LAHAINA - One of the most epic days of fishing I have seen in a long time happened aboard the No Problem with angler Joe Dratz, assisted by Captains Mason Jarvi and Chimo Shipp. They ended the day with a 513.9-pound blue marlin and a record-sized Allison yellowfin tuna at 198.0 pounds. They also had a nice-sized 167.8-pound Allison yellowfin tuna, along with 109.8- and 94.5-pound yellowfin tuna, another in the 90-pound range and two in the 40-pound range. They even had a couple of mahi in the mix.
They were fishing the JJ-Buoy in 900 fathoms of water, nine miles off Waikahalulu Bay on the south side of Kahoolawe. Joe started off picking up the two 40-pounders right at gray light, then the two 90s and the 109.8-pounder.
Chimo put out a short and long bait as Mason came back down to the buoy, making a real close pass. Chimo saw a big tail slap on the long bait. He free-spooled the reel for a second then set the hook. The ahi took off between them, the buoy and another boat. Mason started to reverse after it as it wrapped itself around the buoy. Mason backed past the buoy and the other boat as Chimo held on to the 50-class rod packed with straight 80-test line.
From left, Capt. Mason Jarvi, Capt. Chimo Shipp, son Nalu and Joe Dratz with their day’s catch.
Once past the buoy, Mason slowed the boat. The ahi pulled about 400 yards as Mason followed after it. Joe took the rod from Chimo and fought the fish for awhile, until he needed to take a break. Chimo took over in the stand-up harness.
About 15 minutes into the fight, the ahi started swimming toward the boat. Chimo was wondering what was going on. All of a sudden, as Chimo stood at the stern rail, he saw a big blue marlin sitting there staring at the props. He yelled up to Mason, "Get a bait! Get a bait!"
Mason jumped off the bridge and grabbed a bait rig, which happened to be 400-test line, on a 12.0 hook. He rigged up a big opelu bait, clipped it to a 130-class reel and tossed it right in front of the marlin.
Mason jumped back on the bridge and idled the boat ahead. Just as the double line came off the rod tip, Chimo saw the marlin come up and eat the bait. Chimo was still in the stand-up harness, but he took a break long enough to free-spool the 130-class reel for a couple of seconds.
Mason bumped the boat ahead a few RPMs as Chimo pushed up the drag to the button, setting the hook. The marlin took off up-current to the buoy and started going Richter, jumping and windshield wiping its head, getting completely out of the water several times. All the other boats around the buoy saw its whitewater tail-walking, with a couple getting an up-close look at the fish.
Mason was trying to motor away from the buoy. Fortunately, the marlin took off 300 yards in the other direction than the ahi and the other boats. The 130-class reel was in the starboard gunnel rod holder screaming off line. Mason came off the helm and switched off fighting the ahi as Chimo went to the helm.
Joe sat on the rail behind the 130-class reel and cranked on the fish, keeping the line tight as the marlin continued to jump and run. Chimo started to turn on the marlin and chase, with the ahi coming up behind the boat. The marlin stayed near the surface. At one point, it looked like they might have them both coming in at the same time.
They were more focused on the ahi Mason was fighting, but they had to also pay attention to the marlin, because of the line angle and the other boats around the buoy. The marlin ended up making another run downward. Mason was in a stalemate with the ahi for 10-15 minutes as it settled into its spot, spinning.
Mason was trying to fight the ahi from the port corner, but it kept dragging him back and forth from corner to corner. He couldn't keep up with its movements in the rough seas. The tuna really "beat up" on Mason, Chimo mentioned, dragging him around pretty good.
After a backbreaking 45 minutes, the ahi finally came up and gave them that one shot on the surface about 12 feet away. Chimo grabbed the long stick gaff and took what he could get, leaning out over the rail and sticking it one-handed. This ahi weighed 167.8 pounds.
Once they got the ahi in the boat, they concentrated on the marlin. Mason went back to the helm and drove down on the fish real fast. He began spinning the boat after it as it circled about 80 feet out. Joe was in a bit of a stalemate for about 15 minutes as the marlin continued making doughnuts.
After almost an hour, the double line finally came up. Mason had the boat going down-swell, two ahead. Chimo grabbed the double line but had to let go as the marlin made a short, five-yard pull. The next time to double line, Chimo hand-lined it up but couldn't get a wrap. Joe took a couple more cranks on the reel, getting the fish to leader.
Once Chimo grabbed leader, he took double wraps on the line. The marlin tried to turn and dig down. Chimo held on as it dragged him across the stern from one corner to the next. He got its head turned down-swell with the boat.
Chimo kept wrapping the marlin up on the port corner until he had it. Mason came off the helm and got the first fly-gaff in it. Joe followed up with a second gaff.
As they were pulling the marlin into the boat, they spotted another marlin, about 200 pounds, right behind the stern. They tried to get out another bait, but they were heading down-swell, getting swamped, taking on 2-3 inches of water across the back deck as they struggled to pull the fish through the door. By the time they got the marlin in the boat and the door closed, the marlin was gone.
They set back up, picking up a couple of 20-pound mahi. They were still on the top side of the buoy with Mason getting two more baits out. Another ahi came after the long bait, grabbed it but let it go. Mason free-spooled the reel. The ahi came back up as the bait was sinking and swallowed it whole.
The ahi turned going down-swell. There was not much room between the buoy and another boat in the area. Chimo spun the boat on the fish right away and chased after it. The ahi only took out about 200 yards, with them thinking it was only around 125 pounds.
Joe fought the ahi for half-hour, with Mason taking over. "It was a stubborn fish," Mason stated. They saw color early, but it took more 80-test line straight down. Mason worked the ahi hard, getting it up to 200 feet, then 100 feet.
Mason was at a stalemate. Chimo could see the ahi on the depth recorder, staying between 100-150 feet for the next half-hour, as it sat there spinning on them. Mason finally got the ahi up to 50 feet on the port side as they headed up-swell.
The ahi got into a yo-yo, give-and-take with Mason. It would swim up to 25 feet toward the front of the boat, with Chimo driving up on it. Then the ahi would turn and dive back down to 50 feet and spin. It did this maneuver 15-20 times, as Mason played tug of war with the ahi for the next half-hour.
Every time it did this, Chimo thought it was going into the props.
Once the ahi started to come up on the port side, it wanted to swim to the starboard side but came back around to port. Chimo was headed up-swell, getting the fish swimming right next to the boat 20 feet out. Chimo motored the boat up on it.
As Mason cranked it closer, the ahi planed out on its side, its dorsal fin and long yellow sickle out of the water. With the boat idled two ahead, Chimo came off the helm, with the fish right there near the surface. He couldn't get a wrap on the line, so he pulled and pulled, but the ahi was not coming in.
The ahi turned off to the side and headed back down to 50 feet. Chimo went back to the helm as the ahi made two more circles under the boat, then came back up toward the surface 15 feet away. Mason got a couple more cranks on the reel, with the ahi almost breaking the surface. It planed out beautifully.
After a brutal, two-hour battle, it was probably the last shot they would get on the fish. Chimo reached down a couple feet under the water with the long stick gaff, timing the gaff shot perfectly into the side of the head. This record-sized yellowfin weighed in at 198.0 pounds.
Chimo mentioned to Mason that it was one of the most nerve-wracking situations he has ever been in. They got lucky. It was a team effort, big time, said Chimo. They work well together.