It’s high adventure on the high seas


Fishing is an adventure sport. Even so, Ernie and Paulette Clayton had enough adventures on a one-day trip last week to last them for a while.

The hard-fishing couple left Honokohau Harbor aboard Hana Hou, their 24-foot outboard, in hopes of catching an ono. They set out their lines and headed south.

As they trolled past Kaiwi Point, Ernie looked back to check his gear and realized that nearly all of the line was gone from the reel on his corner rod. Neither of the Claytons had heard the usual scream of a strike, so Ernie realized immediately that he had forgotten to set the clicker on the reel (C’mon. You know you’ve done it, too!)

A fish had taken the lure, dug in its heels, and nearly stripped the reel as Ernie kept moving ahead unknowingly. Maybe the fish was still on, but more likely it had shaken free.

Ernie turned the boat and started reeling like crazy to recover the 700 yards of so of line that had peeled off the Shimano 50 TLD reel. As he continued to refill the reel, he felt the line get heavy again. The fish was still on.

But now there was a new problem. While recovering line, they had worked their way back toward green buoy at the harbor entrance, and another boater in a large inflatable was coming out on a path that would cut across their line. And cut it, he did.

Ernie chased him down to let him know what happened and the other boater was profusely and sincerely apologetic. Because the event was happening right at the harbor mouth in the flow of traffic, the driver of the inflatable had no way of knowing there was a problem.

So the two boaters parted friends, but they were about to meet again. As the inflatable pulled away, Ernie saw that it was still dragging his lure. The line had tangled in the engine and was still attached. Ernie asked the inflatable driver to keep going so the lure would stay up on the surface and the Claytons dropped back to try to catch the line.

To Ernie’s great surprise, he was able to gaff the line and to his great delight, the fish was still on the hook. Ernie pulled in the 38-pound ono gaffed it to star in their evening barbecue. He warned the inflatable driver that he was still towing several hundred yards of line and then the Claytons called it quits for the day.

The Claytons’ morning adventure

That morning, the Claytons had headed Hana Hou straight out from the harbor and had encountered a tuna school out on the 1,000-fathom line. As they reached the fish, they saw Mark Barville hook a big ahi on a lure trolled behind his double-hull. Ernie and Paulette like to watch people pull in fish, so they circled Mark as he tried to get the big tuna under control.

While Mark was hanging onto the leader with one hand and trying to gaff the fish with the other, the tuna got its head down and started boring for the depths. Its tail was slapping so hard at the surface, that it was throwing water higher than the T-Top on Mark’s boat, Ernie said.

In those circumstances, you let go of the leader and start over again after you tire the fish out a bit more. This time, however, the leader was tangled around Mark’s hand in a clinch knot and he couldn’t get free.

The fish was heavier than Mark, which gave it the advantage. Mark dug his knees into the side of the boat and realized he was in danger of losing his fingers or his life. Mark pulled back with his full strength as the leader dug deeper into his fingers. Finally, the leader broke at one of the crimped sleeves.

The Claytons had seen the accident and responded immediately to Mark’s call for help. They transferred Mark to the Hana Hou and put Paulette on Mark’s boat to bring it back to port.

Then Ernie and Mark raced back to the harbor at 28 knots to a waiting ambulance.

Mark made it to the hospital with all of his fingers. Paulette docked Mark’s boat. And the kind souls from Kona Coast Marine helped load the boat on Mark’s trailer so it would be ready to go home whenever Mark was.

The Claytons were back at it two days later and the action was again at the harbor mouth and again on the short corner line. An 18-pound mahimahi took a 9-inch funnel jet head with root beer over pink skirts and jumped four or five times before heading home in the Hana Hou’s fishbox, Ernie said.

Could be the 18-pound mahimahi and 38-pound ono were fish-god mahalos for being good samaritans. Something to remember if you are ever in a position to help another boater.

Are fish confused?

The catch report was again very skimpy last week. Though you might be able to come up with a hundred reasons for fewer fish at the scales, Capt. Guy Terwilliger came up with the most interesting and best supported.

Guy says the fish are confused. On a recent rip, he found the ahi school, set up his greenstick and dangled squids over the tuna school for hours. That’s a sure-fire tuna method and usually catches only tuna. That day, however, a marlin came up on the danglers and did its best to try to batter one into submission. No hookup, fortunately. A marlin is a huge mess on the long and unweildy greenstick rig.

Because marlin seemed to be the only gullible fish that day, they pulled in the tuna rigs, set out the marlin lures and started trolling. Bang, bang. Two tuna hit the marlin lures.

Marlin travels 2,577 nautical miles in 69 days

A 794-pound black marlin carried a satellite tag 2,577 nautical miles in 69 days to win the 2012-2013 International Game Fish Association Great Marlin Race. The black out swam a dozen or so other marlin including many blues tagged here this past summer in conjunction with the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament. Peter Teakle of Lizard Island, Australia caught the winner during the 26th Annual Lizard Island Black Marlin Classic.

The distance is impressive for what it tells about migration patterns, though not necessarily for what it says about swimming speeds. Dividing the distance by the time, you get just over 37 miles per day, which works out to 1.55 nautical miles per hour. That’s less than the typical speed of some of the major currents in the Pacific. It is amusing to think that the winning fish in The Great Marlin Race some year might just be the one who best rides the currents, lays back and goes with the flow.

Check out the winning billfish track, as well as all the other satellite tag tracks generated by billfish tagged during the IGMR, on interactive maps at the IGMR website, www.igfa.org/Conserve/IGMR.aspx.