Billfish Attacks Billfish

A large marlin stuns anglers and crew aboard a Kona charter boat when it eats a hooked spearfish

May 2, 2016
Spearfish are the smallest of the billfishes, but despite their modest size show little hesitation when attacking large lures intended for marlin. Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

If the recent experience of a Kona, Hawaii, charter skipper is any indication, a live spearfish could be the next hot marlin bait.

Of course no one would intentionally use a live spearfish for bait; the small, brilliant-blue game fish are the least common of all billfishes (but less uncommon in Hawaii, where anglers often attempt to catch one to complete a billfish slam).

But as Kona Fishing Chronicles author and respected veteran of the Kona fishing scene Jim Rizzuto says, the recent experience of Capt. Kenny Fogarty on Hula Girl offers a good reminder that marlin, like many fishes, are cannibalistic.


Fogarty, with this brother “Stretch Fogarty, found a nest of shortbill spearfish just offshore, and their angler — Robert Gage — had shots at four. But only the fifth hookup was solid enough to get the fish to the boat, Rizzuto says, with “The spearfish acting more wary than usual,” as if something had spooked them.

Typically, the small, slender spearfish are reeled in pretty easily on standard marlin tackle, aimed at much heavier fish. “You can usually reel them right in with no jumps, and you may not see them until they’re right at the boat. This one made a real fight of it, splashing at the surface and swimming erratically from side to side.

“Then its tail popped out of the water at an odd angle. That’s when Kenny and Stretch saw a large, dark shape swimming below the frantic spearfish.”


The shape proved to be a marlin upwards of 500 pounds, according to Kenny, who told Rizzuto: “The marlin exploded on the spearfish, ate it and started running off with it. Before we could figure out what to do, it had pulled the spearfish off the hook and disappeared!” Perhaps free-spooling the “bait” back for the marlin to swallow would have enabled the Hula Girl to hook it. Rizzuto cites another incident a few years ago when, “A Kona boat came in with an oddly scarred 700-pound blue marlin. On close inspection of the fresh wound, you could see the broken off weapon of a bigger than average shortbill spearfish. Perhaps the dangerous dagger of the spearfish had warned the marlin away? Not so lucky. The spearfish, without its bill, was nestled in the marlin’s belly.”

In fact, Rizzuto adds, the interest that Kona marlin have shown in munching their smaller brethren hasn’t been lost on enterprising Kona skipper Bryan Toney, who’s been putting out a 42-inch rubber shortbill spearfish teaser! Catch the details here.


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