Kona Hawaii fishing report - December wrap-up .
Tourism definitely picked up for the holidays. With all the snow, ice and freezing temps happening in the continental US, Hawaii was a good holiday destination choice for many. The tourists aren't afraid to spend their money either. It's the most boats I've seen going out since September. The trolling bite has been fair but not great. Good size blue marlin continue to be caught by the fleet on a daily basis and finally, the striped marlin have shown up. There were two of them caught on the 22nd and more followed after that. I'm really looking forward to catching my first small one of the season because it's my 2nd most favorite fish (after the Hawaiian grouper) to eat. Like most billfish, the small ones are tender but as they get bigger, the meat gets tougher. The flavor of a striped marlin really depends on what they have been feeding on. Killing a striped marlin only to find that the meat is white is somewhat disappointing. It doesn't taste much different than a blue marlin so it's just not very tasty (not bad though) but usually the striped marlin meat is some shade of pink. It makes great sashimi and I personally think it tastes better than sashimi cut from yellowfin or bigeye tuna. Once in a while you get the real big treat and find pumpkin orange colored meat. It is indeed the most awesome of all the billfish meats even beating out broadbill swordfish and spearfish. The spearfish are running now also so I wouldn't pass up a fresh spearfish meal either. We really do get spoiled here in Hawaii with all the varieties of tasty fish we catch here. More on that later.
The big mahi mahi are still here even though it's late in the season for them. We had a nice yellowfin tuna run this month. Not the little guys that are typical for this time of year around the ledges and buoys but the 100+ ones. They were hanging out with the porpoise school as they usually do but in the winter months we usually don't see this many around. Yellowfin tuna sashimi is a big favorite here in the islands for Christmas and new years parties.
The bottom bite for sportfish like sharks and jacks should be good right now but it's a bit slow. The bite should be picking up soon on those. In last months wrap-up I talked about the "forbidden seven" and the regulations that have come down from the DAR. It seems to me that they have created even more of a problem with their regulations this year than in years past. By extending the closed season by a month and a half, they brought the open season closer to the time of year when there is the highest demand for red and pink snapper. Just like yellowfin sashimi is a desired holiday favorite in Hawaii, so is steamed snapper. Because there was no snapper on the market for several months, the price for them was WAY up when the season started. The snapper bite started off slow in November but this month they were easier to catch and the commercial fishermen were filling cooler loads. More fishermen heard about the good bite and shifted their efforts toward catching snapper. Well, with the high number of snapper being caught, the price went down. Easy fix, just spend more time and effort catching more of them to make up the difference. In all my years fishing here I have never seen so many boats targeting the deep snapper. When the DAR first started their public forums about upcoming regulations, one of their concerns was that when the season opened, there would be so much fishing effort on them that it would negate the closure. In years past, that didn't happen but it may be happening this time. I expect a panic reaction by the DAR with an immediate closure of the fishery within the first couple months of the year. Of course, if they just left it alone, it would settle out on it's own but if they create another closure panic, the price will shoot back up and the fishing pressure will increase just prior to the closure. That's my (professional) opinion, we'll have to wait and see how it pans out. In the mean time, I have fresh snapper in the fridge to bring in the New Year and expect some fresh striped marlin sashimi is not far behind.
See 'ya on the water,
Capt. Jeff Rogers