KAILUA-KONA — With a long line of anglers looping around the pier and a fleet of boats waiting on the water, Kailua Bay looked like rush hour on the H-1 for the opening day of the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament on Monday.
That, however, was not a bad thing. It was a sign of a bountiful day on the water.
In all, 27 Pacific blue marlin and short-nosed spearfish were tagged and released and 24 teams put numbers on the scoreboard. The only fish to be weighed was an ahi, that came in just over the 100-pound minimum. For comparison, last year just 14 fish were reeled in on the first day of the tournament.
The father-son Laguna Niguel Billfish Club team of Martin and Mitchel Firestein lead the way with 1,200 points, having tagged and released a whopping four marlin on the opening day while fishing on the boat “2nd Offense.” Behind them are the Houston Big Game Fishing Club-Team Filo Pamela Basco (700) and Lizard Island Game Fish Club (600).
“Kona is the best place to fish and one of our favorites,” Mitchel Firestein said, who reeled in a pair of the fish. “I’ve been fishing with my dad since I was about two, and 34 years later, we are still going fishing all over the world.”
Martin Firestein jokes that his son now shares the same fishing fever he got as a youngin.
“I tell him, ‘I’m sorry I infected you with this disease,’” the elder Firestein joked.
Laguna Niguel Billfish Club has won the tournament a record three times, but they’re not alone. Multiple other clubs have achieved a trio titles over the storied 60-year history of the tournament. However, the four flags from the Firesteins on Day 1 could be a sign that a historic fourth title could be in the works.
“That’s the big one, No. 4. But there’s four more days, it’s a long tournament,” Martin Firestein said. “We just have to go out and have fun. When it gets down to it, no matter where you are on the leaderboard, everything shifts and changes. It’s anybody’s game still.”
Anglers on 41 teams from Africa, Australia, Fiji, Japan, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Palau and the United States began the five-day fishing marathon in Kona’s famous waters. By the mid-morning radio round-up, 11 teams had Pacific blue marlin and spearfish tagged and released.
New to the HIBT team roster, Houston Big Game Fishing Club made its debut in the tournament with a splash. Angler and team captain Pamela Basco put the first tag on the scoreboard just 30 minutes after the tournament start. Fishing aboard the Foxy Lady, the wahine angler successfully tagged the estimated 130-pounder in just 10 minutes. By 10 a.m., nine teams put valuable points on the scoreboard.
Fishing action continues today in Kona, with the public weigh-ins being held at Kailua Pier at 4 p.m.