Kona Deep Sea Fishing and Mounting Your Trophy Fish

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Ernest Hemingway's Visit to Kona

Posted June 20, 2017

Before the United States had been engaged in World War 2, famous writer Ernest Hemingway made a journey to Kona. He was on honeymoon with Martha Gellhorn (his third of eventually four wives). The International Game Fish Association (IGFA) was just starting out.

Hemingway was asked to verify a catch for the IGFA that had been made in Kona. It was an 815 pound blue marlin. Back then, blue marlin in Hawaii was called black marlin. Robert Clapp had chartered IGFA member Charlie Finlayson's boat and caught the fish.

Hemingway could never entirely verify the catch – only the head and tail remained of it. Yet it was large enough for Hemingway to decide to head out to Kona and talk to Finlayson himself. They rolled some other activities into their Kona detour: including fishing, hiking, and sheep-hunting.

When Hemingway talked to Finlayson, he was introduced to the contraption Finlayson had used to catch his marlin. It was a chair like a rower's, designed to slide forward along wheels in tracks. A deckhand would then slide the chair back for the angler, doing some of the hardest work.

This incensed Hemingway, who wrote to the IGFA and insisted any fish caught this way could hold no record. He complained that it gave the angler an unfair advantage and required the deckhand to do the real work of, essentially, hauling the angler's body and chair back.

Of course, back then Hemingway didn't enjoy fighting chairs with a bucket seat and harness either. One has to wonder what he would've thought of how we sport fish now. At least it doesn't require a deckhand to physically pull you back.

We have to wonder if there's an alternate reality out there where Finlayson's chair took off, and sport

Ideal Conditions for Big Game Fishing in Hawaii

Posted June 20, 2017

There are a number of unique conditions that make the Kona Coast ideal for big game fishing tournaments in Hawaii. When you think of big game fishing, you'll often think of nasty ocean conditions, big waves, and tumultuous weather. This can make the job of actually catching and hauling in big game fish much more difficult.

1. The temperatures in Hawaii are always fairly moderate. The state of Hawaii has never even recorded a temperature above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. This always surprises people because we're the southernmost state, but the amount of water surrounding the islands keeps temperatures moderated.

This is what's called ocean-effect. Water absorbs extremes of heat and cold, creating a sort of opposite effect to what's happening on land. There are no big land masses to radiate day heat either, meaning there's no coastal heat extending far out into the ocean. This means we'll usually be catching fish in temperatures from the 70s to the 90s, even during the summer. That's pretty ideal for big game that can take two hours-plus to catch.

2. We do have some great big mountains and volcanoes. These do a lot to shelter the surrounding seas from the Pacific trade winds. These mountains cast a sort of invisible shadow of calmer weather by blocking and slowing winds that would otherwise roil up the seas. The Kona coast is leeward of one of Hawaii's most famous mountains. This can make for big game fishing unlike anywhere else.

3. We don't have to go far for our catch. It's calmer near the coast, and Hawaii's sea floor drops off very quickly and very steeply. This allows for big game fish as close as a quarter mile from shore. Thousand pound marlin are regularly caught in the 2-to-5 mile range. This means we don't have to head out far into the ocean in order to find big game fish.

Big game fishing tournaments in Hawaii are unique because they can take place in such calm, ideal conditions. It allows anglers to focus on the hunt in conditions that don't tax them.

A Unique Fishing Find: The Phantom of the Opah

Posted June 18, 2017

What is an opah? You may not have heard of this fish, even by its others names such as moonfish and sunfish. It's an unbelievable looking fish, often just about as tall as it is long. It's not very wide, though – it's compressed almost like a disc.

A Bright, Weird Oddity

Opah in Hawaii look exotic and usually sport very bright colors. One thing that makes opah stand out from other fish is that it's one of a very short list of regionally endothermic fish. This means that it has some ability to regulate its own temperature. Its heart can warm its blood, which goes to the gills and warms the veins there. It also has layers of fat to insulate the heart, which makes it easier for the warm heart to heat blood as it travels through. This doesn't exactly make the opah warm-blooded like mammals and birds, but it makes them different from other cold-blooded fish that have no ability to control their temperature internally.

For such a strange-looking, disc-like fish, you might not expect it to swim very fast. Yet opah do seem able to get to fairly high speeds. They may not be acrobatic like longer fish are, but they can be pretty strong.

Hawaii State Record

Our own Captain Dale Leverone holds the Hawaii state record for opah caught on rod and reel when he brought in a beautiful 135 pounder. It was bright red, with yellow speckling – the fish looks unreal. In fact, that day he wasn't targeting the opah, but he was excited when he brought it in. He'd admired the fish since childhood and had wanted to catch one since first arriving in Hawaii. Even though he had to contend with a hungry shark, Dale was able to haul the state record holder in.

Opah has become a very popular dish here in Hawaii. It's regularly sold in fish markets, and restaurants here have created a number of fantastic dishes involving the fish. Opah is a unique and tasty catch. Opah in Hawaii can be hard to find, but once you do, they make for a catch unlike any other.

Blue Marlin Near Hawaii Grow Big

Posted June 18, 2017

The blue marlin is one of the most coveted fishing pursuits in the world. What's the premier destination for blue marlin? Kona, of course – where more blue marlin weighing more than 1,000 pounds have been recorded than anywhere else. Our boat, the Sea Strike, even holds the 50-lb record for a 1,166 pound blue marlin. Some commercially caught blue marlin near Hawaii have exceeded 2,000 pounds.

Blue Marlin Behavior

Pacific blue marlin females can live around 30 years, while males can live around 25 years. Almost all heavier blue marlin are female, while there's evidence the males make up very few of the blue marlin that weigh more than 300 pounds.

The spear on a blue marlin's nose isn't just for show. Blue marlins are fast predators and swim quickly through schools of fish. Those hit by its spear are often stunned, allowing the marlin to circle back and eat these fish.

They typically remain near the surface where the temperature is higher. This is better suited for the blue marlin's big body. They'll dive in order to hunt, often for squid and other creatures that rarely make it toward the surface. Blue marlin are happy to eat tuna and mackerel, but their diet isn't limited to fish. Blue marlin typically count sharks as their only predators. Great whites and mako sharks will often seize upon a blue marlin from the deep.

The Joy of a Blue Marlin Catch

You can always keep your blue marlin and eat it or make a trophy of it. Also note that blue marlin catch and release is gaining in popularity, in part to keep the numbers of the beautiful fish up (blue marlin are classified as threatened). You still get the challenge and adventure of landing a gigantic blue marlin, and you get to release your foe to make more blue marlin that you and your children can come back to battle another day.

The joy of deep sea fishing for blue marlin near Hawaii is that they're such a challenge for anyone, no matter how experienced you are. You're never guaranteed of landing them, and you have to use all your expertise to do so. Nonetheless, they're good for those who are learning, too, and an experienced crew behind you always gives you a good shot.

There's More than Fish on a Hawaii Deep Sea Fishing Adventure

Posted June 12, 2017

Going deep sea fishing is about what you catch, absolutely. Yet it's about more than that. You can see a lot of other wildlife when you're out deep sea fishing in Hawaii. There are regular sightings of whales and other amazing sea life. The fish are plentiful, and there are a few extra things we'll see along the way. These are additional animals that we don't catch, but can certainly see in our journeys.

Humpback Whales are phenomenal animals. These are an endangered species that count Hawaii as one of only a handful of winter breeding areas in the world. This means their recovering numbers are plentiful in the winter here. They can live for 50 years and can grow up to 52 ft. long. They'll come near boats, but they keep enough distance to be safe for both us and them.

Dolphins are plentiful in a variety of species: rough-toothed, spinner, bottlenose, pilot whales, spotted, and even striped dolphins can be seen. They're often very social, and you can see them jump out of the water in groups called schools. We're careful about avoiding dolphins when fishing, but we love being able to appreciate their beauty and playfulness when we happen across them.

Orcas, or killer whales, are rarer but occasionally they can be spied in our adventures. There are even false killer whales that look similar, but have some tell-tale difference. We'll point them out if we see one!

Sea Turtles are also protected fiercely, as their numbers are recovering. Hawaii makes up one of the main nesting areas in the world for Green sea turtles. They're more graceful than you might imagine. Many are over a meter long.

There are many seals and other whales we might also come across. A thin stretch of ocean that surrounds the Hawaiian islands is the only habitat in the world for Hawaiian monk seals.

Whatever we come across, we can help you find it and teach you and your family about it. The ocean has many awesome sights, some we can fish, and others like those listed here that we can appreciate with our eyes and cameras and memories along the way. There's no shortage of amazing sea life off the coast of Hawaii.

Night Fishing Off the Coast of Hawaii

Posted June 12, 2017

Night fishing in Hawaii: there's nothing like it. The open ocean can be an awe inspiring place, particularly at night. The ocean feels both dangerous and serene at night, inky black yet quiet and peaceful. That is, until you hook a tuna or swordfish and start battling a creature you can barely see.

Broadbill swordfish are especially good catches at night. They're as big as marlin and they're elusive during the day. Night fishing for swordfish in Hawaii is usually best in the late spring and early summer.

Tracking at night is different – the clues you pay attention to change. Depending on what we're aiming to catch, we might bring additional supplies as well.

Some people go deep sea fishing at night in Hawaii for the unique atmosphere night fishing lends. It feels like civilization disappears out there. It's just you and the ocean. There's something primal about it.

Others enjoy the serenity of it. The open ocean's often calm at night. There's a stillness that encourages the stresses of the day to melt away.

Still more like scaring themselves by it, and feeling the rush of being on the open ocean at night. (If this is your style, we might recommend a repeat viewing of “Jaws” before you come.)

Whatever you're looking for, deep sea fishing at night in Hawaii has a way of giving it to you. You'll find that atmosphere, or calm, or thrill depending on what you're looking for. The open ocean lets you fill a lot of the blanks yourself. It's like a canvass and night fishing gives you a way to find an element of yourself you don't always give room to in your daily life. Give it a try. We're happy to take you out and show you the ropes, whatever it is you're looking for.

Looking for a Workout? We’ve Got the Fish for You

Posted May 22, 2017

If you’re looking to burn a few calories (to make room for a delicious seafood dinner – or some cold brews), work your muscles, and feel a good burn of accomplishment at the end of the day, the Sea Strike can deliver. If “relaxing” means getting a great workout – and a great fish – look no further.

Try Jigging. If you have friends who think fishing is the lazy man’s sport, take them jigging. A jig is a fishing lure that has a lead sinker with a hook. It usually has a soft covering to draw in the fish. Unlike a lure that moves across the water horizontally, the jig has a vertical, jerky motion. This style of fishing requires a lot of work.

Jigging is vigorous, and you’ll work up a sweat as you’re going for bottom fish. Monchong, for example, is a bottom fish that runs deep. But the effort is worth it: they’re delicious. Its clear white flesh is a favorite choice for sashimi, and it’s excellent grilled, broiled, baked, and sauteed.

Aim for Mahi-Mahi. This fish is more than a great entree at your favorite seafood joint. When hooked, mahi-mahi puts up a heroic fight. Reeling these 20+ pound fighters in is an exhilarating experience. The name means “strong strong” in Hawaiian – sure, they’re talking about the fish. But it’s also important that you’re “strong strong” when fishing for these acrobatic beasts.

Go Marlins! Whether you’re going for the monster blue or the spirited black or striped marlin, be prepared for a challenge. These can weigh in excess of 1000 pounds, so start building your upper body strength today. Don’t worry: an experienced captain can help you reel them in successfully.

Kona is a premier fishing destination; while here, enjoy, relax, soak in the sun. But don’t miss the chance to work for your fish. The feeling of accomplishment is second to none.

Why Should You Try Night Fishing?

Posted May 22, 2017

If you’re on the Big Island, you can’t miss Kona’s nightlife: restaurants, sunset cruises, bars, clubs … it’s paradise for night owls. But there’s something that may be even more a-LURE-ing. Night fishing. Climb aboard the Sea Strike and get the experience of a lifetime at nighttime.

Night fishing offers a host of benefits, including:
  • Bigger fish. Do you really catch bigger fish at night? It’s a theory we don’t mind testing! Given the heavy activity during the day, bigger fish – i.e. the older, more experienced fish with near-catch experiences – are more cautious. At night, they’re on the lookout for food, and this is a great opportunity to hook one. Night fishermen recently landed the year’s biggest Kona swordfish – 126 pounds of proof that night fishing can be as, or more, exciting than day fishing.
  • Less competition. At night, there are fewer lines vying for the big fish, and the small fish for that matter. There are typically fewer boats, fewer interruptions, and fewer obstacles between you and your big catch. Again, you might have a greater chance at getting the big fish you’ve been chasing. But, maybe even more importantly, you may find that that peace and quiet make the experience that much more rewarding.
  • It’s cooler. If you’ve had your fill of sun for the day, night fishing can offer a respite. It’s cooler and more refreshing out on the open water. Hawaii is always a sight to see; experiencing the beauty at night offers another perspective, and even more beauty.
  • It’s fun. As good a reason as any – and you have an excuse for a mid-day nap the next day. Night fishing is enjoyable; if you’ve never done it, it’s certainly something worth trying.
Experience Kona’s nightlife in a whole new way; fishing for trophies, or for dinner, is one of the best options out there.

Up for a Challenge? Blue Marlin Deliver

Posted May 22, 2017

Fishing is one of the most effective stress-relievers around. You can sink your cares along with your lures, and it doesn’t even matter whether or not you reel in a fish. Leisure at its finest. Or, fishing can be one of the most exhilarating experiences of your life. Your choice.

If you want to cast around for excitement, Kona is your best bet. Blue marlin love our warm waters as much as swimmers and snorkelers do, and they’ll give you a run for your money.

Kona produces more 1000+ pound blue marlin than any other fishing spot on earth. If you’re looking to break a world record, this is your destination. And, even if you don’t catch the biggest marlin ever recorded, you might just beat your personal best.

The blue marlin is one of the largest fish in the ocean; in fact, their epic size (up to 14 feet for females) has led to epic tales. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway details the battle between man and marlin. Marlins prefer warm temperatures and follow currents, dining on tuna, mackerel, and, occasionally, squid.

A prize for sports fishermen, blue marlin don’t come easy. They fight like wildcats – or like blue marlin! – when hooked. This elevates the pursuit of angling to a whole other level. An experienced captain can set you up with the best conditions to get a blue marlin on the line, and they can give you the tips and guidance you need to reel it in. Practice your smile because you’re going to have to take a few fish selfies when you land one of these beauties.

Fishing can be as passive or as active as you like. And if you want a little action – a little adrenaline, a little muscle-quivering, heart-racing excitement – you will find it in Kona.

5 Reasons to Choose Kona for Your Next Fishing Adventure

Posted May 22, 2017

They say a bad day of fishing is better than a good day of working – or doing just about anything else. When it comes to Kona, the adage has never been more true. Located on the Big Island, this slice of paradise is an angler’s dream. Need more than white sandy beaches and nearly perpetual sun before you pack up your tackle box? Here’s a few reasons to make Kona the destination for your next – and biggest – fishing adventure.

#1: Once-in-a-Lifetime Fish. Everyone has a good “the one that got away” story. But what if you had an epic “one that didn’t get away” story? Kona has more 1000+ pound blue marlin than any other fishing spot in the world. An angler recently caught a 1166 pound monster aboard our Sea Strike.

#2: Great Workouts. Sure, you can put a line in, sit back, and soak up the sun – or you can work up a sweat landing an acrobatic 25-pound mahi mahi. After you hook one of these spirited fish, the fun begins as you finesse it in. Heart-pounding. Then you can sit back and enjoy the rush.

#3: Great Eating. If you’re more interested in your next fresh seafood meal than in a trophy, you’ll enjoy good-eating varieties such as mahi mahi, ahi tuna, ulua (trevally), and more. We’ll help you get them prepared.

#4: Break World – or Personal – Records. Sport fishermen flock to Kona for its massive blue marlins and other record-breakers. But even if you don’t shatter a record, you can beat your personal best. With guidance from an experienced captain, you’ll have the experience of a lifetime.

#5: Enjoy Non-Fishing Activities. When your fishing expedition is over for the day, explore the beauty and bounty of Kona. You don’t need to go far to find a terrific beach. Hiking, biking, swimming, snorkeling, rafting, and exploring parks will keep you plenty busy. Relax with a submarine ride through the gorgeous waters or a dinner cruise.

See you in Kona!

Do You Need a Fishing License to Fish in Hawaii?

Posted May 22, 2017

If you're deep sea fishing off Hawaii's coast, you don't need a fishing license for recreational fishing. You will if you intend to do any freshwater fishing inland.

Out here, the vessels are the ones often registered for certain fishing permits. This is a more efficient way to do things because our popular tourism means many deep sea fishers pass through, but it's the deep sea fishing vessels in Hawaii that are the regulars.

This said, there are regulations out there to pay attention to. These control such things as fishing seasons, preservation areas, and catch limits, and they're important because they make sure the oceans off Hawaii aren't fished out and barren for future generations. These regulations aren't too strict. They're reasonable and we can help you understand them when you talk to us about deep sea fishing off Hawaii's coast.

Most of these rules revolve around minimum size requirements, so we're taking mature fish instead of younger ones. This helps maintain the populations out there because younger fish have more spawning seasons left in them than mature ones. In other words, we leave the fish in the water that are likely to produce the most offspring we can fish in the future.

There are also bag limits on a number of species, such as the combined bag limit of 5 per day for the “Deep 7” bottom fish species. This is one group of fish for which the vessel has to have a permit.

There are also gear requirements for many fish. This helps avoid damage to the fragile ecosystem that can be done by less discriminate forms of fishing. This is why we like deep sea fishing off Hawaii. It's more personal, just you and the fish.

Because of the year long regular temperatures, most fish here are year-round. This means there are closed seasons for only a very few fish: brief ones for the 'ama'ama (December-March) and moi (June-August).

There are two fish that are absolutely prohibited from fishing: the uhu 'ele'ele and the uhu uliuli. These are beautiful fish, and they must be protected for the time being.

What this all amounts to is that it's fairly easy to fish in the Hawaiian oceans. The onus is on us to have our permits and inform you of what the rules are, which we're happy to do. Most fish are fair game, so deep sea fishing off Hawaii's coast is well worth the trip.

Why are Tuna Warm-Blooded?

Posted May 22, 2017

When you're deep sea fishing near Hawaii for a living, you learn a lot of interesting facts about fish. Among other things, these facts help up figure out their behavior and habits. Here's one of the weirdest fish facts you'll ever know.

Some fish are warm-blooded. We learn in school that mammals are warm-blooded while reptiles and fish are cold-blooded. This is overwhelmingly true, but some fish developed a version of warm-bloodedness to help control their body temperature. The only fish that are warm-blooded like this are tuna and mackerel sharks (including everyone's favorite, the Great White Shark).

This warm-bloodedness isn't as complete as that of mammals. Tuna have blood vessels that help them control the temperature of organs and swimming muscles. The key place tuna lack this trait is in their gills. This is key because water passes through these, exchanging a lot of heat as it does so.

In fact, there's only one fish that has these kind of blood vessels in their gills. The opah is the only fish that has full-body warm bloodedness, but you won't find it unless you're in the waters off Antarctica. Believe us, it's a lot more comfortable deep sea fishing near Hawaii.

Tuna have what's called regional warm-blooded traits. This means that they're really somewhere between warm- and cold-blooded. Bet you never thought of those two things as a sliding scale before, did you?

Tuna in Hawaii don't have to raise their body temperature much because the waters here are always warm and relaxing. Yet their warm-blooded traits do influence tuna's behavior. Tuna in Hawaii can get an extra burst of speed from the muscles being warmed up. In a 10 second sprint, a bluefin tuna can accelerate up to 30 mph. That's pretty good for an animal that weighs 130 pounds on average, and can get up to a weight in excess of 900 pounds. That burst changes the way we fish tuna in certain ways, and science tells us why they have that burst in the first place: their muscles are already warmed up.

Mahi-mahi is an Acrobatic Catch

Posted May 3, 2017

The mahi-mahi is in high demand for deep sea fishing near Hawaii. Not only is the fish beautiful, it's also large and tastes delicious.

The mahi-mahi is a funny looking fish with a blunt head and a mouth that suggests a massive underbite, but its dusk blue dorsal fin runs nearly the entire length of the mahi-mahi before giving way to a bright yellow caudal fin. That contrast between darker blues on the mahi-mahi's top half and solid yellows on its bottom half makes it look truly unique. Sometimes, the blues are darker and deeper, and sometimes they're decidedly green-blue. It depends on the specimen.

Yet despite its beauty not so many keep and mount it as a trophy fish. This is because the mahi-mahi makes a good meal, and it makes a good meal for a whole party. The record is an 87-pound mahi-mahi, but even the average 25 pounders will feed a good-sized guest list. We recommend grilling, pan searing, or making a nice blackened mahi-mahi recipe. They make great burgers, too.

The mahi-mahi isn't easy to catch either. It's an acrobatic fish that will surprise you. They don't like to dive, so they're easy to keep track of and pursue at length. They also enjoy live bait and will happily reward you with a feeding frenzy. Even the smaller ones will put up a good fight and give you a test.

Even better, the mahi-mahi is a responsible fish to catch. Its conservation status is Least Concern, meaning that its populations aren't threatened. Various Seafood Watch lists also list mahi-mahi caught individually around Hawaii as not impacting the overall population in an adverse way.

If the mahi-mahi sounds familiar, you may know it's other common name – the dolphinfish. Its Spanish name Dorado is also popular. It's even sometimes called dolphin, though there's no particular relation between mahi-mahi and actual dolphins. Their name means “very strong” in Hawaiian, and you'll know it once you try to catch one. They're a responsible, fun, and tasty deep sea fishing catch.

Catching an Ono is Like Catching an Angry Cheetah in the Water

Posted May 3, 2017

If you're looking for a cheetah in the water to try to keep pace with, look no further than the wahoo. Here as deep sea fishers in Hawaii, we call this deep sea quarry the ono. They don't tend to school, so they're a good opportunity to put our best baiting tactics to the test. Even when you do find one, an ono will take off up to 60 mph with incredible acceleration when it feels threatened.

They're a fight and a 20-pound ono will give you a serious yank if you don't handle them right. A 100 pound “alligator” ono revving through his gears can pull you straight out of the boat if you don't get yourself set quickly. The world records for an ono are 8 ft., 2 in long, and 184 pounds heavy. They'll fight, they've got a stunning change of direction, they'll dive down to 60 fathoms, and they'll run you ragged if you aren't careful with them.

Even when you get a gaff in them, they'll still fight you every step of the way. If you thought reeling them in was difficult, you're only halfway finished. They're most dangerous when you're at your most tired. They've got teeth like knives and jaws that will snap closed, so you've got to be careful getting them on deck, too. They're good at jumping off the gaff, and if they do, they'll thrash your legs out from under you and aim for a retaliatory bite. They don't relent. The ono's so ferocious that some anglers don't even take the hook out until they're back dockside.

Ono means “good to eat” in Hawaiian, but it doesn't really specify who's doing the eating – angler or fish. They are tasty, like a milder mackerel, but anglers are more likely to call them, “Oh no,” to their faces. They're a year-round fish here in Hawaii, offering a unique challenge for anglers who want a worthy adversary.

If you think you're ready, ono are a match for any deep-sea fishers in Hawaii wanting a hardy new challenge.

Email Captain Dale

Direct line (808) 895-1972