THE BITE IS ON! Yes, I shouted that. I haven’t seen so many fish flags flying in the harbor in quite some time. For those who don’t know, the boats get to brag about their catches by flying fish flags (aka brag flags). There is a different colored flag with a fish silhouette for each type of fish so you can even see from a distance what kind of fish were caught. Marlin flags (dark blue) are flying all around the harbor right now and many boats are flying multiple marlin flags.
There is a known flag flying etiquette. There’s no written rules and the standard practices have actually changed a little over the years. There was a time when there was no such thing as a spearfish flag so the standard practice was to fly the marlin flag upside down. The spearfish flag (light blue) came out over a decade ago but to this day, using the upside down marlin flag is still acceptable. If you released your billfish, the red triangle flag with a T on it shows that you let it go. With marlin (blue, black or striped) and spearfish, you put up a flag for each one caught. This is where things can get interesting. It’s also a little hard to explain but here I go. Let’s say you caught and released two blue marlin. There’s two ways to represent that. One way is to put up a marlin flag with two release flags under it but if you really want to brag, you can put up two marlin flags with a release flag under each one. Some boats will use the later method to represent the release of a blue marlin and a striped marlin, distinguishing the two different kinds. With the billfish bite being so good right now with blue marlin and spearfish and some striped marlin still around, some of the flag configurations can be a little hard to decipher. Let’s say a boat had a really good day and caught two blue marlin. They kept one and released one. They also caught two striped marlin. Kept one and released one. The simplest flag arrangement would be three marlin flags with two release flags underneath. Kept 2 released 2. The other arrangement might be two marlin flags with a single release flag underneath and then two more marlin flags with a single release flag underneath. That one could be a head scratcher to most people in the harbor. Throw in some upside down marlin flags and you can see how things could get confusing.
With all that being said, the blue marlin bite has been good with the majority being under 200 lbs. but there were also several big ones caught this month. I said last month that the spearfish bite was really lacking but that’s all changed now. Yes, the bite is on!
There’s some ahi coming out of the porpoise schools so now let’s go to ahi flag (white) etiquette. An ahi flag is flown if the ahi is over 100 lbs. Sometimes if it’s close, it’s close enough to brag. There was a time when a separate flag was flown for each ahi caught but that practice went away some years ago. Only one ahi flag flown even if you caught more than one. In fact, that’s the way it is done with all the rest of the flags. One mahi mahi flag (yellow) even if you caught several and the same with the ono flag (orange). There’s also a flag for skipjack tuna but only flown for the otaru size ones. All of the flags are arranged top to bottom in order of importance. An ono flag would never be flown above a marlin flag or an ahi flag. Usually a mahi mahi flag flies above the ono flag but let’s say you caught a 6 lb. mahi mahi and an 80 lb. ono. I know I would certainly fly the ono flag above the mahi mahi flag. With that said, the ono bite is still going strong. Mahi mahi and tunas, not so much.
Bottom fishing has been hot too. Since most charters don’t bottom fish at all and I do it more often than any charter in Kona, the bottom fish flags are a specialty of mine. I actually helped design the giant trevally flag (purple). That one usually goes on top but never above a marlin or ahi flag. The shark flag (red) also goes high up in the pecking order. Since the sharks are so much bigger in size than spearfish, I usually put the spearfish flag underneath a shark but some think that’s disrespectful. IMHO, I think a 150 lb. shark is always a more respectful catch than a 30 lb. spearfish. Then there’s the amberjack and almaco jack flag (white with a yellow fish) and there’s the even lesser known flags for both snapper and barracuda.
I hope I did a decent job explaining the fish flags. Like I said, there’s no written rules so I’m sure some will disagree with what I explained here but as a general rule, this is how it’s done. Just to complicate matters even further, the flags should only be flown on the starboard outrigger. There are a lot of different flags, colors and possible combos but one thing is for certain, a lot of flags flying on your outrigger represents a very good day fishing. We have a term for coming into the harbor with no flags flying. Bald headed. You might just have a boat load of ahi between 10 and 30 lbs. (called shibi here) on board and no one would know. You might be flying an ono flag so we figure you caught one but you could have more than a dozen on board. We wouldn’t know. You only find out those kinds of details by word of mouth and sometimes from posts by your Facebook friends.
See ‘ya on the water,
Capt. Jeff Rogers,