The man instructing me is skinny, middle aged, wearing a ball cap and sunglasses, and he has a mustache. At first glance I expected a jovial sidekick sort, a Gilligan to the boat captain’s Skipper, but instead he is stern and intimidating as he instructs me in the art of deep sea fishing while simultaneously and ominously warning me of the perils of deep sea fishing. He’s pretty much my high school baseball coach, but with half of his pinky finger missing. That would be one of the aforementioned perils.
I’m sitting in “the chair,” a throne-like post in the Bite Me 2’s stern that makes its occupant look like a confused James T. Kirk facing the wrong way on the bridge of the starship Enterprise. Should one of the boat’s five lines hook a yellowfin tuna or marlin, myself or whoever is closest (and game) is to jump into the chair, hook themselves to the rod placed in between their legs and then perform a long series of tasks that I do not remember because the instructions are just coming too damn fast. All I remember is to not get my finger stuck in the reel because, you know, the pinky.
The fact that he kept saying, “Listen to me, listen to Andy,” gave me enough faith that this wouldn’t be the only instruction and that he and Captain Andy wouldn’t be up on the bridge having a smoke while I embark on a life-and-death struggle with a 900-pound creature of the deep.
Sarah and I had several options for our free day on the Big Island of Hawaii, but after our hikist adventures in Oregon, we decided to take the road, or rather ocean, less travelled and do something we’d never otherwise think of doing: deep sea fishing. And really, if you’re on a honeymoon or special couples’ vacation, why not do something outside your comfort zone?
As we discovered, the Big Island is one of the best and easiest places to go deep sea fishing on Earth. As a result of the active volcanic island’s geological newness, very little erosion has occurred over millennia, resulting in the ocean getting very deep very quickly. After only 10 minutes from the port near Kona, we’re at 2,000 feet. After a half hour, we’re at 6,000. That’s unique, and it means that unlike other locales like Maui, it’s easy for newbies such as ourselves to get a quick, easy taste of deep sea fishing without committing to an entire day out on the high seas not knowing whether you’ll love it or be yacking over the side for 8 hours.
With the instructions over, Sarah and I head up to the bridge to chat with Captain Andy, a friendly, bearded bear of a man who’s far more Hawaiian dude than high school coach. While learning about the boat, the fish and living on Hawaii, we admire the Big Island’s juxtaposed coastline, with arid Kohala to the north under cloudless sunshine and Kona to the south on the green slopes of the Hualalai volcano shrouded in cloud cover. Even if we didn’t catch a fish (it’s a 50/50 proposition apparently), at least we were getting a lovely private cruise.
“There was a splash out there!” Sarah announces to the captain, pointing to starboard perhaps 600 yards away. Captain Andy had already mentioned we may see some pilot whales and turned the Bite Me 2 in the direction of the splash. We soon discover that it’s in fact a large pod of dolphins, who are only too happy to surf in the boat’s wake and jump about with glee as they follow along with us. Not only does this provide a truly special opportunity to see dolphins, but as Captain Andy explains, big fish often swim underneath dolphins to eat the leftovers of smaller fish that Flipper and friends don’t quite finish.
He’s apparently not the captain for nothing, because within minutes, one of the Bite Me 2‘s five lines starts spinning away with a loud whir as one of those creatures of the deep discovers that tasty-looking squid wasn’t what it seemed to be.
Suddenly, everything changes. Captain Andy stops the boat and with me up on the bridge, crew member Allen orders Anton, one of two other fellow deep sea fishing newbies, into the chair. Subsequent orders, as expected, are direct and emphatic. Losing whatever has been hooked is not an option, for it’s the Bite Me fishing market that keeps the proceeds (along with a commission for the crew).
Anton is to pull firmly back on the rod, then ease it forward again while furiously cranking the reel. Under no circumstances is he to try cranking the reel with both hands, for his left hand has to guide the line within the reel (being careful not to get a pinky caught) and also because it’s less macho. Little girls, we’re told, can do this and can often be better at it since they follow instructions better than grown men.
Of course, we would later find out that the reel, like a bicycle, has gears on it that can make it easier for said little girls to reel it in. Much to Anton’s later chagrin and Allen’s mischievous delight, that particular gear was not selected. As his right arm naturally gets tired, Anton repeatedly and instinctively tries to grab the reel handle with his left hand. With each attempt, Allen barks at him to stop, usually with a smidgen of jovialness that culminates in a feigned threat of whacking him upside the head with what I can only describe as the mahogany fish-bashing club.
Eventually, we aren’t the only fish out of water. Anton did his job well and the shimmering silver outline of a yellowfin tuna appears just under the surface. Allen and Captain Andy guide the fish over to the side of the boat where that aforementioned club is used for more than just a comical photo op. What comes next is a wee bit rough, and surprisingly bloody, but the result is a 108-pound yellowfin tuna on board and an absolutely knackered Anton smiling with accomplishment. Though, per tradition, he must now spray down the deck and clean up after himself (or rather, the fish).
Despite spending some time in the chair myself for the remainder of the four-hour trip, that’s the only fish we’d end up catching. There would be plenty more dolphin sightings, though, and as Sarah pointed out happily, “it turned out to be more of a dolphin cruise where we caught a fish.” Either way, it was a wonderful way to spend a few hours during a Big Island vacation or honeymoon … and I kept all my fingers.
For more information about deep sea fishing on the Big Island of Hawaii, check out Bite Me Sportfishing.
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