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

HOW TO MASTER MAHIMAHI. Mahimahi continued to dominate offshore action and some recent catches could serve as a primer on how to fish for these highly prized game and food fish.

Here are five tips to help you become a mahimahi master.

1. Find a log. The team on the charterboat Bite Me won the December Dirty Dozen Fishing Tournament with four mahimahi totaling 98.5 lbs. Outside the harbor on the thousand-fathom line, skipper Kevin Hiney found a 30-foot long log surrounded by small tuna (shibi) and a sparse school of mahimahi. On his first trolling pass, he hooked four at once for anglers Trevor and Kim Sherwood. With David Bensco as crew to assist, the visitors from New Jersey boated 12 mahimahi. Only the largest four exceeded the 20-lb tournament minimum, but this husky quartet packed on enough pounds to beat out all 13 other teams in the total-weight event. The Sherwoodís foursome weighed 22, 23, 26 and 27.5 lbs.

After the Sherwoods caught the first four on lures, they switched to bait to catch the remaining eight. The log drifted closer and closer to shore as it moved northward along the coastline toward the Middle Grounds. By the time it had reached 700 fathoms, the shibi had lost interest and the mahimahi were nearly gone. By Monday morning the mahimahi attractor was well on the way across the channel gathering a new school of shibi, mahimahi and other fish to start another micro-colony of predators and prey.

2. Phone a Friend. While Bite Me was working the log, Illusions was trolling within sight in the distance. Skipper Tim Hicks watched as the far off image of the boat circled in one spot. Tim turned to investigate and Kevin called him to tell him what he had found. Illusions and several other boats joined Bite Me on the scene. Jack Gabrielse, a visitor from Wisconsin, was aboard Illusions as angler and caught five mahimahi towing lures around the log. But all were in the 17- to 20-lb range, too small to meet the DD Tourneyís minimum weight or to challenge Bite Meís total weight advantage.

"After we caught the first five, we left to troll the grounds to try for something bigger," Tim said. "We caught another mahimahi trolling the outside the ledge and were happy to finish up with six."

3. Trust to Blind Luck. Ed Barnett took his son Travis out for a family trip on Edís boat Reelentless and found four mahimahi just trolling lures "in the blind." As Reelentless trolled south along the 500-fathom line, Ed drew individual strikes from two mahimahi and boated both. He turned out to head back along the 1,000 and boated another. A fourth fish, the biggest of the day at 32-lbs, struck as they trolled outside VV-buoy before returning to the dock by 1:00 pm. "Travis fought the fish and I attempted the gaffing," Ed said. "Gaffing mahimahi is always entertaining. In a second or two they are here, there and everywhere." When I talked with Ed about subduing mahimahi, I asked him whether he had ever tried a trick popular on the west coast and described by Linda Lanterman. Linda, of the boat No Mercy described the practice of spraying vodka into the mahimahiís gills to knock it out. "Never tried it," said Ed. "Donít want to waste the vodka." Some swear by the vodka trick as the best way to avoid wrestling with a mahimahi on deck and possibly hooking yourself in the struggle. Whatever you think of stunning a fish with a spray of "Mahimahi Mace," it does give an interesting twist on the old saying "Drinks like a fish." Ed caught all of his fish by the way, on flyingfish imitations.

4. Toss Them a Bottle. Jeff Heintz always keeps a plastic jug close at hand on the bridge of Linda Sue III. When he hooks a pair of mahimahi or ono on a double strike as he did one day last week, he immediately tosses the bottle overboard to mark the spot. "I knew I had found something but I couldnít see what it was," Jeff said. "A lot of times the floater that attracted the mahimahi is submerged or very low to the water and you canít find it. The jug stands right out and you can go right back to it after you boat your fish." After his anglers, Jason, Justin and Joel Holder, boated the first two, they went back to hit the bottle again and hooked two more for the visiting brothers from Eastern Washington.

Jeff always fills the bottle partway with water so it sits up to make a more visible target. The ballast also helps to keep it in one spot. "And I always go back to pick up the bottle after we catch the fish," Jeff said. "No need to add more plastic trash to the ocean." Jeff uses jugs with handles and retrieves them with a long-handled gaff; he hooks the jug through the handle opening...By the way, Jeff says the spearfish are beginning to return in good numbers, a sure sign that the winter run is on the way. "We hooked five spearfish last week and none the week before," Jeff said. "Our biggest was a 51-pounder for Jeff Andrewjenski from Napierville, Illinois." Mahimahi are exceptionally good table fare but spearfish arenít far behind. "A fish like that 51-pounder has really big white meat steaks. Itíll feed a party of ten guests and then do it twice." Jeff says that a fishing season full of mahimahi and spearfish is exciting for most of his parties. "We are getting a couple of snaps every trip," Jeff says, referring to the rubber-band-breaking outrigger strikes. "When they arenít here, we may go two or three days waiting for just one strike from a blue marlin."

5. Rely on the luck of something old and something blue. In the case of a recent successful mahimahi trip on Krista (a beautiful blue boat) make that "someone old and experienced." Bill and Leslie Hardy, visitors from Florida, were along. Bill is 78 and last fished here back in 1967. On that previous trip forty years ago, he chartered Mona H with skipper George Parker and caught a 682.5-lb blue. Those were the days when the fleet weighed its catches at Kailua Pier and took its chances with the comparatively primitive facilities of the time. When George was lifting the huge marlin out of the water to pull it up on the dock, the tail rope broke and the fish dove back down into the waters of Kailua Bay. "George had to dive in after it to hook up another tail rope," Bill told skipper Dennis Cintas. "I called George and hooked Bill up for a phone conversation after 40 years," Dennis said. "I got chicken skin hearing them reminisce about the old days and the big fish."

At 78, however, Bill may still have been able to tackle another huge blue, but mahimahi were definitely a wiser match. "We found fish gathered around a piece of rope outside the harbor on the thousand," Dennis said. "After we caught a couple on small malolo lures we caught a couple more on bait." The biggest of Bill and Leslieís five fish weighed 25 pounds. They donít plan to wait another forty years to return for more. The luck of the blue had also prevailed earlier in the week when Dennis and his crew Tremaine Bauqran hosted Jim Simonton and Tate Berg, visitors from Southern California. "We caught three that day," Dennis said. "One hit while we were trolling and the other two took fresh dead opelu."

Keep that handful of tips in mind and you may just be able to extend mahimahi season year round. Copyright 2007 Jim Rizzuto

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