On June 10, 1970, Captain Cornelius Choy went out with his daughter and a handful of vacationers for an afternoon of charter fishing in Kewalo Harbor. They would return eight hours later (and completely exhausted) with an 1,805-pound marlin – dubbed Choy’s Monster – the largest ever caught on rod-and-reel in the world.
To celebrate the spirit and history of fishing and seafaring in Kewalo Harbor, Ward Village hosted the first annual Kewalo Harbor Big Fish Chase Tournament on June 6. Some of the best local fisherman and anglers gathered at Ward in competition to catch the largest marlin, ahi, mahimahi, and ono. A $10,000 guaranteed prize was divided between the winners–40 percent for the largest marlin, 40 percent for the largest ahi, and 10 percent to the largest mahimahi and ono.
The largest ahi was 226.4 pounds and caught by fisherman Mike Rosenberg aboard the Sea Verse III. An expert angler, Rosenberg had recently won two back-to-back fishing events, the Hanapa‘a Fishing Tournament with a 515-pound marlin and the Waikiki Yacht Club Tournament with a 33-pound ono.
Although impressive, the size of all three fish combined pales in comparison to the largest fish brought in at the first Big Fish Chase: an 848.5-pound marlin, caught by the crew of the fishing boat Cormorant.
That day, the crew witnessed the marlin leaping in and out of the water from afar, and thought the fish to be somewhere around 400 pounds. Instead, the marlin turned out to be more than double that size and would put up an unbelievable fight.
“We had the fish up to the boat, close to the boat, over a hundred times and it screamed the reel and it took as much line as it could every time,” Fisherman Mike Von Wigandt recounted to KHON2. “And that’s where the expertise of these guys, [and] the Captain, backing down non-stop, chasing the fish.”
It took nearly 16 hours to bring in the marlin, thrashing and fighting the entire time. Although originally hooked near Ko Olina, the marlin dragged the Cormorant all night, roughly 23 miles to past Ka‘ena Point, before they would finally be able to bring the fish aboard.
“[I was] reeling until my arm just locked up completely, I couldn’t do anything about it. They had to massage me, they were dumping water on me,” said Fisherman Chuck O’Neill. “It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life and my body is beaten right now.”
O’neill and crew won the marlin and ono category in the Kewalo Harbor Big Fish Chase, along with a $7,187.50 total prize for biggest marlin and $4,187.50 total prize for biggest ono. Despite their fish weighing in at nearly half a ton, the catch wasn’t able to beat Choy’s Monster. If any teams had, Ward Village offered a $50,000 grand prize bonus.
But for the crew of the Cormorant, the 848.5-pound catch will be something they remember for years to come. It’s not every day that such an incredible display of seamanship and adventuring is seen on the water. And, world record or not, the team brought in a catch that likely would’ve made Captain Choy himself proud.