The blue marlin is the ultimate challenge in big game fishing.
Ever since Reese Randall almost caught a 450- or 550-pounder near the Maui, Hawaii town of Lahaina during his high school graduation trip, he has wanted to go back and try his luck again.
Aug. 3, he got the chance.
And this time, the Pine resident did a little better he snagged a 1,118-pound Pacific blue marlin in the waters off Lahaina Harbor.
The fish set a new Maui County record by a whopping 163 pounds, and it's the third largest in the lengthy history of Maui sportfishing.
"It was real close to the second largest, which I think was 1,125," said Randall, a contractor and confirmed bass fisherman who was born in Payson and has lived in the Rim country all his life.
He made his return trip to Maui thanks to a cousin who was getting married on the island. On the day of the wedding, as everyone else was preparing for the ceremony, Randall grabbed his young sons, Kyle and Chance, and took them on their very first sportfishing trip aboard the boat, Reel Hooker.
"We were hoping to catch maybe some 5- to 15-pound skipjack tuna, because that would be something my boys could handle," Randall said.
The hope panned out. Each boy caught a skipjack tuna, and Kyle caught a yellow tuna.
At about 10:30 a.m., to get Randall and his sons back to shore in time for the wedding, the Reel Hooker began the 3-hour return trip back to Lahaina. But then there was a 1,118-pound tug on his International Penn rod and reel.
The boat didn't move for the next two-and-a-half hours, as Randall, the boat's captain, the boat's tender, and Randall's boys all pitched in to subdue the fish and get it out of the 6,400-feet-deep sea.
"Typically, a marlin of that size would take four to seven hours," Randall said. "But we were in a hurry to get back to the wedding. So while you would normally fight that marlin at 30 to 40 pounds of drag, we were fighting it at 60 to 70. That tired the fish out more quickly, and we were able to get it in faster.
"But reeling it in was the most strenuous thing I've ever done. My muscles, including muscles I never even knew I had, ached for three days."
As an angler, Randall said, his usual policy is catch-and-release. "But a marlin of that size, after that big of a fight, would just be eaten by sharks. There's no sense in letting it go; you might as well haul it in and eat it."
Hauling it in, however, presented a few problems.
For one thing, the marlin wouldn't fit through the boat's catch door. So the captain put out a call for assistance, and eventually another boat showed up to help Randall and the Reel Hooker crew get the marlin on deck.
"On the way in, we were guessing that it weighed 800 or 900 pounds," Randall said. "We took some measurements it was almost 15 feet long and radioed them in to the marina. We were told, 'No, remeasure it, that can't be right.' Finally, we just said, 'This is a very big fish, and we're just going to bring it in.' By the time we got back, word had spread all over town, and there was people everywhere."
Because the meat of a 1,118-pound marlin isn't as good as that of, say, a 200-pounder, Randall said, "they smoke it and make jerky out of it. It's supposed to be really good, but I didn't get to try any. I let the captain and the tender sell it to the market, and they got 24 cents a pound ($268.32) for it."
Randall said he can't imagine ever catching a bigger fish, but says he sure intends to try.