Kona Hawaii Fishing Report – December 2019 wrap-up.
The striped marlin have arrived! The number of blue marlin caught is still out-pacing the stripes but not by much. The top months for striped marlin are January, February and March so it's looking pretty good so far. Spearfish season is also just starting and there were several caught this month. The top months for spearfish are February, March and April.
Blue marlin are caught here every month and I remember that many years ago, we didn't usually catch a whole lot of blues in the winter but one big thing changed back in 2012. The Billfish Conservation Act pretty much wiped out the U.S. commercial fishing market for billfish. Hawaii was exempted from the act for historical and traditional practices and swordfish were also exempted from the act. Hawaii started conserving billfish on its own several years prior to that when Kona went from a 'kill all' fishery to a (mostly) 'release all' fishery for blue and striped marlin. Right now I would say it's about 50/50 with striped marlin being killed more often than blues because the quality of the meat is better. Spearfish were also included in the Billfish Conservation Act but the majority of them are killed because they're one of the best eating fish we have. Personally, I try to release as many spearfish as I can but I give my customers the say so on that because many of the people I take out are looking for fish to eat.
Winter is also bigeye tuna season but we've never had a real good fishery for those. The big ones are a rare catch but the smaller ones can be caught around the fish aggregation buoys along with small yellowfin tunas. In the winter, in order to catch a big yellowfin (ahi) tuna, you need to work a porpoise school. I worked several this month but couldn't even get a bite. I didn't see anyone else catch one either. Ono and mahi mahi are somewhat rare in the winter but an even more rare catch in Hawaii is pompano dolphin.
Few people in Hawaii even know what a pompano dolphin is. They look so similar to a mahi mahi that it's just assumed that it is one. In fact, if you Google Image for pompano dolphin, many of those photos are actually mahi mahi. Much like the differences between an amberjack and an almaco jack, if you don't know the fine details, they are easily misidentified. The big give-away on the pompano dolphin is that when you first catch it, the blue dots have a white 'snowflake' or 'fireworks' pattern around them. Soon after they die, those almost entirely disappear. The body shape is shorter length wise but taller height wise than a mahi mahi. There is a difference in the dorsal fin shape, size and how far it will lift forward. The photo that goes along with this months report is one of each that I hooked at the same time. I never knew that mahi mahi and pompano dolphin schooled together. With that, I'm sure there's some crossbreeding going on too. The female mahi mahi (top) is a little longer and more slender than the average and the pompano dolphin is shorter with a taller body than average but seeing these two next to each other sure shows the difference.
See 'ya on the water,
Capt. Jeff Rogers,