Tuesday, August 17, 2010

WHEW! All the tags are out!!!

I just hung up the phone with Bob Kurz, the HIBT event coordinator for the Great Marlin Race.  He let me know that the final tags went out yesterday, just ten days after the tournament ended.  There are now ten tags in the water, and the Great Marlin Race is really under way!

Just to make sure it is clear - each tag is programmed to come up after 120 days at sea, and that clock doesn't start ticking until the tag is actually put on a marlin.  Because the Race is based on which fish travels the furthest from Kona, all ten fish have and equal shot at winning - regardless of whether they were tagged first or last.

For the next few months we'll be checking our systems daily to see if any tags have come up - for as we saw in the 2009 Great Marlin Race, sometimes tags pop up ahead of schedule.  As tags report in and their data are recovered, we'll be updating the site and sending out reports to keep everyone informed of our progress.  Once we've passed the date when the final tags are due up, and there is no possibility of additional tags reporting in (around the end of the year), we'll announce the final results of the Race.

Once again I want to send out a huge thank you to all the sponsors, the anglers and teams, captains and crews and HIBT staff and volunteers who helped make the 2010 Great Marlin Race possible.  This year's race is off to a fantastic start thanks to all of you!

Friday, August 6, 2010

The tournament is over, but the Race is just getting under way

"Stop fishing" call came at 4:30 this afternoon, after a tough week of fishing.  Although several large female blue marlin were caught, anglers were having a tough time finding the large numbers of smaller males that we've seen in years past.  Because these smaller fish (i.e., under 300 lbs.) are quickly tagged and released, they are ideal candidates for the Great Marlin Race.  But even with tags spread out among seven different boats for the past two days, we haven't had any luck getting more tags out.

The good news is that those tags that have already been sponsored will be deployed as quickly as possible in the days ahead, and all of them will remain in the race.  Because the race is about the distance traveled, and all tags are programmed to stay on for the same length of time, everyone still has an equal shot at winning.

Although the fishing was a bit slower this year than last, it was really rewarding to see how much interest has grown in the Great Marlin Race over the past year.  We saw anglers, boat captains and crew members sporting GMR tee shirts and caps, and we had a great turnout for Science Night where George Shillinger and I presented the results from the 2009 Race.  We had several teams sponsor tags for a second time this year, and several other new teams and sponsors get in the Race for the first time.

We are grateful to everyone for their generous support.  HIBT Founder and Director Peter Fithian and all the HIBT staff and volunteers have done an amazing job to make this an incredible event in its 51st year.  The captains and boat crews were generous and accommodating to George and I - who don't tend to travel light between tags, poles, cameras, books, papers and laptops.  And finally the anglers, who are willing to allocate precious time, space and attention to our project in the middle of a major tournament.  You all have our deepest thanks for your patience and support.

This entry wouldn't be complete without a very special thanks to our friends Uki and Masa from the Kona Game Fishing Club Miyake, who endured our company four of the five days of tough, tough fishing.  For their endless patience, good humor and enthusiastic support of the Great Marlin Race, we say  有難うございます。 (Arigatō gozai masu - or "thank you very much.")

We look forward to sharing the unfolding adventure of the 2010 Great Marlin Race.

Tight lines,

Randy and George

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Three Days, Three Tags in the Race

After the first three days of the tournament, three different teams have deployed satellite tags!  Perhaps even more exciting is that we've enjoyed excellent support this year, with many more teams contributing to sponsor tags for the race.

Going into the final two days of the tournament we have six boats carrying satellite tags.  The weather has been beautiful, making for a great couple of days on the water so far.  We have our fingers crossed that the fishing will heat up!

Coming in at the end of our third day of fishing

Monday, August 2, 2010

“ Billfishers, billfishers, billfishers, start fishing, start fishing, start fishing…..!”

The tournament began promptly at 7:30 a.m. this morning, under hazy skies with west winds around 7 mph. Randy and I met the anglers on the docks at 6:30 a.m. to review boat assignments and distribute tagging kits to participating teams.

“And they’re off…!” Sport fishing vessels launching off to chase marlin at the start of the Great Marlin Race

We were assigned to Team #17 - Kona Billfishing Club – Miake, the same team that we joined on the inaugural day of the first Great Marlin race in 2009! Adding to the coincidence, Team Miake was assigned the vessel Rod Bender - the same vessel and skipper (Kerwin Masunaga) from 2009. We were back on the water with our friends, Matsaharu Matsushita (Masa) and Takeo (‘Uki’) Izawa from Japan!
Kona Game Fishing Club – Miake: Uki (left), Masa (center), George Shilllinger (rear), and Rob Kurz (right).

The first fish of the tournament, a shortnose spearfish, was caught and released by angler Hideo Hoshino from the Kona Game Fishing Club-Kusatsu, minutes after the tournament was underway, at 7:50 a.m.

Unfortunately, luck was not on our side on today. After a long day of trolling the waters off Kona, we returned to the docks with all of our satellite tags in hand. In spite of our bad luck, today was still a great day for the HIBT, with 10 blue marlin and
2 shortnose spearfish caught and released.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Kona Comes Out...

The Kona sport fishing community really comes together to support the HIBT event. Flags, banners, and signs about the coming tournament were visible all over town. We donned our Great Marlin Race t-shirts, designed by Bob and Sally Kurz and assembled at the HIBT headquarters to promote the race and take questions. At 10:00 a.m., we joined the teams for the much-anticipated for the much the boat draw --- as they awaited their random assignment to participating sport fishing boats.

Sally Kurz flashes the "Aloha" sign on behalf of the Laguna Niguel Billfish Club #1.

Following the boat draw, we headed to the waterfront to witness the annual HIBT Parade – a signature tournament kickoff featuring all of the HIBT teams, supporters, and local businesses.

Marlin Chasing Bait - One of the many floats in the HIBT 2010 Parade

We devoted the remainder of the afternoon to logistics and tag-sponsorship efforts and by day’s end had secured commitments for four new racers! The HIBT Opening Ceremonies concluded with an introduction to all of the teams (8 countries and four US States) accompanied by an orchestral presentation of national anthems for each country represented in the tournament, followed by a delicious spread of food prepared by local Kona vendors and supporters of the HIBT.

Dr. Randy Kochevar (left) and Dr. George Shillinger (right) hard at work in preparation for the HIBT kickoff!