For over 2 decades I regularly posted photos of people with there fish.
Now it’s some of those photos along with information on the types of fish Kona has to offer.
Pacific Blue Marlin are the most common billfish in Hawaii. Most of the blue marlin you will catch range from a little over 100 pounds to just under 200 pounds and are males. The female blue marlin are the big ones that can grow to be over 1000 pounds. Currently, about half of the blue marlin caught in Kona are released and half are kept. Blue marlin is not a good eating fish when cooked but pretty good when smoked or eaten raw.
Striped Marlin rarely grow to 100 pounds in Hawaii but the meat is better than blue marlin for smoking or eating raw but again, not good cooked. The meat can range in color from white, to pink, to orange. The orange meat is the best tasting raw fish you can get your hands on.
Spearfish is a common catch when in season and average weight is in the 30 to 50 pound range. Unlike their cousins, spearfish meat is really good cooked. Spearfish are weak and put up very little fight.
Other types of billfish in Hawaii are a rare catch. These include black marlin, sailfish, and swordfish. There are less than a dozen blacks and a dozen sails caught in Kona each year. Swordfish are even more rare.
The most sought-after tuna in Hawaii is Yellowfin Tuna. The size ranges from babies of just a few pounds to 200+ pound monsters. Most of the big ones are caught while fishing around pods of spotted dolphins. The smaller ones hang out around the ledges and Fish Aggregation Buoys (FAD’s).
Bigeye Tuna are an even more rare catch here. Most caught are under 20 pounds and caught near ledges and FAD’s. They are often mistaken as small yellowfin but comparing them side by side with a yellowfin, the differences are noticeable if you know what to look for. In the sushi bars and stores, both yellowfin and bigeye are known as “ahi” even though there is a variation in the meat between the two. It’s a marketing thing.
Pacific Skipjack, also known as “chunk light” tuna when canned and sold in stores. It is the most common offshore fish in Hawaii. When small (under 10 pounds) they are known as “aku”. They are used for live, dead or chunk bait. They’re not bad eating but not real good either. When they get bigger, the behavior and the flavor changes drastically. They are now known as “otaru” or “otado”. Many locals prefer otado over ahi for the flavor.
Other types of tuna are an even rarer catch. These include albacore, kawakawa, dogtooth, and pacific bonito. Albacore are caught at night during the summer months. Kawakawa, dogtooth, and bonito are caught along the ledges but not very often.
Mahi mahi, also known as dorado or dolphin fish range in size from 5 pounds to 50 pounds. They fight real hard for their size and are known to jump a lot during the fight. The locally caught mahi mahi have a lot better flavor than the imported ones. A close cousin to the mahi mahi is the pompano dolphin. We have them here but they are rare. Few captains and crews here even know about it but some of us know and can even tell the difference between the two just by looking at them.
Ono, also known a wahoo are the fastest fish in the ocean, known to reach an astounding 80 mph. While fast, they don’t have a whole lot of torque when fighting. Ono can reach over 100 pounds in Hawaii but most of the ones you’re going to catch are only 15 to 40 pounds, Ono is among the best-eating fish in the world! In fact, the Hawaiian name translated into English means “delicious”.
Bottom fishing is something that only a few of us charter boats will do and we’re not going after the little reef fish. It’s big game bottom fishing and it takes special equipment and a special knowledge to be any good at it. No captain in Kona does more bottom fishing than I do. I try to get in some bottom fishing on every trip but sometimes I don’t because I know the conditions aren’t right for doing it. I like mixing up fishing styles during the day rather than only trolling but if we do end up just trolling all day like almost all of the other charter boats, there’s a reason for it.
Giant Trevally, known by sport fishing enthusiasts as GT and “ulua” in Hawaiian is a highly revered fish in Hawaii. Pound for pound the hardest fighting fish we have. While some are eaten, most are tagged and released to fight another day. The main fishery for these is from the shoreline at night. During the day, they are in the deeper waters and catching them is a specialty of mine. I catch more than any other captain in the state.
Amberjack is another hard fighting bottom fish. Not quite as powerful as the GT but a definite challenge for most anglers. A 40 pound amberjack is a good size one and pretty much every year, we catch at least one over 100 pounds. I hold the sate record at 151.5 pounds.
Almaco Jack (Seriola rivoliana) are similar looking to amberjack (Seriola dumerili) but rarely grow to over 20 pounds. In fact, it’s very common that they are mistakenly identified as amberjack and even yellowtail (Seriola lalandi). In 2002 I was able to prove that almaco jack existed in Hawaiian waters so I’m credited with their discovery here. The first fish farm to raise almaco jack for market is here in Kona and the fish is marketed under the Japanese name “Kampachi”. Since they became a popular fish in the sushi market, several other places around the world have started raising them. There is still a big controversy about this fish because of identity misinformation abounding on the internet. Here is an article that clears up that confusion.
Sharks; and I’m not talking about little ones! These are sea monsters. Sharks are a bycatch of the big game bottom fishery with sandbar sharks being the most common here and average from 50 to 150 pounds. There is a wide variety of other sharks here and at the top of the food chain is the tiger shark. The average tiger is 800 to 1000 pounds but can grow up to 3500 pounds. My biggest catch so far, we estimated at 2500 pounds! All sharks will be released even if it’s a mako or thresher. It recently became illegal to kill any sharks in Hawaii.
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