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Shortbill spearfish a new light-tackle favorite

By Staff | Mar 14, 2013

From left, Robert Borgeld, Capt. Dave Hudson and deckman Sean Hudson caught this 54.2-pound spearfish. 

Spearfish are the least known of the world’s billfish. Scientists recognize four separate species of spearfish. The two species of most importance to anglers are the long-billed spearfish of the Atlantic and the short-billed spearfish in the Indo-Pacific Oceans found from New Zealand to Hawaii.

Short-billed spearfish are a pelagic tropical species found offshore or near volcanic islands surrounded by deep water along current lines, drop-offs and ledges.

Hawaii offers unquestionably the best shot at productive short-bill spearfishing because of the combination of underwater structures and cold currents.

Their appearance in most hot spots seems to correspond to the coldest water temperatures of the year. They are often associated with other cold water fish such as striped marlin.

They feed at or near the surface, mainly on small and medium-sized fishes and squids, including mahi, flying fish and needlefish. Spearfish often travel in pairs. Short-billed spearfish mature by the age of two and rarely live past three years of age. Maximum age may be four to five years.

The shortbill spearfish is one of the most common billfish encountered and are found in Hawaii’s waters all year long. This minuscule little billfish has not only become a new light-tackle favorite for many, but they fill an important season-stretching void for the charter fleet.

Hawaii consistently produces more short-nosed spearfish than any other known area, with them returning to Hawaii’s waters each spring to spawn. The best months are February through June.

So far this year, as of March 6, there have been 29 spearfish caught. There were 83 caught during 2012, with the best month in May (20). The best year was in 1999 with a total of 327, with the best month in April (65). The next was in 2001 with a total of 269, with the best month inMarch (87).

They are often referred to as “chuckers,” which in the early 1960s were always considered to be young striped marlin. These early catches of short-nosed spearfish, misidentified as young stripers and sailfish, could really have been chuckers.

By the late 1950s, spearfish catches began showing up in Hawaii’s commercial logbooks, and anglers fishing the Kona HIBT began weighing their first spearfish in the late ’60s and early ’70s.

On Jan. 3, 1978, the first IGFA record spearfish was caught out of Kona. It weighed 55 pounds, eight ounces and was landed aboard the No Problem with Capt. Bobby Brown.

The largest IGFA record for men on 50-pound test line is 74 pounds, 11 ounces from New Zealand. The largest IGFA record for men in Hawaiian waters is on six-pound test line and weighed 62 pounds.

The largest IGFA record for women on 80-pound test line is 74 pounds, eight ounces, also from New Zealand. The largest IGFA record for women in Hawaiian waters is on 16-pound test line and weighed 40 pounds.

The non-IGFA Hawaii state record is 76.8 pounds from the North Shore of Maui in 2011. The largest non-IGFA record fish recorded out of Lahaina Harbor since 1983 is a 71.6-pounder in 2001 aboard the Iwa Lele.