Recently I went fishing with a couple of friends. It had been blowing four days straight and fishing was getting to be painful, bone deep.
We set the steel leaders out lagoon side hoping for the ono bite that signifies the start of a great day.
Oceanside we couldn’t believe our eyes! The swell had laid down overnight. We all just looked at the beautiful ocean, stunned for a priceless moment. I think I heard part of an old Hawaiian prayer of thanks, from my friend Kahlao, or maybe it was in my own mind.
I knew what it all meant. I knew what to do with a day like this. “Pull in da hand lines!” I yelled as the props dug in.
The thrill of going supersonic in a trade wind month quickly displaced the thrill of catching an ono in the pass.
I took the 220 so we could enjoy the ride for an extra minute. The route would take us north and west. The plan was to see where the current crossed the drop off.
We got to an area I call the fridge. I pulled back the levers and the boat settled into a hole as the wash rushed by. We could see everything the water was doing. Every influence was magnified by our enthusiasm.
I studied every current line and locked away the picture for future use.
The aku were playing hide and seek here two days ago. The eight footers were they danced were gone now and so were they.
We knew the marlin would still be around.
They don’t need to hide.
It was our turn to dance!
Beyond the right rigger I could see the moon. Though it was day now Luna was surprisingly high in the sky. Which held more promise, that big beautiful moon, or the perfect sunrise, filled with anticipation. What was more perfect, the smooth water ahead, beyond the rip or the pressure waves, undisturbed by wind, slipping toward the opposite horizon
The question was answered when the drag set on Brazilliano and she started to plunge. I knew as that big lure started moving water I would have to remind myself to look toward the pointy end once in a while. Now the perfect pressure waves not only had rhythm they had beat! I had to pick another lure; I needed one to compliment the plunger. I needed one with a healthy reputation for Rhythm and Blues! The pusher was set and the cockpit was cleared. We were trolling for marlin!
Spam sushi rolls were passed round and I found myself wishing the spam was on the outside so I could at least hit it with the lighter. Nori always reminded me of the smell of the dry grass I had to scrape off the inside of the lawn mower as a kid. Childhood chores, quick something happen the trips going south I thought.
I scanned the water and air looking for sign. The course was good, larboard side winded the rip. The edge that marked the east end of the fridge would be a mile up. I stared hard maybe too hard. I thought I saw the fairy tern dive. Damn clouds on the horizon are white as the tern. No flying fish, maybe they were on the other side of the rip. Step on the doubt; don’t let the nori ruin the day. There it goes! Now I see um. Five pair of fairy terns at the east end. I resisted the urge to give her gas; the lures were running too good. The area was too good. My confidence was back, now fighting with anticipation. Something was going to happen. I kept my mouth shut. I didn’t want to ruin the magic.
The smooth water was behind us now. We were crossing the rip. Kahlao was the first crew to spot the birds. I saw there reflection in his eye. He smiled with cool confidence as he looked away from me. Then I guess he couldn’t resist, he gave a slight head nod to the other. That was a cool head nod I thought as I set up the pass. Of course one guy had to say something, there’s always one. Birds! Birds! Look over there, should we change the lures?
Where’s my gun I thought as I said,” Get ready, there’s something good here, Birdboy standstill, you’ll scare the fish.” As we made the pass Birdboy started yelling mahi mahi look here they come, Should we change the lures? Where’s my freeking gun my mind yelled as I stayed the course a moment or two longer than I would have normally. First pass is usually the best but on this occasion I thought I could make a better run going down swell. The map in my mind I made the turn while Birdboy’s index finger made sure the blind captain knew where his cousins were.
This pass was wide of the birds. I wanted to run the lures where the birds were before their mahi hunting partners were influenced by my boat. As we got to the rip I eased down alongside it not with the intention of following it far. Just far enough then turn south to hit that clean water, by this time Birdboy was going nuts. I was finding it hard to ignore him when I thought I saw a stick on the lure. That thought made me smile. That’s what I thought the first time I saw a bill behind a lure! I slowed the boat and told Birdboy to reel. He started to crank when she hit, Hanapaa, I yelled. Birdboy was stunned. He actually froze as line raced the wrong way. I gave the wheel to Kahlao and stepped in front of Birdboy. I wasn’t going to let his indecision mess this up. I eased the drag up at the end of the first run and told Kahlao to give it a little gas. The line went taught on the big fish, causing pain. She jumped halfway and was pulled down by the force of my crank. Not so fast buddy, I wanna get a little closer. I guided Kahlao to bring her down current so the wave would help bring our prize to us faster. I backed off the drag as the current came into play. She was coming too easy I thought. Maybe a small one, just then the swell passed her and I could feel the full weight. She’s good I thought. Only a few more minutes.
I got a look at her as she approached with the last swell. My reel work was done. Now to get my lure back! The lure that just proved to me what so many others already know. I was tired but pumped as I reached for the leader.
The line was tight as I took hold and pulled down, testing my ability to move her. Man I wish I had a wind on, I thought as I realized I would have to pull another 15 feet. She was swimming right along, not resisting, as I pulled the line in. 10 degrees starboard Kahlao – speed is perfect, Ok straighten her out. I felt like a fish hog so I told Birdboy to hold the scraps behind me. I really didn’t want to take wraps, the fight was too quick. We eased her up to the gunnel and I grabbed the bill. With one hand and got the lure head up behind my grip on the leader. Go! Go! Go! I yelled as her tail came to life. Both hands on the bill pushing down as the boat jumped with her. Ok Ok I yelled just as quick. She knew who the boss was, all 300 pounds of her. I yelled at Birdboy to get the lure head then pushed down on the hook. That quick it was over, another marlin on a Brazilliano.
I checked the hook point then thought to lift the skirt and also check for a bend. Nope, she’s good I thought as I lowered her back into the water. Change your panties ladies, let’s get another one. Get that pusher back in the water! Let’s go! I yelled turning their celebration into something more productive.
That Black Bart lure looked even better now. I think I saw Papa wink at me just as it plunged.
We headed east and north now to get back to the tide line. Just as I thought the pressure was off, Birdbrain says,” Why didn’t you let me get a picture?” The bat, where’s the bat. I turned and said,” I’m not superman, that bugger was 300#; I’m only 160, gimme a break, that was a good release! That’s what we want. If you want a picture, keep ready with the camera.”
I saw the fairy terns again and set up the approach. I wanted a good angle with the seas at the precise moment. Hanapaa! The reel was singing. I kept going until Kahlao got to the reel. As he eased it up to strike I eased back the hammers. Line continued going out while I turned the boat down swell. I kept the gas flowing until I was in position to fight, then eased up to fighting speed, Kahlao started cranking, Leaving the clicker on so I knew what was happening. I starting wondering why it was coming so easy when a big mahi jumped toward us through the face of the swell. Holly crap I thought as I realized it had eaten Brazilliano. I thought only a marlin would try to eat that thing. Kahlao got it to the boat and I leadered it to the tuna door and pulled it in. I choked up immediately as it started going crazy. Where’s Birdboy I thought as the tale whacked everything it touched. There he is! I moved toward him putting on a show of uncontrolled, crazy mahi mahi but he backed away to quick for a much deserved tail whack. Kahlao put the hand gaff in my free hand as I tried to aim for the head. The tail was coming close to whacking me every time I leaned in for the kill. The first two brain spikes turned into glancing defensive blows that missed their pea sized target and hit the blood squirting section instead. I held on knowing it would end sooner now. Ok now, jeez stop already I said as I hit it in the head the last time. Freekin mahi mahi.
The guys washed the boat as the captain had a bait tank facial to clean the blood. One marlin and one 40plus mahi cool. I checked the lure and saw a couple strands of skirt missing and a scuff from being pulled through the door. The leader and hooks were good. Back to the battle!
I saw the birds again way off on the horizon. The wind screen was covered in salt now so I had to keep looking around it. I lost the birds for a few minute but kept the course knowing they would pop back up. They did. By the way they were flying I couldn’t tell what they were doing. They hovered and feign dove over and over, never quite going all the way down. Then we all saw the splashes. Shark I thought, but as we got closer Kahlao said," It’s a marlin! "Birdbrain started chirping as I slowed down to get a look.
The mahi mahi skittered about thirty feet and just stopped as the brute marlin followed swinging its huge head back and forth, pushing water and fish in front of it like a bull in a china shop. My eyes sunburned as I stared at the beast in front of me. The attack had brought them right in my path so I shut her down to watch as the big fish got the mahi between its tail and bill. The brutal attacker was oblivious to the 24foot boat bearing down on it but the mahi wasn’t. The battle scarred fish quickly swam under the drifting boat and came up nose to stern. Seemingly trying to connect it’s self to the hull, for camouflage. Not willing to pass up a good thing, I grabbed the snake gaff and quickly lifted the tired fish into the boat. The poor bastard was spent, his spirit gone, his blood on the gaff, nothing pumping out. One for the box.
We laughed and high fived as I quickly jumped to the throttles and eased the lures up from the depths. Hanapaa! Brazilliano again! I kept the boat going to put a little distance between us and the fish. The lure hadn’t even come tight before it got whacked. I put Johnsay on the reel and we made quick work of our second marlin. I looked the big fish in the eye and said, “Thanks for dinner!” As I punk pushed the aggressive predator away from my hunting machine. I wasn’t even saying birdbrain anymore. I had just shared to coolest vision and set of circumstances with these guys.
The fairy terns were at it again so we made our way to them. The first pass set up perfect, just as the lures were even with the birds the swell came. Brazilliano carved the wave like the Big Kahuna. I adjusted the speed and course to maximize the lure’s ride as the big marlin appeared from below. My mind paused as I watched her inhale the lure without hesitation. The big blue didn’t even study the beauty of the picture. I thought it should at least look at the boat just once to acknowledge my work. But she was a hunter, an apex predator with prey drive blinding any sense of beauty. Something had invaded her territory and it must pay!
On the boat it was Kalaheo’s turn to battle the behemoth. The big Hawaiian knew how to beat a marlin, this should be fun I thought as I gripped the throttles. Kalaheo waited, then as the head of the beast entered his vision he pushed the drag to sunset. The line whipped out of the water, spraying the air. The fish stroked his massive tail as the line came taught. Wow everybody said at once.
The marlin came out of the water like something attacked from below I thought. The sting of cold steel in his mouth instead of a hot tuna had set her temper to the limit. I could see the lure swing up the line and it seemed for an instant the big fish was still giving chase as her tail propelled her huge body out of the water, tail walking with the plunger just out of reach.
She continued to pull line as she disappeared from site. Sunset I thought as I waited for the run to stop. Kahlao had left the clicker on so I could hear the battle. As the line stopped melting from the reel I could hear my friend begin working. There it is Johnsay said, pointing to the horizon 300 yards back and to the left. The big marlin was jumping again. This time it’s not after the lure I thought. As I tried to keep the fish behind the boat. Kalaheo yelled as the big rod bent in the direction of the support bar for the canopy. I spun the boat fast and started looking for the fish. Where did it go? My eyes followed the line from the reel to the spot we had last seen her. Kahlao was pumping hard gaining line inch by inch. When I looked ahead of the boat and saw the fish 100 feet in front of us. I yelled, There it is!” and spun the boat again causing water to spray off the line as it made an arch halfway to the fish. I raced away from our marlin knowing Kahlao couldn’t possibly pick up line that fast. We got her tight again and began using the wave to bring us closer. I circled the fish, knowing it had outsmarted me once. I wouldn’t give it another chance. This was no straight behind the boat fight. This marlin knew how to get away!
Our teamwork won as we closed the gap. I could finally see her colors begin to fade as I let go the stick and grabbed the leader. She was done. She fought well. The biggest fish of the day, what a day, had just returned my Brazilliano. She had even put her mark of approval on the top section of the big lure. I said thank you to her as she sank away, as much for the battle as for the lure. This ones going on the coffee table for a while I thought.
The last marlin battle had brought us over two miles closer to the reef, so I decided to put the wire on for a quick troll home. We set four lines out and started high speeding it to the pass. The guys at Outriggers won’t believe this day I thought. I asked Johnsay how many photos he got. Johnsay said, I was too busy holden on for mess wit camera!
Half way home the big ono hit the lure. The reel's song was not over, I smiled and yelled Hanapaa!, Island talk for Fish On!
Johnsay brought the ono to the boat as Kahlao and I cleared lines. The hand gaff jumped to my hand as I stepped through the door to the wire. The short leader made it easy to pull the large wahoo head to the edge of the doorway where I usually sink the gaff for safety and control. This one was too big, I didn’t want to take any chances. In one smooth motion the hand gaff found its home as the ono slid between my legs, while my other hand loosed the drag. The ono’s life was on my shirt, mixing with the dried mahi stains. I made a sound. The sound a tired slayer makes at the end of the day, as I looked at the big ono on the deck.
Let’s go home, dats two won’t fit da coola, Kahlao said as the big engines roared and the bow came up.
At the dock, the marina crew gassed the boat and eyed our catch with admiration. They didn’t even know about the marlins we battled, I thought.
I cleaned the fish and divided the portions thanking my fellow warriors for the day. I was wondering if Johnsay had sensed my thoughts earlier in the day. Just then he said,” You are Superman!” Kahlao bumped me on purpose saying, Rock n roll. I smiled as I looked at Brazilliano mouthing the words,”Rhythm and Blues Baby,” just loud enough for the lure to hear.