The Bright Side: Death, Taxes, and Fishing Captains


Fishing captains are an individualistic bunch. They sit on the bridge of their boat day after day, surveying their water kingdom, trying to figure out where to find a fish that will bite, and coming up with more theories than Carter has pills.

Get them all in a room, ask them the same question, and they’ll each give you a different answer. Like death and taxes, this has been a fact of life to this day.

Fishing was erratic last summer, that’s when it should be the most stable. In November things started to get good, which is not unusual. What is unusual is that fishing remained the same over New Year’s Eve. Between Christmas and New Year alone it seemed like a marlin over 500 pounds was caught every day, with the largest at 900 pounds.

Even more unusually, good fishing has lasted through most of January. I didn’t get all the skippers in one room and ask them why the fishing was so good this winter, but I did call a few on the phone.

I was expecting to fill this article with their various theories, but instead, for the first time in history, they all agreed, “I don’t know why the fishing was so good, but I’ll take it!” After reading about the After hearing it fifth time, I thought to myself, “Well, this is going to be the shortest article in the world.” However, a deeper dive began to uncover various tidbits here and there.

“Maybe those are the fish we should be getting this summer,” Capt offered. Stymie Epstein on. This theory has some merit as other seasonal fisheries are known to start later or earlier than “normal” in some years. Down on the Great Barrier Reef, black marlin usually congregate in October and November. Sometimes they start in September and sometimes they start in late October. However, these deviations are only a few weeks, not three months.

In the marlin world, all large specimens are female and usually come to Kona to spawn in the summer. However, last summer none of the females tipped the scales in the Hawaii Marlin Tournament Series were in spawning conditions. According to Big Al, our marlin cutting buddy, the big females he processed this winter were also empty. So if marlin don’t spawn in the summer and they don’t spawn ‘late’ here then something else is going on.

Based on a study published by the Commonwealth Marine Economics Programme, and funded by the UK Government, “Climate change is expected to have profound impacts on marine fish habitats, the food webs, the fish stocks they support and consequently the productivity of fisheries will…Based on recent distribution models, tuna populations are expected to move eastward and to higher latitudes due to climate drivers…”

This report focuses almost exclusively on different species of tuna, with only a passing mention of marlin. That’s because the economics of the tuna industry drive the funding of most fisheries studies of tropical and subtropical species. But where there is tuna, sooner or later there will also be marlin.

In addition, the British Commonwealth has a number of areas in the Western Pacific that will be adversely affected by this biomass shift. The western Pacific has produced more than half of the world’s tuna since commercial fleet expansion began in the late 1950s. That’s not half the tuna caught in the Pacific. That’s half the tuna caught on Earth. That would be some tuna!

So the UK and its Western Pacific have good reason to be concerned. The leak is expected to have a negative impact on their economies. In addition, climate-related changes are also expected in reef species that local people depend on for food, while our fisheries are expected to improve.

If this paper is correct, then what Kona’s skippers experienced could be at least partly due to this eastward shift in inventories. It could also explain why none of this fish stock is in spawning condition. Maybe they didn’t come to Kona to spawn, they were pushed here where they normally hang around and just do fish stuff.

Stymie’s son, Capt. As Tracy Epstein put it, “The body of water that we have around us now just seems to have a lot of fish in it.”

As you spend years and years on the ocean, studying your aquatic kingdom from the bridge, you begin to visualize and understand the concept of the movements of large bodies of water in the massive Pacific Ocean. Habitats are created by a combination of weather factors such as trade winds, oceanic factors such as currents, and terrestrial and bathymetric features.

So what happens when we get more marlin but they stop spawning? On this subject, the paper states: “The influence of such climate variability can affect the survival of larvae and thus the subsequent recruitment and also the redistribution of the most suitable habitats…”. suggesting that it is possible that spawning grounds are changing. However, the comment is so general that further studies are needed to address this particular scenario.

Here in Hawaii, Wild Oceans have started a research program they call “The Kona Project” that aims to improve knowledge of marlin spawning activity and larval distribution in the “Kona Gyre” ecosystem. This gyre spins in the lee of the Big Island, but the other side of the gyre can be more than 200 miles offshore, affecting seamounts and penguin banks, for starters.

Though every captain agrees, “I’ll take it!” When it comes to better fishing, it’s with uncanny timing that the “Kona Project” has begun to figure out why.



Comments are closed.