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The story of one of the longest fights ever recorded by a Lahaina Charter boat

By Staff | Dec 20, 2018

A marathon eight-hour-and-five-minute dizzy, tug-of-war battle finally produced a 646.0-pound blue marlin for the tag team efforts of Tom Zirpolo and Chris Martin on May 2. 2008. They were fishing with Capt. Denny Putnam and Deckman Jukka Hyytia aboard the Ho’okela.

Denny was inside the 100-fathom ledge off Kamaiki Point, on the southeast corner of Lanai, as he headed home at the end of an eight-hour charter. He was thinking whether to make a few passes on a net that another boat had found off the dum, or continue toward Lahaina.

Before Denny could make a decision, Jukka saw something behind the long corner lure, shouting out, “Billfish, billfish.” Jukka jumped off the bridge to the deck.

Denny shouted, “Reel it in.” Jukka cranked the line down until the tag line rubber band was at the tip of the rod. Nothing happened. He then free-spooled the line back up to the outrigger. Suddenly the reel made a quick zip then stopped.

Jukka took several quick cranks on the reel, bringing the lure in several yards, then free-spooled the reel again. As the lure dropped back through the wave, the marlin came up and grabbed it. Jukka locked up the reel.

The marlin was taking line at a good clip for 250-300 yards then sounded. Denny was in steady reverse after the fish for about a half hour, with them gaining a lot of line, before it finally came up jumping. The marlin only made two jumps, the second one airborne and parallel to the surface 75 yards away, then went right back down.

The marlin settled into a “comfort zone” between 150-200 feet and stayed there. Denny chased after the fish, making circle after circle, following it for 50-100 yards, and then it would turn around, and start circling again.

As they fought the marlin, it was a constant give and take. They would gain some line and then lose some as they continued the chase. Denny went down to hold the line, trying to get a feel for the fish, but it slowly took off again, swimming steadily away from them.

The marlin was tough and smart. It never got excited or made any radical runs. It just sat there making circles under the boat, conserving its energy and not making any mistakes.

Each time they would get the marlin to where they could see the double line, and even get it out of the water, the marlin would slowly dig down and head underneath the boat. Denny had to spin the boat around to get away from the fish and then get right back on it. It was non-stop maneuvering the boat.

After five hours, as the sun started to set, the marlin headed down the southeast coast into shallower water only 180-240 feet deep. It continued its circling and swimming in its zone. They were expecting the marlin to come to the surface as it started to tire, but it never did.

About a half hour after sunset, a baby whale popped up and started to breach right behind the boat, 50 feet away. There with it was its mom and an escort. Denny was worried that the whales might run through the line and cut them off. There was nothing Denny could do but sit there in idle and wait and see what happened. Lucky for them, the whales swam away from them heading into the AuAu Channel.

With it dark by now, the marlin continued down the east coast of Lanai over three miles past Keomuku Point. After seven hours of constant swimming circles and short 50-yard jaunts, the fish decided to head out into the AuAu Channel.

The marlin swam about a half mile outside Keomuku Point, but didn’t seem to like the change in the sea conditions and current and headed back inside. It did this several times over the next hour.

The communication between Denny and Jukka was crucial during this time. With the tower lights flooding the back deck, they had several close calls as the marlin tried to swim underneath the stern. Jukka had to reach out and keep the line off the corner as Denny kicked the boat away from the fish.

Finally, Jukka was able to grab the double line braid as it came up at the port corner and held on. The marlin just gave up and rolled over onto its side as it came to the surface. Jukka took a couple of wraps on the leader and pulled the fish across to the starboard side in the direction it was heading. Denny came down and secured their catch to end the marathon battle.

Everyone was too tired to try to pull the fish over the rail, so they decided to leave the marlin in the water and tow it the seven miles back to Lahaina.

At around 9:30 p.m., there was a small party of around 30 people waiting at the loading dock to see how big the fish would weigh. Upon inspection, the lead hook had gotten wedged between the orbital bone and eye socket, bending itself open but stuck solidly in the skull.

This was the longest fight ever recorded by a Lahaina Charter boat in over ten years.