Kona Hawaii Fishing Report – May wrap-up.

We had a nice steady North current for most of May and that always equates to a good billfish bite. Spearfish topped the list as the most common catch followed by Blue and then striped marlin. Kona’s first broadbill swordfish of the year was caught this month also. Just last week, the current changed and that ended the hot bite. There’s still billfish to be had, it’s just that the chances of catching one got a little harder. Our current is not affected by tide changes like many other places because we only average a two foot change. Kona sits on the leeward side of the trade winds. The trade wind causes the current and we have a few big mountains blocking us from that wind and a big island blocking us from the current that is created by that wind so Kona sits in a current “eddy”. It’s very unpredictable.

We finally got two of our FAD buoys replace. VV that sits right in front of Kona town and C that sits just South of Captain Cook. It will take a while for marine growth to accumulate on the buoys and when it does, it will bring in the juvenile and very small fish to feed and that will start the whole food chain moving around the buoys. As I mentioned in last months report, because there were no buoys around, the mahi mahi bite was way down this season and that’s because most mahi mahi are found and caught near any floating structure. We have no kelp here and finding floating debris is somewhat rare. I also miss not catching the smaller ahi and bigeye tuna that hang on the buoys. Soon, it will all be happening again and sometime later this summer we’re suppose to get our other two missing FAD’s back.

The ono run is on but with a hitch. Ono are a near shore fishery so you want to be in 40 to 60 fathoms. Usually they’re scattered along the way but this month they were holding in piles. You could cover a lot of water without a bite but once you found where they were holding, you could catch several in a short period of time. May is when the “blind strike” ahi bite really starts and it did, right on que. If you don’t know what a blind strike ahi is, I suggest you go to the fishing report archives on my site and look at the month of May from past years.

Both bottom fishing and the trolling fishery industry took a BIG legislative hit last Friday! The DLNR (Dept. of Land and Natural Resources) board approved the Kaupulehu Marine Reserve and now it will go to the Governors desk where I’m sure it will be signed. This is the first (of more to come) marine reserves for the Kona coast. The original intent of this first reserve was to stop the fishing along a 3.6 mile stretch of shoreline. A group called KMLAC has been working for over a decade to get that accomplished. There has no doubt been a decrease in the fish populations there and the blame went to shoreline fishermen, spear fishermen and runoff from the nearby golf course. KMLAC wanted the fishing and spearing stopped for a 10 year period to allow the fish to repopulate. The seaward boundary was set at 20 fathoms (120 feet) and that’s what was FALSLY advertised! It just so happens that the area is currently an FRA (fish replenishment area) where it is illegal for aquarium fish collectors to take any fish. Where the problem starts is that the seaward boundary of the FRA’s reaches all the way out to 100 fathoms (600 feet). That of course makes no sense since a diver can’t go past 233 feet deep because oxygen becomes toxic past that and you die. Typically aquarium fishermen don’t dive past 120 feet and even that depth is rare. It was a huge NON-issue that the seaward boundary was set so deep because it didn’t matter anyway. KMLAC along with the WHFC (West Hawaii Fisheries Council) decided to set the marine reserve boundaries to match the existing FRA. Now, that 600 foot depth becomes a problem!

There is a natural ledge out there that both top water and bottom fishermen use called “The Grounds”. The edge of the ledge varies from 70 to 80 fathoms. While the South side of that ledge, called the “front side” is in the clear, a significant portion of the “back side” of that ledge falls within the new marine reserve.

To try to take care of that problem, KMLAC asked some (or maybe “a”) fisherman about the kinds of fish typically caught out in the deep. A “list” of both bottom and top water fish was compiled as being OK to catch and keep within the reserve from the 20 fathom boundary out to the 100 fathom boundary. Within just a few months of that list being made, it became apparent that several very common fish were missing from the list. Common fish like spearfish, striped marlin and bigeye tuna so it makes you wonder who they consulted. More fish were added to the “list”. They felt satisfied that the list was complete. All of the information going out to the public about the proposed reserve stated that fishing would be allowed outside of the 20 fathom line. That’s where the false advertising began. The only way you would know that this “list” even existed would be if somehow you were tipped off that no, not all fishing will be allowed outside of 20 fathoms. When I became aware of this list, it didn’t take me but a few minutes to see that the list was severely lacking. So much so that the one most common fish that is often found breaking the surface in that area, the frigate mackerel is not on the list! That mackerel isn’t a good eating fish at all but we fishermen typically use them as bait fish for bigger fish. Also missing from the list are several types of tuna and bonito. Rainbow runner, not on the list. Baraccuda (3 kinds), not on the list. Sharks (like mako and thresher), not on the list. Swordfish, not on the list. Kahala (Almaco jack and amberjack) and any trevally, not on the list. And that’s when I attempted to help out with the process. It was never the intention of KMLAC to mess with the offshore charter fishing and commercial bottom fishing industry but because of their lack of knowledge on how that works, we could get hit hard. I tried to work with DAR (Dept. of Aquatic Resources) and DLNR concerning the severely lacking “list” and it appeared that I was getting somewhere but then the decision was made to go ahead and move this proposal on up to the next level, the DLNR board “as written”. I flew to Honolulu and gave testimony to the board. I even provided several options on how to rectify the problem like adding whole families of fish rather than individual species or perhaps moving the seaward boundary closer, or even all the way back to 20 fathoms. People said that I did a good presentation and even proved my point. The bigger problem became that making these somewhat major changes to the proposal would have made it start back almost a square one with it needing to be rewritten, public hearings and the rest that goes along with it.

The DLNR voted almost unanimously to approve the proposal as written even though they knew that it (technically) will damage the deep water fishing industry. I doubt that anyone else in the charter fishing and bottom fishing industry even knew or knows anything about this reserve affecting their fishery. I also doubt that when it is approved, that they will not stop catching the fish not on the “list” because they don’t know anything about the “list”. I also kind of doubt that there will be any enforcement either. I can’t imagine a DAR boat sitting out on the ledge waiting for someone to troll by and see that if they do catch a mackerel, that they release it and don’t use it as bait. Or, even worse, you are using mackerel as bait and you happen to cross into the reserve. OH NO, You can’t do that! It’s the LAW.

See ‘ya on the water soon ,
Capt. Jeff Rogers ,