunaga’s 34-footer. They’d run two- to four-day trips down to the southside of the island. It was a quick education for Shane in a range of fishing types, as well as boat handling and tackle prep.
When he turned 16, Shane started crewing one of the better charter boats, Foxy Lady, with Capt. Boyd Decoito during the summer. When he was 17, he got his first big tournament win. Th e boat took home $112,000. Th at win changed everything. Not only did he put some money in his pocket, he got to win with Allen Stuart – the man who would ultimately hire Shane to fish tournaments in Cabo and the Gulf Coast.
“When you win a big tournament like that, especially at 17… I was just high on life,” Shane says. Later that year Shane fished the Bisbee with Allen on the 61-foot C-Ya. They caught a couple small fish and didn’t place in the money but it was the same year that the crew on Bad Company won $3.9 million. “It was exciting to be around that kind of money,” Shane says. And seeing that crew accept that big check put an image in Shane’s mind of what he wanted to achieve as a captain. He didn’t wait long and got his captain’s license when he turned 18.
In 2007, Stuart bought the Five Star, a beautiful 1979, 43-foot Merritt stationed in Kona and named it the Strong Persuader. Aussie captain Craig Denham ran it and Shane worked under him and would fill in when Denham was gone. Before long, Shane was running the boat full time. “I’d decided I wanted to be a captain after I met my boss and knew there was longevity with him,” Shane says. “So many guys blaze in, fish one or two years and get out. With Allen, as far as fishing goes, he truly enjoys it.
He’s not doing it for the glory, or fame. He has a good time and has traveled the world.” For the first few years running the boat in Kona, Shane would fish with Allen three to four weeks straight in June and July. “We’d go hard,” he says. “We’d be the first to leave and come back after everybody was in. We’d stay out on the grounds overnight to get more fishing time in.” Their drive paid off. Shane and Allen won the second tournament they fished that year, the Skins, and took home $130,000. “As a brand new captain, it was exciting. It gave me a lot of drive,” Shane says. The operation expanded. Allen added the Wild Hooker, a 61-foot Blackwell stationed in Cabo and a second Wild Hooker, a 68 Blackwell to fish the Gulf of Mexico tournament circuit. They were soon fishing 10 to 14 events each year.
They’d start pre-fishing the Gulf in April and May to get ready for the tournaments in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and the Florida Panhandle. When those tournaments were done, they’d park the boat, fly to Hawaii
and fish four or five more events including the World Cup. Then it was back to the Gulf for late July. Sometimes they’d add in some Texas tournaments. Then off to Baja for the Bisbee’s and Los Cabos. That’s a lot of water and a lot of different styles of fishing.
“Live-baiting is pretty familiar to me, growing up in Hawaii,” Shane says. “The biggest difference is navigating the Gulf. We’d run 300 miles one way to fish these rigs in the middle of the Gulf. Then we’d go back to Hawaii where you might put the lures in one mile offshore. You’re always adapting but it’s the same core principles. Current, water temperature and structure and the basic ingredients for blue marlin. Then you put a few twists on it by networking with local boats.” Fishing in the Gulf can be excellent, but it’s a lot of effort and a lot of fuel. Shane says it wasn’t uncommon for them to burn 3,400 gallons a trip.
Like any good captain, a large portion of Shane’s responsibility takes place below the waterline. Fixing systems, updating electronics and when you have an old Merritt, a lot of varnish work. Being from Hawaii, where there is not an abundance of tradesmen around, you have to learn how to care for your boats yourself. That’s something he learned from his father – and the many other top captains in Kona. “All of the guys out here
are so good, and almost all of them helped me,” he says. “They’re always open with information, always answering questions. A lot of the captains here feel like my uncles.”
Shane’s boss just sold the 61 Blackwell and moved the 68 down to Cabo so the operation is purely Pacific now, but he’s still fishing the Gulf on friends’ boats. It’s hard to resist the opportunity to add some more trophies and dollar signs to the $2.7 million he’s already been a part of in his young career.
A young captain with an impressive tournament resume, Shane O’Brien is a name to remember.
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.”
Captain Jason Holtz gave InTheBite a full tour of the customized 54′ Pursuit from Scarborough Boatworks in North Carolina. The Pursuit is headed to Kona, Hawaii.
By Capt. Jody Bright
March and April have long been hailed as “big fish months” in Kona, and indeed, there have been some very nice ones of late. We counted 31 blue marlin over 500 pounds in March and April. Here is the catch report from the Kona charter fleet – at least the ones we know of:
In the first week of March, Capt. B.T. of Melee Sport Fishing reports that a skiff released a marlin “about 800 pounds after it burned up their electric reel! 600 pounders were reported on Huntress and Jun Ken Po.
The largest blue marlin weighed in early March was a 713 pounder caught on Ihu Nui with Capt. McGrew Rice and the Clarence Clemons of the Cockpit, Carlton Arai.
On March 11, the High Noon caught a 670 pounder to back up a 642 they weighed in February. They are also reported to have broken off a fish that could have been 800 pounds.
Capt. Gene Vanderhoek went out holoholo on March 13 to train a new crew and ended up catching his old crew – 72 year old Skip Dasher – the largest fish of his angling career, a 708 pound blue. Dasher and company subdued their catch in a quick fifteen minutes.
Gene’s “crewman in training”, Brett Mowens, also caught a blue they tagged at 500+. They were back at the dock by 1:00 pm. Now that is a mighty fine busman’s holiday!
On March 14, Capt. Chad Contessa on a Bite Me boat weighed a 596 pound blue on Bite Me 1 after it arrived at the boat DOA.
Based on an informal phone survey, additional nice ones tagged recently include a 650+ released by Humdinger with Capt. Jeff Fay at the wheel. Marlin Magic II released one they called 550+ and Kona Blue released one about 500 pounds and pulled hook on another, also about 500. Nasty Habit also released one that they called 500.
EZ Pickens has been fishing with owners Brad and Vicky Picking every Saturday and Sunday since December. Up until last weekend they averaged one blue a day for a total of 25 blues so far, as well as lots of stripes and spearfish. Their largest to date was in the 500 pound range, tagged and released. In big game fishing, no hot streak lasts forever and last weekend they finally experienced a fishless day.
March 20: Linda Sue weighed a 722 pounder overtaking Ihu Nui in the top position of the Big Fish List. Foxy Lady tagged a 500 pounder.
A few fish under 400 rose on the 21st, Hula Girl caught one about 450 but Sea Genie II would start the 22nd as the pole sitter after tagging a 600 pound blue.
On Friday March 22nd, Night Runner had the “encounter of the week” when they swung and missed a few times at a marlin the experienced skipper and crew both said was the largest either have ever seen.
Huntress tagged two on the 22nd to top singles around the fleet. March 23rd was a “big fish day.” Marlin Magic II tagged one over 500, another at 375 – and also pulled hook on another 500 and one they called 650! Foxy Lady caught a youngster a 492 pound blue.
Honey returned from an overnighter on March 24 with 12 big ahi.
March 25 saw Maverick tag one and set it free, calling it 500 pounds. Hooked Up tagged and blue and two stripeys that day, which sounded like a January report. Waiopai almost got their “Kona Slam” with a nice blue and a stripey but when the spearfish they hooked came unhooked, that was all she wrote.
The next day, Waiopai got even with the billfish gods and caught, tagged and released a blue they called 650, telling it to come back during a tournament.
Northern Lights had the next “encounter of the week” on the 27th., while out holoho, whale watching and relaxing. According to the story posted on the new Facebook page Kona Marlin Report, their relaxation was shattered by a marlin that exceeded all the superlatives usually used such as “monster” or “biggest ever seen” and “giant”. You get the picture. We aren’t talking first timers or novices here, either. These are veterans “to da max” to throw in just one more superlative.
Hooked Up tagged a 450 on March 29 and on March 30 Marlin Magic II was back in the news with two blues tagged, one about 275 and one they estimated to be 575.
No “granders” yet, but that was a total of 20 blues over 500 pounds caught in March alone.
There were some real nice fish caught in April too, and a lot of days where boats caught multiple marlin and multiple species as well. Again, check the Kona Marlin Report page on Facebook for up to the minute catch logs.
Between April 2 and April 5 marlin in the 600 pound class were caught by Pair O Dice, Sapo, Honey and Maverick.
The charter boat Melee had an interesting day on the 9th of April going 1/3, tagging a 700 pound blue. The two they lost were also hefty, estimated at 500+ and 700+.
Blue Hawaii had what they called a 500 pounder expire on them and when they weighed it, the tally was 497. That’s real close to 500!
On April 12, a noteworthy report came in from a skiff. They went 4/8 on marlin, with the largest over 500 pounds.
Multiple catches were logged through all phases of the April moon and some of the reports have been pretty spectacular.
Melee went 3 for 6 on blues on April 14, the same day Humdinger caught 3 blues as well. The next day, Kona Blue caught 4 striped marlin.
Night Runner caught a blue, a spearfish and a sailfish on April 14 and backed that up with a sailfish on April 19 and 20th. Sails are rare in Kona, so they must have found one of those famous secret spots without a name.
Capt. Jeff Fay has been quoted (tongue in cheek) to say that there are few sailfish in calm Kona because there is not enough wind. This might be the reason why Kona is not a sail boaters mecca, but that’s a “Fay-ism” when it comes to sailfish. Truth be told, sailfish are usually a Continental inhabitant, preferring shallow water, the one thing Kona is lacking that actually makes a difference.
Honey went 3 for 4 on blue marlin and 1/1 on striped marlin on April 20, evidence that the full moon does not always dampen the marlin bite.
If that didn’t make you a believer, you would have no choice but to pay attention when Humdinger caught 2 blues, 6 striped marlin and a spearfish, all on April 21 when the moon was bright.
Rounding the turn into the third quarter moon phase, the bite has even gotten better! Anxious went 3 for 3 on blues on April 25, with the largest a healthy 600 pounder.
April 26 was a banner day with Tropical Sun going 3 for 4 on blues with one spearfish and Go Get Em went 3 for 4 on blues AND 3 for 4 on spearfish. J.R.’s Hooker was 2 for 2 on blues as was Waiopai.
The second half of April has produced four more marlin over 500 pounds, a 682 pounder on Bite Me 6 that was brought in because it would not revive at boat side, the largest fish weighed in April – so far.
Bite Me 3 released one they called 600 on April 26, and putting icing on the cake, Pursuit tagged a very thick 800 pounder, fishing one of Kona’s famous fishing spots – “the trail run.”
Melee closed out April going 1 out of 2 bites, catching a 700 pounder and losing a 700 pounder.
So, when wrapping up the month of April, it appears that two more fish over 500 were caught on the waxing first quarter than the waning third quarter. In March, there were more blues caught over 500 than in April, but there was no discernable pattern relative to moon phase. In March the biggest fish so far (722) was caught on the full moon, but in April there were no big ones caught on the full moon. There was action in the moonlight though, and a number of boats caught multiples on a few big moon days.
So, which moon phase is best? Does the moon phase even matter?
People are always trying to figure out when the best fishing occurs. Is it the moon or is it the tide? Could it be the current, or is ocean surface temperature the key? Perhaps, as my grandmother used to say, it’s just the way you hold your mouth.
For those who can contemplate more complex theories, the idea that the best fishing is created by some combination of these elements can have them contemplating complexities, all the live long day.
The fact of the matter is that none of those items contribute to fishing success if there are no fish in the area. Yes, current can cause them to gather in an area but you can have good current and no fish. You just can’t catch fish that are somewhere you are not. And that does happen. Sometimes the fish are just gone. Obviously, that is not the case in Kona, at present.
Once they move in, like now, then those elements may come in to play. Marlin tend to bite around a tide change, but even that is not set in stone. As Capt. Tomo Rogers once said, “If I thought that the only time I had a chance at getting a bite was during the tide change, I’d only fish during the tide change, but I don’t. So, what does that tell you?”
On top of that, the phase of the moon has not seemed to have had much effect on the bite this April, because the fish have been biting throughout the lunar cycle. If one was so inclined, contemplating this complexity could make a live long day drag on forever, if it weren’t for the distraction of all those marlin bites.
The other bottom line is you can’t catch em if you don’t go, so stop wishing and go fishing! No better time then now, by the looks of it.
If you can’t jump a plane now, tournament season starts in June. There are 7 tourneys in the Hawaii Marlin Tournament Series and an entry fee and format for every style of angler. Events are open to everyone and no experience is required because Kona’s pro charter fleet teaches novices to catch marlin 365 days a year. If you are experienced, better yet!
For more information log on: https://konatournaments.com/
Or Write: email@example.com – 808.557.0908
The great early fishing in Hawaii in 2019 could be a primer for a wide open tournament season this summer. Check the updates on Hawaii’s tournaments in the 2019 Hawaii Division of the Captain of the Year, presented by Sea Genie II! First tournament event is in June, check back at InTheBite for standings and updates. There are also charter spots available for tournament anglers should you like to fish the tournaments yourself.
ITB-Digital contributor Michael Marks of Hawaii was nice enough to write out an account of an epic, unexpected run in with a pack of ravenous bigeye. Check it out… Thanks for the story Michael and keep em coming!
By Michael Marks
The anticipation had been building for a few weeks as a plan was hatched, and the moving parts all started to come together. The crew was solid and consisted of Captain Cyrus Widhalm, part owner of Honey – a beautiful custom 40-foot Buddy Davis, co-owner of Honey Mark Rodrigues, deckhand extraordinaire Nick Watson, owner of the tournament winning El Jobean, Larry Peardon, Brian Cibulka, owner of Relentless and yours truly.
The 4:30 wake up and raw anticipation that comes with the pre-dawn loading up of the boat for a 2-day-overnight trip down to South Point had peaked at about 6 am….and slowly given way to a lot of blue water and zero action.
The opelu at the secret submerged bait buoy were essentially unattainable. They were everywhere, but getting decimated by predators as soon as they bit. An hour and change of work turned into two measly baits.
We resorted to running south for a bit and jumped into ono lane. The run proved to be scenic and beautiful as we skirted alongside the prehistoric looking cliff filled shoreline, but the onos refused to play ball as well. Four hours and not a touch.
As we continued to push south, Captain Cyrus made the call to head outside to “B” buoy. There were some skiffs around, scattered birds and little tunas breaking water occasionally. The general liveliness of the area gave us renewed hope.
We busted out the small gear, rustled up a 4-5-pound aku (skipjack) for bait, bridled it up along with an opelu and sent them back out for a swim. The fish finder showed some serious signs of life. Consistent stacks of medium sized marks down deep that looked like potential tuna, and some big solo marks that looked the part of marlin.
We worked the area. Hard. And after a few hours, and a number of tricky tactics to get the opelu down deep and face to face with the tuna when we marked them, we had nothing to show for it.
The excitement we had first thing in the morning pretty much left us. Frosty IPAs and an assortment of other adult beverages were the only things driving the positivity at this point. All of the other skiffs that were dropping bait at the buoy for tunas seemed to be striking out as well, but Captain Cyrus was convinced that there was just too darn much life underneath us for nothing to happen. Finally, after a number of hours turning fruitless laps around the buoy, he finally proved to be right!
Out of nowhere, a blue marlin showed up directly behind the boat. I mean directly in the props, lit up bright blue and trying to put his bill in the exhaust pipe. Captain and deck hand Nick quietly slid down from the bridge trying not to spook the fish and brought the baits right to it. It turned, ate the port side bait, and then spit it back at us as soon as he felt any pressure, and promptly left. SHIT! Now we had proof there were hungry fish around, but it definitely stung to see one just feet behind the transom and not get bit. [Read more…]
Trouble Maker out of Kona, HI wins the 2018 Blue Marlin World Cup
148 boats participated in the 2018 blue marlin World Cup. Boats started fishing in Papa New Guinea and the Gold Coast of Australia on the afternoon of July 3rd Eastern Time Zone. As time passed across the globe, boats continued to fish. A fleet of 38 boats in Bermuda catching and releasing 26 blue marlins that did not meet the minimum weight of 500 pounds. The World Cup also had a new record of 25 boats fishing the Gulf of Mexico
Nearly 26 hours after the first boat wet their lines in Australia, The Trouble Maker out of Kona Hawaii called in their hook up at just after 6 PM Eastern time. With many boats catching and releasing small blue Marlin the Trouble Maker continued to fight for over 2 1/2 hours until they boated a blue marlin that measured 120 inches with a 64-inch girth. At approximately 9:30 pm Eastern Time Trouble Maker’s blue marlin weighed in at 760.5 pounds.
Trouble Maker’s blue marlin was the only qualifying blue marlin weighed in this year’s tournament. They won the tournament cash plus the optional Big Blue Challenge, making it just over a $1 million payday and bringing the World Cup title back to Kona, HI
The Blue Marlin World Cup is a one-day shootout held on July 4 each year. Blue marlin are the only eligible species, with a required minimum of 500 pounds, in a winner-take-all format. Teams fish from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. in their respective time zones around the world, producing a very exciting event that has attracted a tremendous following on social media.
Tournament director, Robert “Fly” Navarro, says the World Cup team is already planning for a bigger and better tournament next year. Note the date on your calendar, and sign up early to match your blue marlin fishing skills against the rest of the world.
Since the beginning of the year, the fishing off Kona has been as red hot as the lava flowing 100-miles away on the other side of the island. With the upcoming tournament season approaching, including the infamous World Cup, it’s worth noting that the 500-pound plus blue marlin bite off Kona has been off the charts.
As a dedicated professional fisherman, working the deck on the 47- Cabo Nasty Habit, and writer for West Hawaii’s local paper, I have documented the blue marlin catches of this amazing fishery and challenge any fishery in the world to match the numbers of blue marlin that have been caught or tagged and released since the first of January to May 26, 2018. The numbers of big blues are staggering, and Kona should certainly be considered as a tournament destination by anyone interested in world-class blue marlin tournament fishing, especially the World Cup.
From New Year’s Day to May 26, 2018, anglers fishing Kona’s calm waters have reeled in and either caught or tagged and released a total of 59 blue marlin over 500-pounds. Of those 59 blue marlin, 12 were between 700-800-pounds, 21 were between 600-700-pounds, and 26 were between 500-600-pounds. Worth noting is, these are only the fish that are reported or that I know about from working on the docks. Many private and commercial boats do not report their big blue releases or catches to the Honokohau Charter Desk or the paper.
On top of that, in the past two months, two granders eluded capture when leaders broke on both fish when they were next to the boat. I have seen both pictures and videos of the two fish, and both would have easily gone over the mark. That’s just the big fish too! The numbers for blue marlin under 500-pounds that were caught or tagged and released during this same time frame is in the hundreds.
We have a saying in Kona that these numbers exemplify. When someone asks “when’s the best time to fish Kona?” The answer is “whenever you can”
Aloha, Mark Johnston
Earlier this month sportfishing legend Capt. Bart “Black Bart” Miller passed away. Bart leaves behind a lure company bearing his name and a list of marlin fishing feats that will likely never be duplicated. Miller was a veritable legend in the sportfishing industry and his passing was met with sadness from the many whose lives he touched. InTheBite is proud to have published some of Miller’s perspective. Here, from the archives, is one such piece. Rest in Peace Capt. Bart Miller.
There is a gofundme account set up to help Miller’s family with costs associated with his medical care. Should you wish to contribute, it would be greatly appreciated by those who feel his loss most directly. https://www.gofundme.com/captbartmiller
Color–does it matter?
By Captain Bart Miller
This age old question may never be answered scientifically, as it is far too subjective & intermingled with personal superstitions & general preference for one color versus another.
For example, nearly all men like the colors blue, black, white, purple, silver, green and gold. Is it any wonder that these very same colors are popular when choosing fishing lures and skirt combinations?
It is also apparent that fishing destinations have dominant color choices that are shared by the vast majority of captains & crew’s; Green in the canyons, blue & white in the Carolina’s, blue & pink in Hawaii, black & purple in the Bahamas, petrolero brown, silver, black & orange in Mexico etc… Many of these color combinations, while proven in one area, can also work well away from home.
When I first started trolling in Hawaii, there weren’t a lot of choices. I used a white plastic outer skirt, and later, white strip skirts with either black or a rusty red rubber inner skirt. These base colors, while very plain, worked just fine; but no one seemingly trusts such a limited selection of color options these days.
Fishermen world wide have their special color favorites which become trusted standbys, each earning their place in the spread, whether in tournament competition or just out for a friendly troll. So it really boils down to what you truly trust and are comfortable trolling vs. some unknown combination that leaves you with a measure of negative feelings.
So did vast color options become the fashion because they are now so readily available or because they really make a difference? My first thought was that the action of the lure superceded color importance, and later I began to value the concept of incorporating the use of proven color combinations.
Years ago, I tried something I had never tried before. I called this combination the invisible man. I poured a clear head with no color and no insert, then I skirted this clear head with clear skirts. Once deployed into the water, you could see motion, but not shape or color. This no-color lure is once again a part of my arsenal today and proves the age-old adage that color really matters in the eye of the beholder.
Marlin are now believed to see certain colors where once they were considered to be colorblind. Two theories come to mind as being valid in determining your final color selection and they would be to “Match the Hatch” and to consider having the proverbial oddball combo in the spread.
In conclusion, my favorite colors would be Pearl shell heads because they match all skirt combos, and my favorite skirt combinations would be, black & pink, black & purple, blue & pink, black & rainbow, blue & white, and pink & red. Sometimes I go beyond that color palate but not very often!
Great fishing, Aloha
Captain Bart Miller