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A Special Look At Hawaii Offshore Fishing: Jim Rizzuto


Meet your Match... Top trolling skippers around the world not only match the hatch and the catch, they sometimes match the patch, the latch and their scratch. We interviewed skippers from Kona to Ghana to learn the secrets of choosing lures based on available prey, their target fish, changing sea conditions, hooking effectiveness, and even the high cost of maintaining lure sets for all circumstances.

Match the Hatch... Matching the prey of your target fish is great, says Kona skipper Chip Van Mols but figuring out what that is can be tricky. "In Kona we don't see many marlin feeding on the surface and the ones I catch are released so there isn't any looking at stomach contents," Van Mols said. "At times our live bait grounds will be loaded with skipjack (aku) and frigate mackerel (oi oi) but the marlin aren't responding well to live baits of either species. Even though you are marking plenty of marlin in the area and you're even seeing the occasional feeder near you there are still no takers on your bait or a mixed spread of lures. Then you see a small blue marlin come up near you trying to catch a foot-long juvenile stickfish and it has no interest whatsoever in the spread of lures. It only wants stickfish. I don't know why with massive schools of small tuna and frigate mackerel around the marlin will fixate on these skinny little things but they do. My answer was a black-and-blue Zuker 3.5, which is the best match (1.5-inch long slender head with a diameter of about 5/8 or 3/4 of an inch and maybe 12 inches in length skirted, like a long skinny flat-faced AP) that I had on my boat the first day it clicked in my head. It worked really well that first day and still does when I see that pattern. I suppose I figure out what the hatch is from either seeing the fish feed first hand, emptying their stomach or interpreting their lure selection from my spread."
If you know the biological cycles in your fishing waters, you may not need to see the hatch to match it, says Captain Neal Isaacs.

"Off the Kona Coast year round there are always flying fish, (blue and silver) and skipjack tuna, which are blue or purple and silver in color, so we pull lures colored blue/silver and purple/silver over black predominantly," Isaac said. "During the late spring and summer, April through August, there are often large schools of squid near the surface so we will add a brown/white over orange or pink lure to the pattern, usually a wide-range Softhead ô. In the fall and winter months there are large schools of opelu (mackerel scad) and akule (big-eye scad), both blue/green in color. Then we replace the brown/white lures with a green-over-black lure."

Legendary skipper Roddy Hays says matching the hatch isnít important for marlin but is vital when you target tuna. "With tunas, gut the first fish of the day to see what they are feeding on," says Hays. When you canít cut a fish open to determine forage, says Hays, you fall back on three clues: "Identifying your specks on the sounder from past experience, watching bait on the surface, or successfully interpreting the actions of birds in the area".... "Blue marlin, on the other hand, are individual hunters for much of the time," says Hays. "When they migrate across great swatches of ocean, I believe they donít feed much. Blue marlin are true opportunists and will feed on any type of fish or sea creature at any given time. I think they donít become as fixated on prey size or item as tunas do. Thatís why a blue marlin in the spread may choose a large lure when feeding on a smaller prey item, or pick off a tiny offering way down the back while digesting a tuna or skipjack."

Sometimes you have to go to extremes to match billfish forage, says Kona skipper Kent Mongreig because marlin sometimes poke at puffers. On one occasion he passed a blue marlin feeding on the surface and noticed a puffer fish floating upside down. "It was all blown up and the marlin was actually poking at it with its bill," Mongreig said. "I made several passes in the area to no avail. The fish continued working the area, but was not interested in anything I had out there. So I dug through my lures and came up with a light brown lure with a white belly. It had previously done nothing. I rigged it, put it out on the short rigger, and made another pass on the area, and sure enough that was exactly what that fish and others were looking for at the time. For several days that lure caught consistently."
Puffers are odd prey for any fish, but Mongreig feels the same concept fits the billfish daily diet. "For some time now I have been running mostly small and medium lures, with a few large lures occasionally on the corner. A lot of our fish feed normally on smaller things like flying fish, flying squid, ballyhoo, nehu, and all the easy-to-catch food, probably because they are more abundant. This year when the new hatch of aku happened on the grounds, the water was white with bait, all small stuff. When I trolled in the area all the smaller lures got all the action, from all different species of fish, and even when I got away from that area, still all the small lures received the most attention."

Lure fishing all starts with squid, says Capt. Dennis Cintas who started fishing in 1959 with his dad, Manuel Cintas, on the family commercial tuna/bait (bamboo pole and line) boat out of San Diego, California. Trolling was simple in those days when the lure of choice was a 6-oz. chromed lead-headed feather jig with a red ruby eye near the center on both sides, says Cintas. With a mahimahi skin collar over white chicken feathers, the jig caught yellowfin up to 150 pounds, wahoo, mahimahi and marlin "although the latter would normally break us off before we could stop the boat," Cintas said. "This simple lure proved to me that anything resembling a squid and heavy enough to stay just below the surface would get eaten by any pelagic fish. A properly rigged lure, trolled at about 8 - 9 knots will attract all species of pelagic fish because they all eat squid!"

You can find the full story in The Kona Fishing Chronicles Volume 4/5

View "Archives 1: A Special Look At Hawaii Offshore Fishing: Jim Rizzuto"

View "Archives 2: A Special Look At Hawaii Offshore Fishing: Jim Rizzuto"

View "Archives 3: A Special Look At Hawaii Offshore Fishing: Jim Rizzuto"

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