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9/17/99 -  Wild Bunch Catches Oahu Record for 1999...so far!

Fishing in Hawaii is always exciting because of the prospect of catching something extremely memorable.  There is no place on Earth that has developed the production of fish over 400 pounds that Hawaii has, and to say the bite for these giants of the deep has been hot this August and September is quite the understatement.  We have been getting reports almost daily of boats losing a giant fish after the strike, ten minutes, and hour, etc. but for some reason, nobody had been able to hang on to record their catch.  

The Ho’ole’a tournament had at least five fish on the line over 400 pounds, maybe more, and the charter fleets have all been reporting in some big ones coming off the hook for one reason or another.  The private fleet has been lamenting the same song, and just when it was beginning to look like the fish were winning more often than not, Pete Silva of Westchester, PA (just outside of Philadelphia) decided to charter the Wild Bunch with captain Timmy Gray and Ron (Opy) Johnson.   Pete’s friends Randall, Mark and Chet (no last names provided) also went for the ride, and after Randall boated a 38-pound Mahimahi at about 9am, they all felt the charter trip was worth the price of admission.   What they didn’t realize, however, was they would be the lucky ones to catch one of the mighty Blue Marlin that lurk in these waters giving them the harbor record to date for 1999. 

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Angler Pete Silva of Westchester, PA

Shortly after the Mahimahi was in the boat, Wild Bunch ran across a school of Aku (skipjack tuna) about 8 miles outside the Power Plant off Waianae.  They caught one of the Aku, and decided the waters looked fertile enough to rig one up as live bait.  About fifteen minutes after setting the 11-12 pound bait on the 130-class rig, Opy, Timmy and the crew spent some time discussing whether or not it was still healthy.  They had seen the color near the surface and the fish seemed a bit lethargic, but since it continued to tug on the line, they felt it was OK.  Suddenly, Opy, who was holding the line in his hand, felt a tap on the bait, then another, and then a third.  He said the taps were so gentle that he thought it was just the fish trying to swim away, but he did mention it felt as though something larger might be interested in it.  

At about 10:00, the Marlin then exploded on the third tap, and the fight was on.  Silva jumped into the chair, something he had never done in his life as this was his first time on a deep sea charter boat, and fought the fish for forty-five minutes before it came along side.  It doesn’t take a lot of experience to know a fish is big, but even so, Silva just couldn’t believe the size of this one.  Although it only gave one good aerial display, the Marlin was powerful, and Silva was amazed at how much strength the fish had.  Fortunately, the fish succumbed rather quickly, either as a result of being tail-wrapped, over-exersion, or perhaps choking on the live bait, and before long, the real challenge became figuring out how to boat the fish.

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After the group of six tried in vain to haul the beast over the transom, it became clear they didn’t have the combined strength to make it happen.  They decided to tie the fish off to the boat and tow it to Kewalo, but then Gray received an offer from Carl Adams of the Mazel Tov he couldn’t refuse.  Mazel Tov has a transom door, so Adams offered to bring the boats together and transfer the fish onto the deck so the Marlin wouldn’t get attacked by sharks.  They brought the boats close together, then Opy jumped in and swam over to Mazel Tov.  Adams, his crew, and their charter plus Opy then combined their strength and managed to haul the great fish through the door and onto the deck.  After the fish was secure, Opy swam back to the Wild Bunch and both boats continued with their charter for the day.  Mazel Tov managed to catch a nice 140-pound Marlin for their guests, but Wild Bunch struck no more fish for the day. 

As the day progressed, Adams called Sportfish Hawaii to inquire about a scale and to ask us to come down and photograph the fish.  We obliged and procured the electronic scale from Hawaii Yacht Club.  We then called the local news companies who sent some crews down, and a crowd gathered as the two boats headed in from sea.  Wild Bunch tied up first at their slip, giving the crowd a chance to interview the anglers and crew and anticipate the great fish that was coming in.  Mazel Tov arrived shortly thereafter, with the fish’s tail hanging well outside the transom door.   

Adams had originally called in the dimensions of the fish at 123 inches short length by 37 inches of girth at the widest point.  These measurements calculated the fish at about 850 pounds, but because the ankle, or stump (at the joint of the tail), was about 21 inches, the fish was thought to be much larger.  Soon, the fish was attached to the scale, and a team of four hauled the beast off the deck using the hoist from the charter boat Maggie Joe.  The fish’s weight was over 250 pounds before it even began to lift off the deck, and with each pull of the rope, the scale numbers got larger.   400, 500, 700, 800, and finally, 900 pounds were registered.  Would it be a grander, we all wondered?

The final pull was made as the fish settled onto the scale and the line was tied off.  It swung for a moment, then stopped on the final figure.  “939 pounds!” I called out to the crowd amidst a warm round of applause.  “This year’s harbor record!”  The crowd continued their applause, leaving Silva and his friends flushed with the attention, and Gray and Opy were congratulated by all the other charter captains and crew that were around.  Silva continued to stare at the fish in utter disbelief over the size of it, and afterwards when it was loaded onto the truck, jumped up onto it and pretended to “ride ‘em cowboy.”

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Later, we re-measured the fish.  The short measurement was actually 129 inches and the one-side girth was 37 as reported by Adams.  Re-plugging the figures into the formula, we calculated the fish at 883 pounds, thus demonstrating how close the formula is to judging a fish’s weight.  The fish, when compared to others its size, had the girth of a grander and carried it well back to the anal fin.  However, it was a bit short in length for a grander, and only 5-6 more inches would have been enough to make it.  Nonetheless, it was a great fish by anyone’s standards, and it was one these charters and crew will never forget. 

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