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Fish Wish - Where Dreams Come True

By Mike House, Sportfish Hawaii

Captain Kent Mongreig had a small slogan printed on his business card that says, “From kids to seniors, let us make your fish wish come true.”   It must be working, because Fish Wish is becoming one of Kona’s favorite boats to fish on.  After running over 250 trips in 1999, the smiling Mongreig has kept dreams alive in the first month of the new Millennium.  A thirteen year old boy landing a 380 pound Marlin, a 10 year old girl landing a 122 pound Ahi, and an 80 year old man fulfilling his lifelong dream of catching a billfish were among the stories – or Fish Wishes - produced by Mongreig so far in 2000.

On January 10th, a family from Telketna, Alaska visited Kona’s famous coast, and young Casey, a 10 year old with a determined mind, asked her parents to take her fishing.  The original plan was to let Casey do all the angling, but when the first fish of the day struck at about 11:00, the plan changed a bit.  A Blue Marlin hit a live bait up at the North end of the “Grounds” and before long, Casey was in the chair.  A little overwhelmed by the commotion, she tired early and told her mother she needed some help.  But as mom jumped in the chair and angled the fish home, Casey began to rethink her decision and was a little upset with herself for giving it up.  

Still, it was a nice fish they landed, and the family was proud to have angled their first Blue Marlin, a 161 pounder.  But Casey knew she could do better, so she closed her eyes and wished for another fish.   At about 3:00 pm, her wish came true.  Just off the lighthouse area at Kaiwi Point as they approached the harbor, a large Ahi (Yellowfin Tuna) struck the trolled lure.  Casey jumped in the chair as the crew passed her the rod.  This time, the determined angler refused to give up the fight, despite her father asking three times if she wanted help.  Shaking her head in defiance while proclaiming “I’m going to do this myself,” Casey concentrated on the task at hand, and using the mechanical advantage of the harness and the two-speed reel, she began to develop a rhythm and worked the fish like an expert.

Marlin and Ahi of similar size tend to fight differently.  Marlin tend to go airborne, but Ahi tend to pull much harder, making Casey’s fight even more difficult than the Marlin battle she gave to her mother only hours before.  Straining and pumping, cranking and winding, Casey began gaining ground.  Finally, after about an hour into the fight, the fish succumbed and headed toward the back of the boat.  The crew took over the leader and brought the hefty tuna over the stern, leaving Casey and her parents smiling all the way back to the harbor.  A 122-pound Ahi to go with their first Marlin ever made them a happy family that day.

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Casey with Capt. Kent and her Ahi

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On the 18th, Fish Wish served up some more magic for an eager youngster.   Luke from Portland, Oregon, the 13-year-old son of a fish biologist, managed to persuade his father into taking a Kona fishing trip with Captain Kent.  Early in the day, father and son agreed they would alternate as anglers, dad first.  Using smaller live bait early in the day, Luke’s father hooked into a 34-pound Mahimahi, but after investing more time in the area, the bite simply ended.  Mongreig decided to switch to lures and troll, and as the day wore on, Luke closed his eyes, and like Casey before him, he wished for a fish.  He’d seen his dad land that Mahimahi, and he wanted one as well.

At about 3:00, Luke got a little more than he bargained for.  A powerful Pacific Blue Marlin struck the lure and a 60 minute fight ensued.  Luke was every bit as determined as young Casey was in fighting the fish, and he also used the advantage of the two-speed reel and harness to overcome fatigue.  As the fish came to the boat, it had already been determined by the group that they were going to release it, but the fish was tired and the trailer hook had caught the Marlin’s eye, leaving a trail of blood behind the boat.  Figuring the fish would not survive, they reluctantly decided to take the fish and have it put to good use rather than let the sharks have an easy meal.  As a biologist, Luke’s father understood the issue of survival of the fish was in question, and since there is food value for Marlin in Hawaii, the decision made good sense.  At only age thirteen, Luke was the proud angler of a 380 pound Pacific Blue Marlin.


With two dreams fulfilled at the back of his boat this in less than a month, Mongreig’s smile opened up just a little wider.  Enter Shorty (don’t call me Harold) Miller, an octagenarian gentleman whose life dream had been to catch a Billfish.  Unaware of the dream until after the trip, Shorty’s son and daughter in law gathered their frequent flier miles up and planned a trip to Hawaii.  Seeing the opportunity, Shorty booked the 21st on the Fish Wish for the small family, and began his day sitting in the fighting chair, hoping upon hope that his dreams would soon be fulfilled.  After a couple of hours there wasn’t any action.  Mongreig, never content to stand by idle, came down and changed out the lure on the stinger, and no sooner did he replace it into the pattern did it get bit.  Shorty Miller’s dream of his moment in the sun was about to come true.

As he jumped in the chair, Shorty was ecstatic, perhaps overwhelmed.   He fought the fish a bit erratically, but was able to gain line on the feisty pelagic.  As the fish came toward the boat, the crew took the leader, finished off the fight, and grabbed the bill of the Shortbilled Spearfish for everyone to see.  Kent then tagged the fish and let it go, and after Shorty thanked everyone for being a part of his lifelong dream, he got out of the chair, went into the air-conditioned salon, sat down, and buried his face into a shower of tears.  Concerned for a moment, Mongreig was reassured by Shorty’s family.  “You just made his day,” said Shorty’s daughter-in-law.  “No, Kent,” said Shorty’s son, “you just made his life.”

 

One of the nice features of releasing a fish is completing a tag card and sending it to the appropriate agency for tracking in the event the fish is ever re-claimed.  As a fish is released, in many ways the person who lets it go adopts the fish’s new lease on life, knowing that a fish released today is one for tomorrow’s fun.  Shorty was proud to have a fish swimming in Hawaiian waters bearing his name.  But he wasn’t done yet.

Two days later, Fish Wish took the Millers to sea again.  Another Spearfish was angled by the now confident man of the sea, causing his son to proclaim “there will be all kinds of fish in the sea named Shorty.”  A second strike of the day seemed to be another Spearfish, so the seasoned angler turned the tools over to his daughter in law.  She angled the fish to the boat, and it turned out to be a Striped Marlin for the happy group, making three billfish releases in two days.  A third day at sea was prescribed by the doctor of happiness, and when the largest Spearfish of the bunch struck the line, Shorty leaped into the chair like an old pro and angled the fish to perfection. 

As the fourth billfish of the trip was released, the crew waved goodbye and moved on.  Two more Stripes and a Blue Marlin hit the lures later that third day but came off, however, the salty veteran who captivated the passion for billfishing shrugged them off to experience.  He’d seen his day in the sun, and he’d caught his first billfish.

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Shorty proudly displaying the release flags

Anyone who spends time at sea knows great stories don’t come along every day, and it’s easy to forget just why it is we spend our time out there.   But every now and again dreams do come true, and for Captain Kent Mongreig and his trio of Fish Wishers, January of the new Millennium will be a month to remember. 

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