A fish story about Vicky Fleming’s ahi
I found a story from my archive files back in 1984. It was about Vicky Fleming and her wahine record ahi weighing 213.5 pounds.
Vicky was fishing with her friends, Scott Nugent and John & Marilyn Phipps of The Dive Shop in Kihei, aboard their 25-foot Boston Whaler “Mercriada.” They were heading to Kahoolawe to fish Obake Bay near Halona Point. On the way, everyone told Vicky that she would have first shot at the first fish, since she had never been deep sea fishing before.
They were trolling down the middle of Obake Bay in green water with six- to eight-foot swells and 15-20 knot winds when all of a sudden, they had a strike on the short corner rod in the side gunnel. The fish gobbled down a Ventura Brothers lure on 80-test line and took off.
Everyone went into action. Marilyn took control of the boat while Scott and John started clearing lines. There was no fighting chair, so Vicky got into the captain’s chair and prepared herself for her first fish.
Scott helped Vicky into the fighting harness as John went for the rod. The fish acted like either a shark or big ahi. Vicky had never been hooked into a harness before. Her idea of a harness was totally different than she thought. She thought that you were harnessed into the chair, so you wouldn’t get pulled overboard.
“Boy was I in for a surprise,” mentioned Vicky.
Once the rod was pulled from the holder and the harness hooked up to the reel, the ahi made a move, pulling Vicky out of the chair and onto the deck of the boat. Everyone looked at Vicky and said, “This must be a real big fish.” Vicky thought that it was 50 or 60 pounds.
The ahi pulled her out of the chair a couple of more times, with her getting pretty nerved-out about it. Everybody kept coaching her and helping her along. It took Vicky about 45 minutes before they finally got the ahi to leader. Scott was the leaderman, and readied himself, but the ahi made a run, taking out line straight down like a ton of bricks.
This happened a couple more times before they were able to get some control on it. It was a pretty intense fight. There was a point, Vicky related, were the ahi came up to the side of the boat and jumped. “That’s when I got to see exactly how big it was. That’s also when I started to panic,” she said.
“I looked at the free-spool lever and thought to myself that if I couldn’t handle the fish, that I was going to let it go.” She also thought about killing a fish that size. Being a real novice, it really bothered her about bringing that fish in.
Right as she was thinking about doing it, John looked at her and said in a very stern voice, “Vicky, if you touch that lever, we’re all going to kill you, so don’t let that fish go.” John knew that she was thinking about letting that fish go.
“It was a pretty tough fight physically. There were a couple of times that I was screaming out, ‘I can’t handle this fish.’ There was so much pulling, especially in my back, that I thought I might hurt myself. Every muscle in my body was aching. I hurt for two weeks,” Vicky explained.
“Marilyn kept telling me, ‘You almost got it, you almost got it, it’s almost over, just five more minutes, get that fish in here.’ Boy was that a lie. I’ll never forget it.”
“It was as if someone had hooked the lure onto the bumper of a Volkswagen Bug and floored it. It was like trying to hold onto a car. It’s a miracle that I even got the fish to the boat. I kept having to fight the swell, the chair and the cooler moving around that my feet were on. Plus, this monster fish trying to tow me to Kona,” she added.
Every time they got the fish to leader, it would go straight down. It took them a long time before Scott finally grabbed leader and John could gaff it. The way everyone reacted to the fish was exciting.
“Both John and Scott were probably wishing that they were in the chair. They had no idea that the first fish would be such a monster,” Vicky said.
There were a couple of times when no one was driving the boat. Everybody was so involved that they just had to let the boat go. Marilyn, who was supposed to be driving, was coaching Vicky. Vicky said, “I even forgot how rough and windy it was, and the adrenalin rush was just outrageous.
Vicky had never seen how it all came together, with the leaderman, the gaffman, the driver and the angler all doing their thing. It was definitely a team effort. When they got back to Maalaea Harbor, everyone was waiting for them. All of the fishermen were watching as the fish was weighed, not believing that a lady had angled the monster ahi. The truth hung high, as Vicky stood next to her ahi to get the recognition she truly deserved.
Vicky’s 213.5-pound ahi is the second largest ahi ever weighed by a wahine angler and 13th largest ahi officially weighed on Maui since 1977.