The Kona Coast has some of the world's most exciting "blue-water" fishing. Although July, August, and September are peak months, with the best fishing and a number of tournaments, charter fishing goes on year-round. You don't have to compete to experience the thrill of landing a Pacific blue marlin or other big-game fish. Some 60 charter boats, averaging 26 to 58 feet, are available for hire, all of them out of Honokohau Harbor, north of Kailua-Kona.
The Kona Coast is world-famous for the presence of large marlin, particularly the Pacific blue. In fact, it's also known as "Grander Alley" for the fish caught here that weigh more than 1,000 pounds. The largest blue marlin on record was caught in 1984 and weighed 1,649 pounds. In total, more than 60 Granders have been reeled in here by top sportfishing teams.
For an exclusive charter, prices generally range from $600 to $950 for a half-day trip (about four hours) and $800 to $1,600 for a full day at sea (about eight hours). For share charters, rates are about $100 to $140 per person for a half day and $200 for a full day. If fuel prices increase, expect charter costs to rise. Most boats are licensed to take up to six passengers, in addition to the crew. Tackle, bait, and ice are furnished, but you usually have to bring your own lunch. You won't be able to keep your catch, although if you ask, many captains will send you home with a few fillets.
Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament. Pacific blue marlin are sought after by deep-sea anglers the world over, who come to Kona's fabled waters, most notably during this five-day tournament in August. Since 1959, this granddaddy of big-game-fishing tourneys has attracted supercompetitive teams in the finest boats imaginable. The powerful animals are caught or tagged and released. Occasionally, Kona waters produce a grander—over 1,000 pounds. 808/836–1723; www.hibtfishing.com.
Honokohau Harbor's Fuel Dock. Show up around 11 am and watch the weigh-in of the day's catch from the morning charters, or around 3:30 pm for the afternoon charters, especially during the summer tournament season. Weigh-ins are fun when the big ones come in, but these days, with most of the marlin being released, it's not a sure thing. On Kona's Waterfront Row, look for the "Grander's Wall" of anglers with their 1,000-pound-plus prizes. There's also a display at the Kona Inn. Honokohau Harbor, Kealakehe Pkwy. at Hwy. 11, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, 96740.
Boats and Charters
Before you sign up with anyone, think about the kind of trip you want. Looking for a romantic cruise? A rockin' good time with your buddies? Serious fishing in one of the "secret spots?" A family-friendly excursion? Be sure to describe your expectations so a booking agent can match you with a captain and a boat that suit your style.
Bite Me Sportfishing Fleet. This multifaceted sportfishing company offers a full fleet with shared, half-day, three-quarter-day, and invitational championships; they know how, when, and where to catch fish along the Kona Coast. They specialize in a family-friendly experience and can accommodate large, private parties of six or more. Lots of charters for different excursions are also available, and they follow catch-and-release practices to help sustain local fisheries. Bonus: They let you keep your catch, and will help you clean and package it should you wish to ship it back on your flight. There's also a cool retail store where you can buy everything from logo T-shirts to hats. Honokahau, 74-425 Kealakehe Pkwy., Suite 17, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. 808/960-2464; www.bitemesportfishing.com. From $100.
Bwana Sportfishing. Full-, half-, quarter-, three-quarter-day, and overnight charters are available on the 46-foot Bwana. The boat features the latest electronics, top-of-the-line equipment, and air-conditioned cabins. Captain Teddy comes from a fishing family; father Pete was a legend on Kona waters for decades. Honokohau Harbor, Slip H-17, 74-381 Kealakehe Pkwy., just south of Kona airport, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, 96740. 808/936–5168. From $1,250.
The Charter Desk at Honokohau Harbor. With about 60 big-name boats on the books, this place will book just the right charter for you. Due to their location near the weigh scales, they know which boats are the most active and have the best daily catches. They will also weigh your catch, take photos, and give you souvenir tags to take home; the small shop has souvenir T-shirts. You can make arrangements through hotel activity desks, but it's better to come here and look things over for yourself. Honokohau Harbor Fuel Dock, 74-381 Kealakehe Pkwy., Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, 96740. 808/329–5735; 888/566–2487; www.charterdesk.com. From $499.
Charter Locker. This experienced company offers half- and full-day charter fishing trips on 36- to 53-foot vessels. Featured boats include Kona Blue, JR's Hooker, Strong Persuader, and Kila Kila. Rates depend on the boat. Honokohau Harbor #16, 74-381 Kealakehe Pkwy., just south of Kona airport, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, 96740. 808/326–2553; www.charterlocker.com. From $395.
Humdinger Sportfishing. This game-fisher guide has more than five decades of fishing experience in Kona waters, and the expert crew are marlin specialists. The 37-foot Humdinger has the latest in electronics and top-line rods and reels. Book online for discounts and specials. Honokohau Harbor, Slip B-4, 74-381 Kealakehe Pkwy., Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, 96740. 808/425–9225; 800/926–2374; 808/425–9228; www.humdingersportfishing.com. From $399.
Jeff Rogers Charters. One of Kona's friendliest "old salts," Captain Jeff has been leading personalized big game and other fishing charters since 1982. Using a few tricks of the trade (including targeting the bottom), he's able to find the right fish in the right place, nearly without fail. You may ask him to fillet part of your catch. Holder of six world records and six state records, one of his marlins was even a grander (over 1,000 lbs.). He is also one of the few captains in Kona who will allow groups of guests to share a charter to save costs, so check online for the updated list of available shares. 808/895–1852; www.fishinkona.com. From $375.