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Memorial Day monster marlin landed in Lahaina

By Staff | Jun 4, 2015

From left, Capt. Jay Rifkin, Mike and Kendall Michaelis, and Co-capt. Chris Cole with their “Grander” caught on Jun Ken Po. PHOTO BY DONNELL TATE.

LAHAINA – The Jun Ken Po landed a “Grander” blue marlin weighing 1,058.3 pounds for Kendall and Mike Michaelis. They were assisted by Capt. Jay Rifkin and Co-capt. Chris Cole.

They were working the 200-fathom ledge off Manele Bay, Lanai, picking up a 150-pound blue earlier in the six-hour trip. Chris had just cleaned up the back deck when they had their strike about a mile-and-a-half away.

Chris was on the helm when he spotted a “softball bat”-sized bill come up behind the short corner position. It was pushing a big whitewater wake behind the lure, causing it to miss it. The marlin turned its head as it reached the short corner lure. Chris free-spooled the lure backward as the fish launched itself on the lure, mouth wide open, turning its head back toward the lure and sucking it down its throat. Chris fed the fish for 3-4 seconds before he pushed up the drag to the strike position.

The marlin turned and took off straight down the pattern, peeling off 600 yards of 130-test line before it showed itself. It could barely get out of the water as it lunged across the surface, pushing big wakes of whitewater behind it. The marlin continued its surface run.

About 90 seconds later, Chris looked at the reel and saw the gold of the spool showing, knowing that they were about to get spooled. With less than 20 yards of Dacron backing left, Chris shouted up to Jay, “We need to turn and chase now!”

With the marlin heading off the port side, Jay turned the boat in that direction. The rod was in the port side holder of the fighting chair, so Chris grabbed the rod out of the holder and pointed it forward off the port side. As Jay started to gain on the fish, Chris noticed the big bow in the line.

Chris could barely hold onto the 130-class rod, cranking as fast as he could, trying to stop the line loss. Jay kept heading the boat to port, trying to cut the angle of the fish off. Chris continued cranking until he had the bow out and line straight, gaining about 100 yards in the process. They still had a lot of Dacron backing out.

After getting a comfortable amount of Dacron back on the spool, Jay turned the boat, with Chris cranking the line straight behind the stern. With Kendall situated in the bucket harness, Jay started to reverse the boat after the marlin.

They had a lot of pressure on the fish, with Kendall having a hard time holding onto the rod and gaining any line. Chris tried to let her fight the fish and experience the situation. He coached her into a technique, but she just couldn’t gain any line.

Chris helped Kendall crank for a while, with her dad, Mike, even helping out. After an hour of gaining very little line, Kendall was done. Chris grabbed the rod and cranked for several minutes, finally getting all the Dacron back on the spool, as Mike got in the chair.

The marlin was still near the surface with a good angle on the line. Mike was giving it all he could, slowly gaining some line. After a half hour, they had packed about 400 yards on the spool, with 600 yards still out.

Two hours into the fight, the marlin made another slow run, pulling off 100 yards. After it stopped, it went a little deeper. At that point, they ran into a stalemate. The fish was gradually taking line as it crackled off the spool.

They thought that the marlin was dead, so Chris started to slowly hand-line it up, trying to get the fish to budge. There was no movement at all from it. Chris bumped up the drag a little higher.

Chris moved the rod to the port side gunnel and had Mike sit behind it. Chris showed him how to crank and “Portuguese pull” the line. Mike tried to get cranks, but he was still having a hard time getting into a rhythm and gaining line.

With the reel in low gear, Chris started to “Portuguese pull” on the line with both hands, because of the weight of the fish. Mike slowly, little by little, gained some line. Anytime that Chris let go of the line, it would gradually crackle off the spool. After about 30 minutes of pulling, Chris’s forearms started to cramp up. He shouted up to Jay to come down and take over.

Jay had the boat heading down-current in neutral. There were big swells and wind behind them, pushing them along at 2-3 knots. After Chris took a short break, both he and Jay started pulling on the line together, with Mike, foot-by-foot, gaining line.

Chris pushed up the drag to around 50 pounds of pressure. Mike needed a break, so Chris and Jay took turns cranking and pulling line for the next 30 minutes. Chris told Jay, “We have some momentum going, so don’t stop You got to keep going, no matter how tired you are.”

Finally, after three hours of brutal torture, the marlin popped up like a submarine and rolled onto its side about short corner distance from the boat off the port side. Jay quickly pulled the fish in as Chris got it secured and half-hitched the bill.

The next problem was trying to get the beast into the boat. Jay, Chris and Mike for 30 minutes tried to pull it through the stern door, only getting the head in. The Start Me Up Cuz was in the area on a charter, so they called them over to help.

The captain and deckman from the Cuz jumped aboard, as Jay went to their boat with the charter. With two more fresh arms, they still couldn’t get it through the door. Jay maneuvered the Cuz back over to the Jun Ken Po, and four of the charters jumped aboard to also help out. With seven guys pulling, they finally got the “Grander” in the boat.

For catching a marlin over 500 pounds, Start Me Up Sportfishing gave Mike his trip for free. They also donated $300 to The Leilani Farm Sanctuary as part of their charity donation program for a marlin caught over 500 pounds on one of their boats.

This “Grander” was 14 feet, five inches from tip of bill to tail, with a 37-inch half-shoulder girth, a 34.5-inch half-anal girth, and a 19.5-inch caudal. It is estimated to be around 25 years old.

It is the largest marlin landed on Maui since July 18, 2007. It is also the second largest charter boat marlin and sixth largest marlin landed on Maui since 1983.