Walking down the docks toward the ol' Sampan, it was impossible not to think about the history she'd seen. Estimating how many miles her bottom had covered, how many bait schools she'd floated over, or how many fish she shifted into attack mode was overwhelming. The Coreene C is a part of fishing lore; the stuff Ernest Hemingway wrote about - or would have had he been around in these times to see it. Not just famous in Hawaii, she is known to all Marlin fishermen around the world as the boat that caught the world's largest Marlin on Rod and Reel; an 1,805 pound Pacific Blue Marlin.
classic flying bow is unmistakable, her low gunwales ready for action. With almost
forty years of service already under her belt, she now serves anglers from placid Pearl
Harbor, just a short distance from the battleships Arizona and Missouri. Every bit
the warship she once was, it's an appropriate place for her to call home now. And
seeing her resting gently on a peaceful morning not only invoked thoughts of passion and
patriotism, but conjured images of historic battles. The Coreene C, like the famous
ships around her, rides on.
Hawaii's most famous fishing boat has seen a brilliant career, most notably beginning with the esteemed Cornelius Choy. A man I never met, but hear was a prince, celebrated a fine fishing career that included not only the 1,805 lb behemoth captured on June 10, 1970 (and memorialized by a stunning mount above the Maritime Center entrance near Aloha Tower Marketplace in Honolulu), but his demeanor and presence ignited respect from everyone he met. Even the famed Lahaina Jackpot Fishing Tournament retired his team number (53) after he passed away in honor of his gentlemanly posture, just so he'd always be a part of the event.
48 feet in length and powered with a single 6-31 Detroit Diesel, she was built in 1964 by
the Tanimura family specifically for Captain Choy, who'd decided his prior 36 boat of the
same name was a little to small. She isn't fast, never has been, but she's strong
and seaworthy, and she seems to have the innate ability to raise large fish - and get them
To anyone's thinking - at least an angler's - a thousand pound Marlin represents the nirvana of our sport. Compared to the millions of anglers that have fished over the years, the number of people who have caught a grander amounts to a few poppies in Flander's Field. It's the touchdown in a Super-bowl, the home run in a World Series, the checkered flag at Daytona; it's the holy grail. Now, an 800-pound fish is no slouch either, and many an angler dreams to this day of even catching one that size. But on that June day in 1970, it was possible on the Coreene C to not only manage a fish that exceeded the grander mark, but catch one that exceeded it by more than 800 pounds...a feat still not matched to this day.
In the summer of 1996, 23-year old Jared Dow visited Hawaii on vacation from California. A professional trombone player looking for a break in the music business, Dow also commercially fished on an abalone/urchin boat for about a year. During his trip to Hawaii, Coreene C's then owner Greg Mateny invited Dow for a holoholo trip aboard his famous ship. After landing a 150 pound Blue Marlin, a 60 lb Striped Marlin, five big Mahimahi, some Ono, Aku and Shibi for the royal sweep, Dow was hooked and decided Hawaii needed to be his home...and that he needed to fish here.
Dow went back to California, rounded up the band, and he and nine other reggae musicians headed to the islands in March 1997 to take their shot at a recording career. Dow had $60.00 in his pocket, but his dreams were deeper than his wallet. The band eventually split up and went their separate ways, but an undaunted Dow knew the sea was calling him anyway. Completely in love with the classic vessel and dreaming every day about the stories hidden in her massive wooden timbers, he got a job on the Coreene C as a deckhand.
During his tenure as a mate whereby he spent all of his spare time studying for his own captain's license, Dow worked for some 15 or so skippers on the "C," some of whom were very good fishermen. And within a mere year and a half after beginning his new life in Hawaii, Dow was not only beginning to take control of his own destiny, in October of 1998, he became the Coreene C's new owner and skipper.
Armed with a famous boat and the only Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) charter permit from Rainbow Marina in Pearl Harbor, Dow set about to build the business he had come to love. Running some 180-200 charters a year, nearly everyone who steps aboard ask if this was the boat that caught the largest Marlin in the world. Happy and proud to share the story, Dow tells them all that she is, relaying the circumstances over and over, watching them wince, seeing their eyes dance, invoking their dreams. If it happened once, they seemed to hope, could it happen again?
even alive when Captain Choy caught his monster fish, Dow - born in June of 1973 - would
soon come to realize his dreams by catching his own coveted grander. Having caught
several fish in the mid-three digit class, Dow was beginning to earn his stripes. A
610 pounder caught on the Haleiwa charter boat Chupu was his biggest recorded fish, though
he recalls a huge fish landed off of Niihau that had to be cut up to bring home.
Three in the mid-500 range were landed in 2000, so it was fair to say his big fish
skills were steadily improving in his short career.
Thursday, March 15, 2001. Rob Sarvis, Gino Pica, Randy Riley, and Tori Hesedahl joined Dow and his deckhand "Bear" for a typical charter day in Hawaii. The group had won the trip in a raffle held by MWR, but a little too much fun on the part of the passengers the night before caused the trip to be a little delayed.
Leaving the harbor at 6:45, the "C" slipped past Ford Island and majestic battleship row as she headed to sea directly toward a fishing spot known to locals as the "(expletive deleted) hole" where his previous trip had produced 16 Mahimahi and a Striped Marlin. Given the prone position of his passengers and their stated lack of experience in deep sea fishing, Dow thought about keeping the boat in close to reduce his chance of having to witness any flying lunches.
the "A-hole," they found some open schools of Mahimahi, and picked up a few.
They were finicky though, difficult to get in the biting mood, but because they
managed to land some thus getting the skunk off their backs, Dow decided it was time to
turn the boat down-sea toward Waianae and try for a Marlin. What a decision this
would turn out to be.
There was some type of missile and war-game-type activity on the distant outside, so Dow kept in close, working the 1000 fathom line. With his passengers asleep and a few fish in the hold, Dow began to eat his sandwich on the bridge as he had done a few hundred times before.
But he wouldn't get to finish his sandwich. Looking up at his GPS which read 76 degrees and 15.5 miles back to the Pearl Harbor entrance - yup, off the power plant at Kahe within a few passes of where the 1,805 pounder was caught 31 years prior - and noting 12:36 as the time, the Coreene C got a strike.
A solid tug on the center rigger, bearing a Burt Saito made white-bellied "froggy" 12" lure, yanked the line out of the clip. But instead of peeling out line in a hurried fit of aggression, this fish headed toward the boat and yet another lure - a purple softhead on the short corner - as though it hadn't realized it had just consumed a couple of ounces of plastic resin filled with large steel hooks. With a large loop in the line and the rod absolutely straight in the holder, Dow got Bear on the reel as he put down his sandwich. Cranking in the line, Bear and Dow wondered just what it was they'd hooked. Something was on, they knew, as the line was moving slowly toward another lure as though the first one wasn't even connected to a rod. As the fish cruised toward its next meal, Bear was able to get the loop out of the line and get some tension.
At about 10 feet before it reached the purple softhead lure, the fish suddenly realized it was hooked, and made an about face in a flash, turned its head toward sea, and prepared for a series of time trials on the liquid drag-strip. Not knowing what they had, Dow made a steering adjustment only to turn around and notice half the spool was gone from the 130-class 2-speed reel. "Big fish" was the initial reaction, and when it suddenly jumped out to the port side of the boat, the first thought was this Marlin was well over 500 pounds.
The next challenge was getting someone into the chair. With most of the group still asleep, Hesedahl, whose prior fishing experience included some trout as a youngster, was up and ready to go. Bear came down from the bridge, and Hesedahl jumped into the chair. Bear handed him the rod, telling him something expletively unprintable about the fact that he was in for the fight of his life. Bear then turned to retrieve the harness.
"A harness? Nobody told me about a harness!" he exclaimed as Bear began to clip him in. Hesedahl came to the sudden realization of what was before him, and turned his focus to the job at hand, hoping upon hope that he hadn't just committed himself to a suicide mission. Though he was instantly tired and sweating from the excitement, he worked the rod well and developed a rhythm.
The fish stopped her blazing, 5-jump run with about 200 yards of Dacron backing left (Dow runs 150 yards of 150lb mono for the top shot). With a huge loop of line out and the fish way up forward of the boat, Dow moved the controls astern, and began to back down hard - if "hard" means the 2.5 knots she can do flat out in reverse - to gain line. Hesedahl kept working, keeping the rod bent and the line tight, and amazingly, the Marlin was at the port corner within 40 minutes.
Knowing the port corner is a little cluttered on board, Dow wanted to bring the fish to the starboard side. With the fish still green and active, a cat and mouse stand-off began, and they could see the final battle wasn't going to be easy. The fish suddenly turned peeled out another 200 yards of line again, but they got that back quickly. Now with the fish close to the stern, Dow circled the boat about 12 times and brought the fish in closer. Suddenly, it made a move towards the underside of the boat. Reacting quickly, Dow throttled up to move away, and the fish popped out of the prop wash, laying on her side.
They quickly backed up some more, took the leader, and set a couple of gaffs into the tired fish. It was now 2:06pm...a 90 minute fight. After a futile attempt to bring the fish on board, it was secured to the transom with the nose up as high as they could get it, and the tow back to Pearl Harbor began with everyone on board figuring it to be about 650 pounds or so.
As the fish was hoisted from the water back at Rainbow Marina, there was no scale to weigh the majestic beast. They hoisted the fish out of the water, but then had to set it on the deck to shorten the line. Finally she came out of the water, at which time everyone finally got a good look at what they had caught. One of Dow's friends, Mike Pruner, took a look at the fish and told him right away it was no 600 pounder; Pruner said the fish had a chance of "going" (making the thousand pound threshold). "No way," Dow thought to himself.
On shore now, Dow soon became so engrossed in arranging for a truck to take the fish to the market that he forgot to pose for photos, but others were around to take advantage of the situation. One opportunist, who happened to be carrying a fly rod with him, jumped into the viewfinder for a candid photo of the great Marlin and he holding his 8-weight. Other passers by saw the fish and took their pictures also. Meanwhile, Dow found a truck, and they loaded the fish onto it for the drive to town, still not knowing the actual weight. It was like hitting the home run of all home runs, and still not realizing it. Dow was convinced the fish was no more than 700 pounds.
Finally, on a certified scale, it all came together. 1,015 pounds was the official weight. Dow couldn't believe it. At only 28 years old, he'd realized his dream and the fabled Coreene C added yet another notch to her long list of great catches. Together, the old boat with the young skipper - certainly an interesting twist on Hemingway's novel - had caught a grander.
A young musician from California who came to these shores with just a few bucks to his name, Jared Dow proved once again that dreams are worth dreaming and that Hawaii remains the only place in the world where a grander can be caught any day of the year. As for the Coreene C, one can only imagine how many more years she'll press on and what stories will continue to emerge.
The Coreene C remains proud as she continues to serve. Hemingway probably would be too.
Thanks to Bob Duerr and the March 2000 issue of Hawaii Fishing News for additional information on the Coreene C.
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