Year Round Big Island Tuna E-mail
Wednesday, 06 March 2013 00:00

83yellowfin Hawai’i, in general, is unique because of its location in the middle of the deep Pacific. It’s like a giant bait station for pelagic fish to come and fatten up. Here the tuna fishery lasts all year round.  KFM caught up with Andy Cho, to get his insights into fishing the Big Island.

Most of the year 20 to 50 pound yellowfin are caught on the ledges and bait balls. During late spring and summer months the annual runs of 100+ pound yellowfin (ahi) come through, along with skipjack tuna both aku and otaru (15+ pounds). In the late summer to early fall the albacore runs start. Most albacore average between 40 to 60-pounds. Albacore are primarily caught at night, but can be targeted in the day with the right techniques. Kawakawa (wavyback or false albacore) are another year round tuna, usually available on the inside ledges where they chase opelu (mackerel scads) around. Opelu is the primary baitfish here along with juvenile aku and kawakawa.

103 ahi 7-21-12 mental 7-21-12 P1140003

Match the hatch certainly holds true, and fishing with opelu as bait is a popular method of targeting the tuna.  One of the typical methods use by Cho is trolling with a dead opelu, rigged to swim.  If live bait is available, that will definitelyl get run. And chunk bait fishing also come into play.  Cho ads the following:

"Tossing out a steady line of chunks then free lining my bait back with it. I use a Humminbird 788ci to target tuna cruising on the ledge before I hook them. It is a great tool to have. When set right, I can pretty much tell if that is a tuna or a wahoo harassing the bait balls."

When bait is scarce, or the fish are spread out, or when you're just running to another location, trolled lures like Crystal Minnows and Rapalas draw in the predators.  As this is kayak fishing, one must keep in mind that any bibbed minnow can exert a lot of drag.  Shallower diving lures are key during long hours of trolling, as the harder pulling deep divers will wear on you.  And since you're likely trolling slower than you might on a power boat, select plugs that are known to have good action at the slower speeds (2-4 mph)

1st ahi 102 7-6-12 s

The tuna are not always where you expect them to be, so it pays to be prepared.

"One time when I was trying to catch bottom fish like ulua (giant trevally) or kahala (amberjack) I had a bait positioned a little off the bottom, and hooked up. After setting the drag, the fish bolted straight upward creating slack that I had to keep up with, not the typical screaming line runs. After gaining a bunch of line back I noticed the fish was starting to fight like a tuna. When I got it to leader I looked down to see a beautiful 40-pound ahi. He must have bit only 25 feet off the bottom. I thought it was kind of odd."

This is Hawaii, and at any time, one might be surprised by a large Ahi.  While the gear used may seem large to many, Cho finds it appropriate when fishing local Island waters.  It takes a lot of skill to fish large gear for large fish.

"For rod and reels, I prefer to use Penn fishing gear. There is no company out there that can out-match a Penn reel for tuna fishing. Right now, my favorite reel for tuna is the Penn International 12vs. It is packed with 600 yards of line and has the perfect drag for kayak tuna fishing. I like to pair this reel with a Penn stand up Mariner 5'6 30-80# line rating pole. This is my everyday set up. I like the shorter length for its ease to control the fish when it is at leader. I also like the heavier class rods for their ability to raise the fish themselves- not staying in the noodle position. 

tombo in flight 12-13-11

"When I am going target a 100+ pound tuna, my go to set up is the Penn International 16vs paired with The International stand-up V rod  50-100# class (with turbo guides not rollers). I feel like I can land 200-pounders with this setup."

The ocean is big in Hawaii, and you can expect to be fishing many miles offshore.  Fast currents or sudden squals can come up fast.  So it pays to be prepared .

"I also always carry a VHF radio, a PFD, a whistle and manual bilge pump. I paddle Ocean Kayaks, either the Trident 15 or the ultra-stable Big Game. I use a Carlisle Expedition Angler paddle, and always carry a spare. I round out my kit with a custom made gaff and kage (kage is a traditional Hawaiian tuna spear with a sharpened threaded shaft) made by myself. And, I bring not one but two Go-Pro cameras to capture all the action."

Fishing runs deep in the Cho family.  Like many people in Hawaii, Cho finds it almost spiritual.

"One of my favorite tuna fishing stories happened long before I started kayak fishing. I had a boat passed down to me from my grandfather and had just finished restoring it and had it set up for how I wanted to fish it. It had been finished just in time for the summer ika shibi ahi run.

"Ika shibi is a Hawaiian method for fishing for tuna and swordfish at night. You deploy a sea anchor and turn on an underwater light to attract squid (ika) and tunas (shibi). Catch squid for bait and set them out for tuna while tossing out a steady stream of chunks of chum. I was heading out on my new boat for the first trip by my self to go ika shibi. It ended up being an awesome night that I will never forget. I ended up with 4 yellowfin weighing between 115 to 170 pounds and 10 albacore from 40 to 50 pounds.

"The boat was named after my grandmother’s Hawaiian name- Keonaona, and I believe that is where it gets all its luck. I would like to thank my family for all their knowledge they have passed on to me, and always being there to help me with all I need. With out any of this I would never be able to do what I do today. "

As we were going to press with this issue, we received late-breaking news from Cho. Just days after sharing his story with us, we got the message "Andy Cho has been on fire this week. He popped a 123 pound yellowfin a few days ago and another big one yesterday." A quick call and we got the lowdown directly from Cho.

"On Valentine's day I set out to go fishing after breakfast with my wife. I got out and after getting some bait I headed to my spot. My first bait had been in the water about 45 minutes before it got slammed. The battle was about 50 minutes, and my Penn International gear worked flawlessly.

This fish was a blessing and would like to thank my father and grandfather for their knowledge. A day later I went back to the same spot hoping for some more action, I was out for 10 hours with only a few small misses before finally getting a 84-pounder."

IMG 20130214 095838 IMG 20130214 162258 IMG 20130214 102155

 


82
Andrew (Andy) Robert Hanale Cho is also known as “Lawai'a.com” (Lawai'a means “fisherman” in Hawaiian) from the famous Aquahunters.com kayak fishing group in Hawaii. Andy is blessed to live in Honaunau South Kona, Hawaii and hails from a long line of Island fishermen. Andy's sponsors include Ocean Kayaks and Penn Fishing Equipment. He will be operating a Guide Service from his home island soon.

 

 

 

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