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Tale Walker marlin puts up tough fight at leader

By Staff | Sep 23, 2010

From left, Kyle “Ponch” Ponichtera and Captains Terry Kellam and Paulie Luuwai with their 471.3-pound blue marlin caught aboard Tale Walker.

LAHAINA — The Tale Walker joined the top marlin stats with a 471.3-pound blue by Kyle “Ponch” Ponichtera. He was fishing with Captains Terry “Killer” Kellam and Paulie Luuwai on a holo holo trip.

They had been fishing the N-Buoy off the northeast corner of Molokai, catching a few mahi and small tuna. They left the buoy and headed in toward Mokuhooniki Rock looking for ono. About 15 minutes later, they raised a fish.

Kyle was in the tower and saw something blue in the water. He started shouting, “There’s blue! There’s blue.” The fish grabbed the lure on the short rigger position and went straight down like a tuna.

It pulled 300 yards of 125-test line before it stopped. Neither Killer nor Paulie saw the fish, so they were hoping for a tuna. With Kyle in the chair and things cleared, Killer reversed the boat after the fish as hard as he could. He backed into the wind and waves for about ten minutes — taking water over the stern — as Kyle stayed on it.

As they lost the angle on the fish, Killer had the boat in and out of idle ahead to neutral, trying to keep the boat straight as they headed downhill. The fish dug in about mid-spool for awhile. When they got any angle at all, Killer was back on it, trying to get as much line as he could. The fish made several 50-yard runs during the 25-minute tug of war. Kyle fought it hard.

As the angle on the line started to change, Killer called out, “Coming up; coming up!” A marlin stuck its head out about short rigger distance from the boat and then began swimming back and forth away from the boat. Killer reversed after the fish, with Kyle working it up to double line.

At double line, the marlin was showing good color as it slowly swam back and forth across the stern. It was stubborn, getting Kyle into a bit of a stalemate. Every foot of line he got, the marlin would pull off 10-15 feet. This yo-yo went on for about 15 minutes.

Finally, Kyle cranked it up to leader, and Paulie was able to get wraps on the line. As Paulie leadered it to the starboard side, the marlin came in swimming at a weird angle, almost sideways, with its back to them and belly out. They were going to release the marlin, but both hooks were buried solid into the bill.

Killer came in behind Paulie at the corner with the fly-gaff and stuck it under the gill plate. The marlin was still kicking as he pulled its head up. Paulie reached down and grabbed the bill with his free hand.

The leader had gotten wrapped up under the corner of the boat and was tight on the rod, so Kyle backed off the drag just a little to take the stress off the line. Killer told him to put the rod in the holder and unclip the leader, so they could pull the leader clear. Even though the fish was gaffed and seemed mellow, this still left Paulie holding an unclipped marlin as he pulled the line clear.  

When Paulie tried to subdue the marlin, it took off tail-walking up the side, taking both of them with it. Killer was holding on to the gaff rope with everything he had, “flying the kite.” Paulie had the unhooked leader wrapped in his hand, almost getting pulled overboard.

The marlin came halfway out of the water shaking its head, with its bill getting tangled inside the rigger lines, bending the rigger down and almost coming into the boat. With the fish tight on the lines, it made a 180-degree turn and crashed back into the water, and the fly-gaff came out of the marlin.

Paulie was still wrapped up in the leader with one hand. He reached back, grabbed the stick gaff and stuck the fish wherever he could in the back. Kyle was standing there, so Paulie told him to grab the gaff so he could handle the leader.

The marlin swam under the starboard corner of the boat — hitting the edge of the rudder but missing the props — as it came out behind the stern. Paulie had leader, with Kyle still holding the stick gaff, leaning off the back of the boat screaming and holding on for dear life as the fish thrashed around. This was the biggest fish he had ever seen, and he wasn’t going to let go.  

Killer mentioned that he was amazed that Kyle held on as long as he did, giving him time to reload the fly-gaff and re-secure the marlin. Upon inspection, the six-inch stick gaff was bent almost open and twisted sideways.