On December 10th Capt. McGrew Rice and crew Carlton Arai hauled a huge blue marlin aboard the charter boat Kona Fishing Charters. Judging by eye, alone, it could have topped the 1,000-pound mark. If so, it would have been the third grander of the year for Kona and the third grander for each of McGrew and Carlton. But we fishermen can’t go only by what our lying eyes tell us, or every fish would be a world record. It isn’t a grander until the weigh scales make it official. Obey the Kona rule: “You can’t say it unless you weigh it.”

In the long ride back to the dock, McGrew and Carlton pulled out the tape, checked some key measurements, and got ready to be disappointed.

First, the tail stump measured just over 19 inches. The stump is the link between the motor (the body’s muscle mass) and the propeller (the big sweeping tail). The stump (officially, the “caudal peduncle”) on a grander usually has a girth of at least 20 inches. McGrew says he wouldn’t be comfortable with any measurement less than 19.5 inches.

Next comes the “short length,” which is the distance from the tip of the lower jaw to the fork of the tail (LJFT). For a marlin of normal conformation (not too fat, not too skinny), the LJFT length has to be 134 inches. This one came in at 133 inches.

So it looked like the Kona Fishing Charters’s Wednesday blue would be a few pounds less than 1,000. The missing factor would be what the marlin had in its belly. If it had feasted royally on a big tuna, that would make up all the weight needed.

Back at the dock, they were sure to bind the mouth shut so the stomach contents stayed put as the Fuel Dock crew swung the fish up and out of the boat for weighing. The scale meter flashed the true weight at that anxious moment in time as “996.” As McGrew’s wife Jennifer noted, it was one baitfish away from being Kona’s third grander of 2014.

That makes it what I call a “part-time grander.” At some point in its feeding cycle over the preceding days, it undoubtedly topped the 1,000-pound mark, because stomach contents do count in the official weight. Indeed, it might have been a grander when hooked that day. Marlin are known to unload their bellies during the fight. Ironically, if McGrew had caught it on a 4-pound bait and the fish had swallowed it, forget the measurements. The blue would have come in at 1,000 pounds on the nose.

So that’s the lesson for the day. You now have the standard measurements to file away for the next time you hook a giant marlin and wonder whether it is big enough to “go.”

The 996-pound marlin showed up at a spot McGrew had staked out the previous day. The Kona Fishing Charters had trolled through an area in 1500 fathoms off Keauhou and encountered big aku (skipjack tuna). These baitfish are great belly-fillers for marlin of all sizes.

The prospects for a big fish looked even better when word got around that Herb Jensen and John Wilson of the boat Lawaia had tagged and released a fish estimated at 650 pounds on Tuesday.

Wednesday, McGrew returned with Carlton and his charter Mike Demmer of Minnesota. Mike is a novice big-game fisherman and the 996-pounder would be his first blue marlin ever.

Allowing for fish movements based on current changes, they were working the promising area at around 10:00 am when the line on the short rigger snapped out of the release clip. In that position, Carlton had set out a purple Softhead lure — a style that catches fish of all sizes and types. In fact, when the line went down with very little fanfare, Carlton suspected it might be one of the smaller striped marlin we have been expecting to arrive in waves any day now.

Carlton changed his mind quickly when the line began screaming off the reel. He saw the fish jump completely out of the water and revised his estimate up to 800-pounds or more.

“This fish had more line out on me than I’ve had in years,” McGrew said. Time to get some back.

Though he was fighting his first marlin, Mike settled into the routine he had learned earlier during orientation and stayed with it as McGrew turned the Kona Fishing Charters to chase the fish. When a big fish takes control and heads for the horizon, you don’t wait until it has emptied the reel before you realize you have to go after it to keep what’s left of your line. With a little bit of help from Carlton toward the end, Mike got the fish to the boat in about an hour and ten minutes.

Based on their previous estimate of 800 pounds or so, McGrew and Carlton were set on placing a tag, removing the hook and releasing the fish. Unfortunately, the fish got very stubborn with about 40 or 50 yards out. It fought until it rolled over, changed color, and quit. Unable to revive it, they hauled it aboard and began their “guess-the-size” game.

Though it didn’t make the 1,000-pound mark, it is still the third heaviest marlin weighed here in 2014.

With two weeks left to go, that third grander of 2014 might yet show, McGrew said. “People forget that November, December and January can be good ‘big-fish months’ here in Kona”.  Story by Jim Rizzuto.