The Big Island’s Kona Coast is one of the best marlin and big-game fishing destinations in the world. That’s an undisputed fact, and explains why anglers from throughout the world travel to the island and pay big bucks to enter tournaments and book charters in pursuit of that one big catch.
Fishermen know why the Kona Coast is the best. It has to do with geology, climate and generally calm seas. Situated on the sheltered, leeward side of the island, the Kona Coast is protected from heavy seas and Pacific trade winds by tall mountains that rise high above the ocean. That accounts for the calm waters and the generally sunny skies.
Nature has made fishing here even more convenient by establishing premier fishing grounds just a short ride from the shore. The water depth drops off to 6,000 feet just a few miles offshore and continues to get deeper as you head out to sea.
As a result, most of Kona’s 1,000-pound marlin have been caught within 2 to 5 miles from shore. And it is said that Kona has produced more blue marlin weighing over 1,000 pounds than any other game fishing destination in the world. At least 50 verified “granders,” or 1,000 pounders, have been caught off Kona.
Blue marlin, part of the billfish family, are more plentiful in the summer months, but they run all year. Six species of billfish roam the Kona coast. In addition to blue marlin, there are black marlin, striped marlin, shortnose spearfish, Pacific sailfish, and broadbill swordfish. Kona is the only place in the world where both blue and black marline weighing more than 1,000 pounds has been caught.
A variety of smaller fish, including ono, ahi, mahi-mahi and kahala, can be found, along with many species of sharks. The mako shark is a prized catch for its aggressive behavior once landed. These fish can weigh more than 1,000 pounds.
Charter fishing boats are readily available on the Big Island. Many charters originate from Honokohau Marina, between Kailua-Kona and the airport. You can book an exclusive charter, which means the only people on board will be members of your party. Or you can arrange for a shared charter. In that case, the cost will be split with other people. Shared charters may go for $100 to $200. Exclusive trips will cost a lot more. In either case, advance reservations are recommended.
When you book your charter, it might be a good idea to specify what type of fishing you want to do. Fishing styles vary depending on target fish and season. Marlin are caught on trolled lures or on live bait. The technique called tag and release has been gaining recognition as an important part of billfish conservation. Some boats are exclusively tag and release, unless the fish is injured and won’t survive if released, or if the fish is a potential world record.
You can get a look at Kona whoppers in the lobby of King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel. Check out a 1,166-pound blue marlin, the record catch at the 1993 Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament. For more information about sportfishing, visit the headquarters of the Hawaii International Billfish Association and the Pacific Ocean Research Foundation at the Honokohau Harbor.