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Mako 1, Marlin 0

By Staff | Jun 23, 2016

Makos are the only shark fast enough to catch a tuna.

The Action had an exciting encounter with a mako shark during one of its charters. Capt. Jonny Keiley and his brother Jameson had been fishing the NASA Buoy off the backside of Lanai and were heading south down the 1,000-fathom ledge toward the MC Buoy. About halfway there, outside Kaumalapau Harbor, they hooked an estimated 100-pound blue marlin on the long rigger position.

It was a weird bite, mentioned Jonny. The marlin jumped out of the water, grabbing the lure on the jump, and immediately started greyhounding back and forth across the surface. It continued to scream out the 100-test line for at least 500 yards, just below the surface, before it stopped.

Jonny thought it was strange, because it was only a 100-pound fish – being a little more aggressive than normal – and it was taking so much line. He backed after the marlin, gaining 50-100 yards at a time, slowing the boat to let the angler catch his breath. He chased after it for about 10-15-minutes before he got on top of it.

The marlin was down and dirty, with Jonny sitting the boat in neutral, with it straight up and down off the stern. The fish made one more little run, with Jonny backing the boat right up to it.

As they got the marlin to leader, Jameson took double wraps on the line and pulled it up. It was fighting a little bit, shaking its head, but coming in easier than a normal 100-pound fish. As he pulled it up, about 15 feet off the starboard corner, he noticed some movement out of the corner of his eye.

Before Jameson could see what it was, Jonny noticed that the marlin was bleeding really bad and was missing its tail up to the caudal peduncle. As Jameson held on to the leader, an estimated eight- to ten-foot, 600-pound mako shark came up right next to the boat and took another big bite out of the marlin, leaving them with half a fish.

Jameson still had double wraps on the marlin and figured he wasn’t going to be able to hold on to it and the shark, so he let the leader go. The mako kept eating the marlin up to the pec fins. At that point, Jonny had the boat in neutral. Jonny wanted the lure back, so Jameson pulled up what was left of the marlin and got the lure up to the leader swivel. Jonny cut the leader about five feet from the hook.

Jameson dangled the head of the marlin off the side of the boat. For at least five minutes, the mako kept swimming around the boat but seemed skittish.

Jonny thought about catching the mako, since they are one of the few edible sharks. It is a tender, white meat, like chicken. On occasion, local restaurants will have it on their menu, but makos are rarely caught on Maui. The last one weighed in Lahaina was in 2013.

Since Jonny never shark fishes, he didn’t have any cable rigs on the boat. He got out a 400-pound mono marlin rig to use, then went to grab a bait. All he had was 15- to 20-pound tuna, but he decided to keep them, since he had already given the mako his marlin. Jameson let the leader go with the head of the marlin attached, as the mako followed it into the depths to finish off what was left.

Jonny mentioned that the marlin fought a lot harder than it should have for its size – a combination of being foul-hooked in the chin, and the mako right behind it. He figured that the last little run the marlin made just before leader was it getting its tail bitten off as it tried to get away from the mako.

Makos represent one of the largest, fastest, most sophisticated species of pelagic shark on our planet. They feed on some of the world’s fastest and highly developed tunas and billfish, and are therefore considered apex predators. Author Ernest Hemingway was impressed by the mako and depicted them as the marlin-marauding monsters in his classic novel “The Old Man and the Sea.”