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Ali‘i Kai, Lani lands 546.0- pound marlin

By BY DONNELL TATE, Harbor Report - | Oct 15, 2020

Captain Jonny Keiley (right) and his dad, Captain Deli, with their 546-pound marlin caught on Ali‘i Kai, Lani. PHOTO BY DONNELL TATE.

LAHAINA — The 17.5-foot Ali’i Kai, Lani towed in a 546.0-pound blue marlin by Capt. Jonny Keiley and his dad, Capt. Deli. They had been fishing the NASA Buoy on the 1,000-fathom ledge, backside of Lanai, picking up a box of mahi mahi.

They had two lures out as they left the buoy, trolling down the ledge toward the Palaoa Point Lighthouse. Jonny asked Deli if he wanted to run in. Deli told him, “It’s a long way to run. Let’s troll for a while until we get close to the light.”

They were about eight miles off Kaumalapau Harbor, when out of the blue, the port side short rigger, 80-class reel went off. The fish ran out the 100-test line for about 100 yards and then slowed down. The marlin panicked as it came up jumping back toward the boat. Jonny kept the boat ahead as he watched the marlin turn and then go ballistic, tearing up the surface back and forth in a wall of whitewater as it headed in the opposite direction.

“It put on the best show,” said Deli. They knew it was a big fish. The marlin had them 500 yards into the Dacron backing before it finally slowed.

The marlin went down. Deli had the other line cleared as Jonny tried to reverse after the marlin. This was the first blue marlin on Jonny’s boat, so he had to focus on reversing after it. He tried backing after it, but with the single outboard on the boat, it just wasn’t working.

Deli moved the rod into the starboard side gunnel, right next to the helm. Jonny turned the boat toward the fish, and they just followed after it. It took them a while to catch up to the marlin. For the next 20 minutes, Deli cranked in the line commercial-style before they got on top of it. Once they figured out that the marlin was dead, Jonny told Deli, “Let me get in there and get a feel for it.”

With the boat in neutral, Jonny cranked and pulled the line local-style, as he slowly worked it up. They had maximum pressure on the spool, about 50-pounds, without busting the line. That was crucial in getting the fish up. As Jonny started to tire, Deli took over for a while. Jonny was on the fish the last half hour.

Once Jonny saw color, he stepped away from the rod to get a drink of water and a quick regroup before he had to leader the fish. Deli cranked it up to leader. The marlin came up right underneath the boat, bill first and dead.

Jonny grabbed the leader and pulled it to the starboard side. Once he got the head up, Deli got a gaff into the tail and then tail-wrapped it. They tried one time to get it into the boat — and almost had it in — but decided that was not a good idea once they realized how big it was. The marlin was at least 12-feet long, and they were in a 17.5-foot boat.

They didn’t want to dry the fish out and crack the meat, since they had it sold to a local smoker. They were better off keeping it outside the boat and towing it in. It was a three-and-a-half-hour motor before they made it back to the harbor.

This is the second largest blue marlin for the harbor this year.