Dateline: May 23, 2011 – Kona, Hawaii
Ever see those Southwest commercials where something humiliating happens to someone, and the announcer asks “Want to get away?” Yes, I do! From Jaime! On May 22nd, a Sunday morning, she did it to me again – she caught a Lagoon Triggerfish right in front of me, an unpardonable sin. Sure, I was right next to her and she had made a big show of telling me the right spot to fish and of trying to help me catch one, but I could see the evil glint in her eye. Thank goodness I am not competitive or I would have tossed her in the Pacific with a pork chop tied around her little neck. But I am not, so I didn’t. And if I ever did do something like that, it would certainly not be because I would be upset because 13 year-old girl could outfish me, which she could not, unless aided by Satan. Besides, IGFA bylaws are very clear that catches aided by the underworld do not count.
A guy can dream, right? Wade tells me he would look forward to negotiating with kidnappers – he thinks they would pay up to $250K just to give her back, more if she went fishing with them.
In truth, I knew I would need a vacation after three days with the 4-foot fishing she-devil, but where does one go on vacation when one is already in Hawaii? Well, it’s a 25 minute flight over to the Kona Coast of the Big Island, and the Big Island has all sorts of world records waiting to be claimed. So it seemed perfectly reasonable for me to do a day trip over there – jumping on a plane from Oahu at 5:30am, fishing Kona all day, then flying back to Honolulu in the evening. It’s a heck of a long day, but hey, it’s fishing. And Kona is one of my very favorite spots on earth – certainly my favorite fishing spot in Hawaii.
And why, you ask, is it my favorite spot in Hawaii? Simple. Most of the Hawaiian islands are troubled by constant rough offshore water, a result of the unimpeded trade winds* that blow across thousands of miles of the Pacific and result in choppy water. Kona, however, has two 13,000 foot tall volcanoes blocking these “Winds of Nausea.” There is an unbelievable variety of fishes available with great big game opportunities, and there is deep, deep water a few hundred yards offshore. On most days, it is like fishing in a lake. Oh, and Jaime isn’t there.
Kona is also home to one of my favorite guides – Dale Leverone. He is another one of the fishing fraternity who really “gets it” on the species hunting obsession. A few years ago, he read one of the IGFA articles on me (aka “slow news day”) and wrote me to talk shop. He had a whole list of critters from deeper Kona waters that I hadn’t caught, and so every time I get over there, we try to get some more of them. We have added 16 species to my list together, including some really exotic ones. For example …
Yellowfin Surgeonfish (August 2008) – one of my favorite fish photos of all time.
The Fuscipinnis Fish (March 2009) – there have been fewer than 10 of these ever caught on rod and reel, mostly because very few people are silly enough to fish 700 feet deep with tiny hooks.
A Brilliant Pomfret (August 2008) – taken from 1700 feet down. The large-eared creature on the right is Dale’s son, Jack.
We would certainly have dozens more, but I have been fishing Hawaiian waters for many years and had already picked off all of the more common stuff.
Dale Leverone (on the left) is a top-notch Kona skipper and can handle anything from bottom fishing to trolling for Marlin. Look him up at http://www.konadeepsea.com/charters/capt.htm or email him at email@example.com. The Blue Marlin is from March of 2009, and we tried hard to release it.
The aerial view of Kona is stark and volcanic, something like Iwo Jima, but with better restaurants. Dale was waiting for me at the airport, and we raced over to the harbor, loaded the boat, and were off into the open Pacific. I was filled with optimism and looked forward to a beautiful day on the water, because, as I mentioned previously, Kona is flat calm … on most days.
This day, however, was not most days. I seem to have the ability to show up in Kona and bring that one day of bad weather with me. And this was it. A rotten wind right out the south, so it ended up just as choppy as it would on any other island. And what do you think caused this? Meteorologists would tell us it was low pressure to the north, but I don’t think so. I think it was Jaime.
Still, I was here, and so were the fish, so we ventured out into the whitecaps. Dale’s first idea was a shot at some Bigeye Tuna at a buoy 10 miles north. Of course, I can’t be in Kona without taking at least a quick shot at a marlin, so we trolled on our way out there. A sloppy ride it was – a short, nasty chop that meant I spilled my Red Bull, but luckily before I drank it.
We reached the buoy with nary a strike, but as soon as we started throwing poppers around the area, small tuna started crashing the top. We reeled in 5 or so, which was great fun, but they all turned out to be Yellowfins. While getting set to cast again, I saw some dark shapes in the water behind us – some kind of Triggerfish. I set up a small cut bait and cast, and got hit immediately. After a short fight, I boated a Spotted Ocean Trigger, fairly large in size, so I immediately went to the record books I carry with me for just such an occasion. Current record was 2#, and mine weighed in at 2.25#, so it went in the livewell to be officially put on the scale back at port. Interestingly, this fish is locally nicknamed the “Australian Racing Smelt.” No one knows why.
The “Australian Racing Smelt”
I was still gloating over my Racing Smelt when Dale pointed out that the water behind us was absolutely dirty with big sharks – the kind of spot I where dream of pushing lawyers overboard. I rushed to put a shark rig and a piece of tuna on my heaviest rod, and, as proven by Cousin Chuck’s honeymoon, haste is the mother of bad decisions. The 90 pound cable that is so effective on leopard sharks back home was unceremoniously bitten in half. I looked up, stunned. Dale was smiling quietly to himself and putting a 400 pound aircraft cable leader on one of his Marlin rods. He then baited up with THE REST OF THE TUNA and tossed the whole mess in the water. It was eaten instantly, and the fight was on. This was a big fish and peeled line off the big game setup without too much trouble. I settled into the chair for what would be a 30 minute battle.
Wrestling with a 200 pound animal while the boat pitches 20 degrees is not a recipe for keeping your lunch down. I managed to avoid this problem by not eating lunch. I survived the day on a six pack of Orange Crush and a big bag of Cheetos, so if I did throw up, the Coast Guard could easily find us.
Kids, don’t try this at home. The shark was fine, so save the vitriol, Hedge Witch. (For those of you who missed the very obscure reference, please see https://1000fish.wordpress.com/2010/08/06/the-yogurt-knitters-strike-back-daily-mail-uk-article-sparks-furor/)
We then moved inshore to pester the reef critters. The boat was still rocking like a van full of teenagers, but we stayed at it for several hours. The odd species were not forthcoming, but one by one, I started getting record-eligible fish. First on the list – the Pinktail Triggerfish. Much like the Oman Redtooth Trigger, I had to catch about 20 of these before I got one over a pound.
The Pinktail Triggerfish. Even Cousin Chuck should be able to figure out why it is called that.
Then came the Blueline Triggerfish. I have always thought these were one of the more attractive triggers, although they have a nasty habit of bursting from the pressure change right when you pick them up. Luckily, they are also very good to eat.
I managed to avoid getting Triggerfish shrapnel on my shirt. This time. But between avoiding shrapnel and holding up the fish, I failed to keep a dumb look off my face.
Then came nausea. No reverse-engineering, but I was close. It seemed like everywhere we fished was directly exposed to the wind, but as a reward for all the battering, we came up with one last critter – the beautiful Ringtail Wrasse.
I believe the proper spelling should be Wringtail Wrasse.
I should have been absolutely ecstatic with 4 world record applications in a day of fishing, but the fact remains, if it weren’t for the weather, we probably could have gotten twice as many. Which gives me a reason to return, so I’m OK with that. And after that day of wind, the Fish Gods owed me some nice flat days out there, so I’ll hurry back.
I was thrilled to be back on dry land; not quite kiss-the-ground glad, but close. Dale whisked me back up to the airport, and I was back off to Oahu, which filled me with a certain dread, because of you-know-who. Now that I think about it, every time I go near her, the scar on my forehead starts burning.
*They are called “trade winds” because they cause most people have to trade their lunch for a day of fishing. At least that’s my theory.