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Marlin on Spin in Kona Fishing Report - September 01, 2015

Date of trip: September 01, 2015
Posted September 01, 2015 by FishTrack Member
  • The four anglers who hooked up a blue marlin on a spinning rod - Luke Groesbeek, Trevor Long, Brian Hodgens and Justin McCain – high school buddies on vacation, together. 1 of 3
  • The largest ahi weighed at The Charter Desk last week was this 181-pound yellowfin boated by Muhammad Mansoury while fishing with Capt. Bobby Cherry aboard Cherry Pit II. Photo courtesy of The Charter Desk. 2 of 3
  • Capt. Shawn Rotella says the biggest marlin he ever saw tried to devour this 90-pound tuna as it was being pulled in by a client aboard the boat Night Runner. Photo courtesy of Night Runner Sport Fishing. 3 of 3
For long stretches of the year, the billfish report was dominated by 100- to 300-pound blue marlin. Female blues grow much bigger than males, which rarely top 300 pounds, so the catch has been predominatly fully mature males. When few, if any, big females were showing up in the weekly catch, the big question was “Where are the big girls?”

One possible answer? They were here but the smaller males were quicker to get to the lures and get hooked. Not much chivalry involved when it comes to which billfish gets a bellyful. And just because of the hit-or-miss nature of spawning behavior, the ratio of males to females is usually at least 3 or 4 to 1.

Last Wednesday’s 1,309-pound blue marlin on Northern Lights I provides a case in point. By the time the big fish showed up in the wake, the lucky lads on the classic 37-foot Merritt had already tagged and released two smaller blues. In fact, they were fighting a third small blue when they spotted the giant following the teaser, according to skipper Mat Bowman.

Mat and crew Kyle Vannatta could see the dark shape clearly in the flat-calm waters of a sunny mid-day off Hookena. They had both been on deck aboard Northern Lights II, a 47-foot Buddy Davis, with Capt. Kevin Nakamaru the week before when the trio found a 1075-pound blue for angler Brent Nelson. From their recent experience with a “grander,” they knew what a big fish looked like in the water. They hazarded a guess at 700 pounds or more, which was enough to make them want to go for it even with another marlin on the line.

“We knew it was big, but not that big,” Mat said.

So Mat kept Northern Lights in gear to keep the teaser and lures alive as they fought the hooked marlin. At the right moment, Kyle yanked the teaser away from the big girl, wound the long corner line down from the rigger clip and reeled it rapidly within range of the excited fish. The 1,309-pounder grabbed the lure (an LG Koya Poi Dog) and took off.

With the big fish on, they quickly brought the smaller one to the boat and released it to concentrate on going after Kona’s second grander in 8 days.

Angler Michael Bilich’s previous experience with a battling billfish was one of the smaller males his party had hooked a few hours earlier. Even so, he got into the rythmn and eventually worked the marlin to the boat in about two and a half hours.

Eventually, it came pinwheeling up out of the depths into view and got squirrelly toward the end, but Mat and Kyle had been through this before. Kyle had gaffed the 1075 after Mat took the leader and now they reversed roles. Kyle handled the leader and Mat the gaff.

By now, the word of another giant catch had spread through the fleet, and other boats came in close to watch them pull the fish through the transom door.

With the fish secured, Mat and Kyle tried to answer the flood of questions asking for a size estimate. Mat measured the “short length” (tip of lower jaw to fork of tail) and came up with an unbelievable 154 inches. He was sure that had to be wrong because it was unheard of. The girth of the tail stump was only 19.5 inches, which is consistent with a 950-pound blue. So Mat ventured a safer call at 151 inches. The girth was even harder to get because you can only tape halfway around and double it. At that point, he was going to call it anything but “at least 6 feet around.” Those modest numbers conformed with the 19.5-inch tail for an onboard estimate of under 1,000 pounds.

“Better to guess it low and be surprised than the other way around,” Mat said.

No worries about getting the guess right, of course, because the scale would settle the matter at a very impressive 1,309 pounds.

It’s the third Kona grander of 2015 caught on a Koya lure, which put a huge smile on the face of Kona luremaker Eric Koyanagi. The action happened along the 600-fathom edge off Hookena. The lure was rigged with a single hook, not the more traditional tandem pair. Single hooks make it easier to release fish. When you see the catch report for the week, you’ll note that all other marlin on the list were released.

Are there more big fish around? Indeed, there are some that maybe bigger.

Aboard Night Runner on Friday, skipper Shawn Rotella and his crew were hauling in a 90-pound ahi when another giant blue eyed their 4-foot long tuna like it was a candy bar. “It was the biggest blue marlin I’ve even known to exist,” Shawn said. “It tried to eat the 90-pounder at the back of our boat. The scared tuna made for an easy gaff shot when it came to us to hide from the sea creature trying to eat it.”

Maybe that’s the answer for separating the girls from the boys — just put out a big enough bait.


In recent reports we’ve been concentrating on stories about super-sized marlin because there have been stories about super-sized marlin, and that isn’t always the case. But the bread-and-butter fishing fun off the Kona Coast is the chance to use a variety of methods to catch fish of all sizes and types.

The guys on the charterboat Ohana have been making a lot of their charters happy this year by using spinning tackle and popping lures to catch tuna around FADs and floaters. This is a special challenge because the anglers have the tackle in their hands and work the poppers on the surface as they watch for the explosion of a big fish crashing the small lure.

Sometimes a bigger fish interupts the game plan. Back in February, an Ohana client hooked a tuna on his spinning gear and then watched it get eaten by a man-sized marlin. The marlin took off with the tuna, jumped a half-dozen times and then spit it out. That’s usually the end result in most such bandit attacks.

On Friday, Capt. Chris had a party of high school friends aboard Ohana to pop for tuna gathered near the “pipe” FAD. For reasons to become known, the tuna weren’t responding eagerly to the loud pops and splashes of the “Roosta” plug, so Chris told them to reel the poppers in so they could try a new place.

“Just bring ‘em in,” Chris said, but a 200-pound marlin had other ideas. It picked the popper off the surface and took off. The marlin is very likely to be the reason the tuna were in hiding, by the way.

A marlin on spinning tackle attached to a lure with treble hooks — well that is almost always going to be a quick fight until the flimsy hook opens up and releases the fish.

Not this time. The marlin stayed hooked for nearly two hours as the friends took turns trying to pull it in. Capt. Chris says the fish took them through two rounds while they fought it from the pipe down the coast to a spot off Kaiwi.

Finally, they got the 22-foot long wind-on leader in hand and were able to call it a catch and release the hooks.

“I never thought we would be able to release that fish alive after that long a fight,” Capt. Chris said. “But it swam away as though nothing had happened.”

Also released alive were high school friends and drinking buddies Luke Groesbeek, Trevor Long, Brian Hodgens and Justin McCain.

The lure, by the way, was a Halco Roosta Popper, which is better known as a great shore-casting lure for GT. And as any GT fisherman will tell you, if it can handle an ulua it can handle anything.

Beast of the week. Note also the estimated 500-pounder on Blue Hawaii and 750 on Lady.

August 26: Blue marlin (1309) Michael Bilich, Capt. Mat Bowman, Northern Lights

Tag and Release

August 23: Blue marlin (185) Jack Licher, Capt. Paul Cantor, Silver Star
August 23: Blue marlin (150) Jada Holt, Capt. Chip Van Mols, Luna
August 23: Blue marlin (175) Mike Jacobsen, Capt. James Dean, Blue Hawaii
August 23: Blue marlin (350) Gene Erzinger, Capt. Andrew Peterson, High Noon
August 23: Blue marlin (200) Mike Kehoe, Capt. Gene Vanderhoek, Sea Genie II
August 23: Blue marlin (175) Mike Shimamoto, Capt. Carlton Taniyama, Five Star
August 24: Blue marlin (180) Charles Armistead, (450) Nancy Armistead, Capt. McGrew Rice, Ihu Nui
August 25: Blue marlin (175) Jeff Hardie, Capt. John Bagwell, Silky
August 26: Blue marlin (150) Casey Singleton, Capt. David Crawford, Kona Blue
August 26: Blue marlin (175) Stretch Fogarty, Capt. Kenny Fogarty, Makana Lani
August 26: Blue marlin (150) Carol Herren, Capt. Bruce Herren, Raptor
August 27: Blue marlin (500) Bob Shanahan, (200) Kyle Smith, Capt. James Dean, Blue Hawaii
August 27: Blue marlin (170) Pat Tooley, Capt. Marlin Parker, Marlin Magic II
August 28: Blue marlin (200) Brian Hodgens, Capt. Chris Cawthorn, Ohana
August 28: Blue marlin (150) Ray Chakti, (150) Ana Chakti, Capt. Steve Epstein, Huntress
August 28: Blue marlin (750) Pat Brian, Capt. Mike Holtz, Lady
August 28: Blue marlin (170) TJ Rosengarth, (150) Grady Mulbery, Capt. Marlin Parker, Marlin Magic II
August 28: Striped marlin (70 and 70), unknown, Capt. Shawn Rotella, Night Runner.
August 29: Blue marlin (200) John Glen, Capt. David Crawford, Kona Blue
August 29: Blue marlin (200) Coi Erdmann, Capt. James Dean, Blue Hawaii
August 29: Spearfish (30) Jill Caitlin, Capt. Neil Isaacs, Anxious

Report by Jim Rizzuto

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