MAALAEA - The Pualele out of Maalaea Harbor hoisted a monster blue marlin, weighing 872.4 pounds, by 14-year-old Kawai Luuwai, who was assisted by his cousin, Jordan Arruda. He was fishing with his dad, Capt. Kalei Luuwai, and Captains Bobby and Paulie Luuwai.
They were working the south end of Maui, trolling the 500-fathom ledge between the GG-Buoy in the Four Hills area and NL-Buoy off Nuu Landing.
Kalei was mainly looking for aku. He loves to eat aku. They started out at the NL-Buoy, getting around 300 pounds of shibi.
The bite got slow, so Paulie mentioned to Kalei, "Let's make our way toward Hana and get some ono."
As they headed inside toward Kipahulu, they had a triple ono bite, getting one nice, fat sausage. Kalei turned the boat back around and headed outside to the ledge, missing a big bull mahi.
When they got back to the NL-Buoy, 8-10 boats were still jigging for shibi. As Kalei made their first pass by the buoy, they had a strike on the short center lure.
The marlin pulled maybe 20 yards and then came off. It came back in on the long rigger lure all lit-up. Paulie teased the marlin several times, getting it to strike.
Its head and shoulders came out of the water, with its mouth wide open, as it engulfed the Steve Elkins Junior Popsicle lure. Game on!
The marlin made three big body lunges and then went deep, pulling half-a-spool of 130-test line on a steady dive like it was nothing.
They didn't know how big the marlin was until it started lunging 200 yards away, kicking up a lot of whitewater as it tore up the surface. Kalei realized, "The bugga's big."
Kalei had the boat in hard reverse around the buoy, trying to slow the line loss. They were trying to let all the other boats around the buoy know that they were on a fish.
Paulie left the rod in the side gunnel, with Kawai cranking in line local-style. For the next half-hour, Kalei chased after the marlin for over a mile, finally getting on the fish and control of the fight.
With the marlin down deep, Kalei began to plane the fish up, pulling forward, then reversing, as Kawai and Jordan switched off cranking in the line. It took them an hour to get all 400 yards back. Kalei mentioned, "Lucky the water was nice. If it had been rough, it would have been a different story."
After an hour-and-a-half fight, they finally had the marlin close to the boat. This fish was smart, tough and still had a lot of energy left.
For the next 45 minutes, the marlin stayed in a stalemate about 100 feet underneath the boat and began to swim in circles.
The water was clear and flat like glass, giving them a good view of their fish. Kalei maneuvered the boat with it as they inched it up to within 50 feet.
Kalei finally realized that he was dragging the fish around so much that he was keeping her alive. He put the boat in neutral and let the marlin pull them around.
Paulie kept the line away from the stern. The fish stayed right there swimming with the boat, digging in, head down and tail up.
They had the marlin ten feet from leader for the next half-hour. Paulie could almost grab the swivel - so close, yet so far. Very frustrating, he said.
"You no can push this kind of fish," mentioned Kalei. "You got to work 'em and wait until they tire out. Patience working it - that was the important thing; having patience.
"You bring 'em to the boat that green, someone gonna get hurt. They are so big, just one little shake of the head going to bust this, bust that."
After almost three hours, the marlin finally tired itself to death.
Kalei said he doesn't bring a big fish to the boat unless he knows it's done.
Once they finally got it up to leader, Paulie didn't bring it in until Kalei saw it turn sideways and show her belly. He said, "Okay, now it's time; we can take her."
When Paulie finally grabbed leader, he took triple wraps a couple of times and pulled with everything he had. He held the marlin off the side of the boat as Kalei stuck the fly-gaff underneath the peck fin. They got a half-hitch around the bill to secure the head.
With no stern door, the next challenge was getting the huge marlin onto the swimstep. With the flat water, and no swell to help, they had to rock and reverse the boat to surf it onto the step. Once they got the massive fish on, they tied the head and tail off across the stern, with it sticking out two feet on both sides.
Kalei said that he definitely felt it on the back of the boat. He couldn't get the bow of the boat down on a plane as he headed home. On the way back, they trolled past the GG-Buoy, picking up two mahi to seal the deal for a clean sweep.
Kalei mentioned that they have caught several smaller 800-pounders, but this 872.4-pounder is the largest marlin ever landed aboard the Pualele and for the Luuwai family, having fished Maui waters for generations.
This is also the 20th largest marlin weighed for Lahaina/Maalaea Harbors since 1972.