ELEELE — With just minutes left in the fishing period, the ahi hit the Hukilau lines — hard — Saturday afternoon.
“They were fighting the fish for at least 15 minutes,” said Jayneen Laysa, the Port Allen Fishing Derby coordinator. “I was on the radio announcing the 4 p.m. fishing cutoff, and I was saying ‘All fishing pau except for Hukilau.’”
The battle won, Capt. Brent Olson and the Hukilau crew faced another deadline — making the Port Allen breakwater by the 5 p.m. cutoff.
“We made it with nine minutes to spare,” Olson said. “I even took a picture of my phone to show the time.”
The ahi, the first one snared by the Hukilau only served to tease the crowd which collected at the Port Allen Small Boat Harbor, settling in at 118 points. Another tease — a mahimahi which tipped the scale at 10.8 pounds. But then, the crowd gasped as they caught a glimpse of the big tail coming out of the fishbox.
This was the late hit ahi, coming in at 215.5 pounds.
It was not big enough to usurp Eric Ichimasa and the crew of Haruko who earlier landed a marlin which settled the scales at 239.5 pounds, sufficient to earn the Haruko crew the Biggest Fish honor as well as the top purse for the marlin division.
“He’s the big winner of the derby,” Laysa said. “Eric has the two awards. Brent and the Hukilau get the heaviest ahi purse, the second heaviest fish in the derby.”
The Haruko had the crowd on edge because in addition to its award-winning marlin, the crew had an ahi which weighed in at 200.5 pounds, the third heaviest ahi. The Kai Malie had the second heaviest ahi at 201.5 pounds.
The crew aboard the Sandra Lynne II also had its lines hit with a 145-pound marlin, the fourth heaviest in that class, and a pair of ahi which tipped the scales at 144.6 and 146.6 pounds.
Olson said this was the biggest ahi landed by the Hukilau.
“We’ve had heavier fish,” Olson said. “We had a marlin, not in this tournament, which came in at more than 400 pounds, but this is the heaviest ahi we’ve caught on Hukilau to date.”
Despite several tropical storms brewing far out to sea, the 17th annual Fishing Derby hosted by the Port Allen Fishing Club was a success with 40 boats leaving the harbor Saturday morning, and all but a dozen boats coming home with fish.
“It’s always a good day when you catch fish in a tournament,” said Jeslyn Laysa, doing official duty at the weigh station. “The storm was good to us, sending a lot of fish this way.”
Jayneen Laysa said overall there were a dozen ahi landed, six marlin, 13 ono, nine mahimahi and “plenty” aku.
The heaviest ono at 53 pounds went to the crew aboard Miss Momi Lomi Lomi, “Wild Thang,” a winner during the recent Garden Island Trollers tournament.
The largest mahi tipped the scale at 18 pounds, being presented to the crew aboard Nakoa, and the heaviest aku came in at 27 pounds from the Keilana.
For Capt. Mike Niau and crew Ben Kali, Steve Kato and Shane Niau aboard the Contak, they settled for the “Good Samaritan” award.
“Sacrifice,” said Kato. “When we first saw the guys, we thought they were throwing shaka. Instead, they were in trouble off the Koloa light.”
Niau said he made the choice and hooked up with the stricken boat, towing it back to Port Allen.
“It’s on me,” Niau said. “I made the choice. But anybody else would have done the same thing — it’s like a fisherman’s code. At least Shane, using a rapala, caught a papio while we were in tow. If we had win, it would have been pure good luck.”