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Race tracks marlin tagged during the Hawaiian International Billfish Tourney

By Staff | Mar 9, 2017

I wanted to follow up on the 2015-16 Great Marlin Race winners from Kona during the 56th annual Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament (HIBT) and the seventh year for the International Great Marlin Race (IGMR).

Earning first place in the Kona race were IGFA Representatives Bob and Sally Kurz, Robert Chavers, Robert Dudley and Chuck Salinger for their blue marlin that was tagged during the 56th annual HIBT in Kona. The marlin swam a remarkable linear distance of 2,933 nautical miles in 241 days.

While fishing with Capt. Kenny Llanes on Vixen, IGFA Representative Sally Kurz hooked the second largest blue in the race – estimated at 280 pounds – and after a half-hour fight, Ricky Perkins leadered the marlin alongside the boat, where IGFA Representative Bob Kurz tagged it with the sixth satellite tag of the race. The tag was co-sponsored by Bob and Sally, Chavers, Dudley and Salinger for Laguna Niguel Billfish Club Teams 1 and 2. This is their third year of sponsorship.

Throughout the deployment, the blue marlin primarily swam east-southeast before the tag popped up one day after the full scheduled deployment period of 240 days, having traveled a linear distance of 2,933 nautical miles and an estimated total distance of 4,514 nautical miles.

The fish initially headed southeast, but then it diverted northeast to pass Clipperton Island before the tag popped up 240 nautical miles southwest off the coast of Acapulco, Mexico.

The blue followed a diving pattern with frequent dives below the 15-degree Celsius thermocline into colder waters. Although the majority of time was spent above 100 meters (328 feet) in water temperatures above 26 degrees Celsius (79 degrees Fahrenheit), a greater proportion of time was spent in colder waters compared to the other fish in the race. The marlin’s deepest dive was to 320 meters (1,050 feet) toward the end of the deployment, where the water temperature was 9.8 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit).

Just when the father-son duo of Mitch and Marty Firestein (Team Laguna Niguel Billfish Club Team 3) had another HIBT IGMR in the bag, the tag from Team Laguna Niguel Billfish Club Teams 1 and 2 popped up to take the lead and win the Kona IGMR by 265 nautical miles.

After a ten-minute fight from angler Stephen Circco, the tenth and final tag of the HIBT IGMR was deployed on the largest blue in the race, an estimated 375-pound marlin. Northern Lights Capt. Kevin Nakamaru tagged the fish on behalf of IGFA Representative, veteran sponsor and 2013-14 IGMR winner Marty Firestein of Laguna Niguel Billfish Club Team 3. Marty and son Mitch, as well as Ralph Czabayski’s company, Star Electrical, have independently sponsored satellite tags every year since the first HIBT IGMR in 2012.

The tag popped off 750 nautical miles southwest off the coast of Acapulco, Mexico, northeast of Clipperton Island, 2,668 nautical miles from where it was deployed off the coast of Kona, in 138 days. This directed swimming is evident by the only slightly longer total estimated distance of 3,104 nautical miles.

Diving depths were also generally above the 15-degree Celsius thermocline with just occasional dives into colder waters. The marlin made its deepest dive just over a month into the deployment to a depth of 424 meters (1,391 feet), where the water temperature was a cold 8 degrees Celsius (46 degrees Fahrenheit).

However, for the majority of the time, the fish was above 150 meters (492 feet) in water temperatures between 24-30 degrees Celsius (75-86 degrees Fahrenheit).