Every August, when the gentle but persistent trade winds calm considerably, and the Hawaiian heat index rises just a few points higher than the rest of the year, the most enthusiastic big game fishermen descend upon Kailua-Kona town on Hawaii Island. The annual Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament draws a few dozen entry vessels helmed by die-hard fishermen from around the globe who come to fight it out in the waters—in a friendly yet highly competitive event.
This year marks the 55th anniversary of the tournament, which will take place from 23rd – 30th August 2014.
The feat of earning “Winning Team” unfolds through a rigorous point system over the course of the week, with teams able to earn marks for largest fish of the day, biggest fish of the week, top captain and more. And it goes without saying: The pubs and breweries around Kona are filled with tall tales (tails?) all week long.
Last year’s winners were the crew from the Old South Marlin Club. Their story, although not uncommon, was dramatic nonetheless. They came out firing on day one, earning 600 points, only to stall completely the following three days. Near the bottom of the barrel when the final day kicked off, angler C.J. Dugan landed a 267 kilogram Pacific blue marlin that he fought onboard for 54 minutes, earning him points for “Fish of the Day” as well as “Largest Fish of the Week” and catapulting the crew into the top position.
Teams from California and Australia were also in top contention; one team—hailing from China—boasted an Olympic gold medallist (in gymnastics) on the team, only further highlighting the international appeal and draw of the tournament (Chen Yibing from the Hui Hai Hu Fishing Club). Over the years, teams have arrived from as far afield as Ireland, Kenya, Papua New Guinea, South Africa and Korea, to name a few.
Behind the tournament is a ploy to engage anglers around the world in good fishing practices, as most in the State of Hawaii adhere to. Tag and release is strongly encouraged year-round, as well as during the billfish tournament. Additionally, tourism officials and tournament organizers keep up the contest to insure a healthy fishing charter marketplace for boat owners, captains, fishermen and visitors keen on tapping into their “inner-Hemingway” when visiting the islands of Hawaii.
For those visiting Kona outside of the contest dates, take note: Fair Wind Big Island Ocean Guides—a favourite snorkel and dive vessel operator—has entered the game of sportfishing with the recent acquirement of two luxury fishing boats. The “Capt. Jack” is a 43-foot Powerbridge Flyboat, while “Kona Gold” is a 41-foot Bertram fishing vessel with private berths and lounge.
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Have you been fishing in Hawaii? What did you make of it? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
Written by Brian Berusch
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About the author: BrianBeruschBrian Berusch
Brian Berusch traded in his Manhattan gym membership for a quiver of surfboards, trail running shoes and a one-way ticket to Honolulu more than a decade ago. Since then, he’s interviewed dozens of celebrities and covered the destination for more than 25 travel and lifestyle magazines. He’s an award-winning Editorial Director, a Today Show correspondent and most recently the publisher of two new magazines. He has yet to “get barreled” in the perfect wave.