Lucky me spent the past week on the Big Island of Hawaii with my wife and two younger kids. I devoted most of the trip to family beach activities – surfing, body surfing, boogie boarding, and snorkeling, which was terrific.
On Friday, long term Angling Unlimited friend and client Tryg Winquist invited me to join him with local guide Captain Del Dykes. We met dockside at 7:45 AM and our skipper delivered a wonderfully complete orientation regarding light tackle and fly fishing on the Kona Coast. Del has been at it for 30 years and he’s a wealth of knowledge. We left the harbor at 8 AM and trolled out to a Fish Aggregating Device otherwise known as a FAD. These are buoys that attract pelagic fish like mahi mahi, wahoo (ono), and yellowfin tuna (ahi) to name a few.
Upon arrival the FAD, we did some drifts the buoy with me casting the fly and Tryg casting spinning gear. We hoped for a mahi mahi that might be hanging around, but after two passes, Del decided to troll and, perhaps, hook up a mahi that would have a friend swimming with it which would provide a fly fishing shot. We were a solid hour more into the blue water trolling when one of the reels began screaming under a heavy load. Tryg kindly let me take the rod. I put on a fighting belt and harness as the tuna ran a couple hundred yards of 50 pound mono going straight down. We were in over 250 fathoms (1500 feet) of water. It was an incredible show of strength. The first long run was followed by a battle of attrition – I’d gain, the fish would run, but the gains exceeded the runs and more than 20 grueling minutes we brought an 86 pound yellowfin tuna, known as ahi in Hawaii, into the boat. Following a few photos, Del promptly bled and iced the beast.
Now, I’m not really going to compare king salmon fishing in Alaska to yellowfin tuna or ahi fishing in Hawaii. It’s a little too much an apples and oranges deal. Ahi are an immensely powerful fish. They take an incredibly long first run where king salmon often run a bit, come to the boat, and then take their long run. Because of their enormous strength and very high metabolic rate – ahi never seem to give up. It’s extremely hard to turn their head and you don’t gain any line easily. They have more stamina than a king. They grow bigger than kings and you wouldn’t want to hook a good size ahi on a king salmon rod. If the fish didn’t spool the reel, the long limber G. Loomis rods we use for salmon, powerful as they are, lack the lifting power you’d want with the yellowfin. G. Loomis makes plenty of shorter, stouter rods for tuna and other bluewater fish.
As for eating, ahi and kings are two of the best. We took two thick filets to Jackie Reys Ohana Grill in Kailua Kona that night and enjoyed ahi expertly prepared three different ways. We had an incredible Poke (raw fish Hawaii style) Tower for an appetizer, then we enjoyed a sesame crusted filet and a wasabi/soy filet. Both were lightly seared on the outside and very rare in the middle. It was spectacular.