Wendell Ko, 53, of Kapolei has been spearfishing since the age of 13. Throughout those years during his blue water dives, Ko often wondered what it would be like to come face to face with a massive marlin.
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On Nov. 20 about two miles off Miloli'i on the Big Island's Kona Coast, Ko's dream became reality when he speared a massive 506-pound blue marlin.
"It was a big fish," Ko told KITV4. "It was hard to miss."
The behemoth of a fish has been certified as a new world record by the International Bluewater Spearfishing Records Committee. The previous IBSRC world record for a blue marlin was held by Calvin Lai Jr. after spearing a fish that weighed 278.5 pounds on Dec. 19, 2005.
Ko would have been happy with mere memories of the marlin's capture, but as an added bonus, his longtime friend Kyle Nakamoto, producer of the TV series "Hawaii Skin Diver," was there to capture the encounter on video.
"I call it the money shot," said Nakamoto. "I mean, it's so hard and you need to be at the right place at the right time."
Although marlins have been known to spear fish and even boats with their powerful bills, Ko said he had no time for fear as adrenaline quickly took over. Previously, the biggest fish he ever speared was a 188-pound tuna. The blue marlin was more than three times his weight and stretched 12 feet long.
"Actually, it kind of looked like a cartoon with its bill up and its mouth open, coming towards us," said Ko. "It almost looked like he was kind of smiling."
As Nakamoto watched Ko battle the colossal fish with a second and third shot from a four-band speargun, he wondered how the episode would end.
"Basically, you're up against another 3 or 4-foot spear gun that's moving," Nakamoto said of the marlin's bill. "If the fish is not wounded and it's kind of going through its frenzy mode and you're at the wrong place at the right time, then things can go wrong. But luckily, things worked out good for Wendell."
Although the International Underwater Spearfishing Association lists two other blue marlin catches (644 pounds and 588.2 pounds) ahead of Ko's, the longtime waterman says it doesn't diminish his experience.
"It's the first time I've ever seen anything that big in the water, a marlin in particular," said Ko.
Although some may fault Ko for the taking of such a beautiful creature from the ocean, this is a spear fisherman with an eye toward conservation. Ko said he decided to leaves reef fish for others after noticing a depletion in stocks. He says his true passion is blue-water diving.
"I kind of target the pelagic fish, the ones that are highly migratory," he said.
After weighing the world record marlin at Honokohau Harbor, Ko and the four others who witnessed the encounter firsthand decided to leave the fish for the people of Kona to smoke and enjoy.
"You fed communities with that," Nakamoto said with a chuckle.