The Bright Side: Another mystery at sea

What started out last November as a good winter run of marlin continues now, defying preconceptions and exceptions. Still going strong in March, this run officially qualifies now as fishing “event,” if there is anyone to actually “officialize” such things.

On Friday, March 4, seven marlin 500 pounds or better were reported, with three weighed and four caught and released. Two marlin were weighed after they did not survive release – one was 501 pounds on Mauna Kea and the other 657 from the new Marlin Magic. Of the marlin released, two were called 550 pounds and the other two were let go at 650 apiece.

The largest on Friday weighed 798 pounds and it was captured on a small skiff, which is pretty common around here. What is uncommon is that this “catch” began when the crew of the “Lolo Malolo” spotted something on the surface that captain Paul Gouveia thought was a capsized boat.

Because they were six miles offshore and about eight miles south of town, if something bad happened someone may have needed help, or at least someone to report an accident. He steered the “Lolo Malolo” to have a closer look. When they trolled over to the object they were surprised to discover that it was not a boat – it was a marlin. A big marlin. So big that It was about the same size as his boat. What he thought was the leg of a small outboard motor was actually a very long tail fin sticking high out of the water.

The huge fish was near death, and appeared injured. The belly was slit, and some innards could be seen. However, there were no sharks around and it had the color of a live marlin. What ever had happened, happened recently.

After pulling in all of their lines, they eased up to it, but the fish did not spook. In fact, the fish was so docile that it barely twitched. Once up close, they marveled at the spectacle while also trying to figure out what was going on. When they got close enough to touch it, the fish did not respond, so the decision was made to bring it to the boat and see if they should take it in, or not.

Determining that the fish was very fresh, they decided that it should not be wasted to sharks, and a conversation ensued, hashing out options on what to do about it. Paul Hofflich, an avid spear fisherman, grabbed his gun and planted a spear in the head of the marlin from a short distance, wondering what would happen next.

Nothing happened next. Whatever twitch they might have seen was its last. The fish was done for. So, they pulled it up along side the boat and continued with their “Now what?” discussion.

Eventually they ran a flying gaff through the mouth and out the gils, cinched it secure to the fish and then to the bow of the boat, pulling the head out of the water. Next they got a line around the tail, cleated it off, and off they went. Well, maybe not so fast.

Getting a fish as big as his boat back to the dock took some doing, according to Paul. “We had to make some adjustments to our program, a few times. At first, the tail was so far back that it looked like it was going to get into the propeller, so we had to man handle the head further forward and further out of the water. Then, we tried to go home at trolling speed and keep fishing, but the fish was beating on the side of the boat. We had to adjust again so the boat didn’t get damaged. Along the way, the fish would shift a bit because of the waves and speed, but we worked it out, and got it back to the fuel dock to weigh. We really didn’t know how big it was while on the ocean, but when it weighed 789 pounds, we weren’t surprised.”

In the end, they made the right move and the fish was not wasted on sharks. It was cut up and hauled over to Hilo, where it became people food. No one could ever figure out what caused the fish to die though, nor why its belly was slit. Swordfish do get caught here in spring, but a swordfish slashing a marlin is only a little more likely than Norman Bates with a Bowie knife.

There may have been so many fish around that day, things got competitive. No one will ever know.

For weeks now, at least one marlin 500 pounds or better seems to have been caught daily along the Kona Coast. Beast Mode went three for four one day last week, with the largest called 650. Marlin Magic caught another nice one they called 600, a week ago last Monday. Tuesday, Sweet Sadie let one go at 600 and Last Chance went three for five.

Wednesday Marlin Magic got another 600 plus. Thursday Camelot edged out Lolo Malolo with a 799 pounder. On the same day, Bite Me II let one go in the 500-pound class. Friday young Jack Leverone caught a “Kona Slam” which is a blue marlin, striped marlin and a spearfish, all in the same day.

A look at the SeaView current charts doesn’t lend credence to any of the usual reasons why fishing turns on around here. According to HYCOM, currents last week were actually backwards from what most veteran skippers want to see. As with the marlin mystery, no one seems to be able to say for certain what is going on or why.

However, in an unusual sign of harmony, all the charter captains agree, “We’ll take it!”

Having landed the second biggest fish of the week and the oddest story of maybe forever, Capt. Paul Gouveia was quick to agree, “It’s not everyday you find an 800-pound blue marlin upside down on the surface!”

We’ll take it, indeed.

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