Amazing Fishing Photos

Fishing photography has become something of an obsession for me. I used to spend a lot of time trying to catch fish on hook and line, usally from kayaks, but now it's all about capturing their glory on camera! Above you see me taking a photo of a jumping sailfish in Guatemala. They are known for their spectacular leaps and I thought getting up close and personal might provide me with a good vantage point. Below is a female mahi mahi, or dorado. Not the most cooperative species for photos!
Below here we have the magnificent blue marlin, close quarters! I strove to get a head on photograph. I had to head it off at the pass to do so, and then we both veered off at the last moment...
I'll post some more goodies later today: I have to get ready for my first day of teaching school this year. I teach elementary school in Oceanside, CA. If you haven't read the account of how the press boat that I was on in Hawaii hooked into two giant marlin, check out the story here:


Press Boat rammed by 550 pound marlin tags a 700 pound giant two days later!

This is Jon Schwartz here from www.bluewaterjon.com. By now you know the story of how our little press boat was rammed by a 550 pound blue marlin on day 2 of the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament (HIBT). Incredibly, the story was on the front page of Yahoo for two straight days. Talk about being in the right place at the right time!
In fact, that wild episode turned out to be only the first chapter of a crazy week in Kona. Two days later, our press boat hooked, fought, tagged, and released an even BIGGER fish, providing for a terrifically ironic twist to the prestigious tournament. 
On this 4th day, myself, mate KJ Robinson, and Capt. B.C. Crawford were joined Kona photographer Charla Thompson.  As you will see later, we were lucky to have her aboard. I greeted the guys with a hug upon boarding the boat; through our wild experience the other day, we'd grown to be fast friends overnight. We remarked on how lucky we'd been to see that marlin going wild, and I was happy as a clam to have gotten some photos that were gaining some attention in the news. (Funny thing is, I haven't even shown many people the best ones!).
Charla and I climbed up into the bridge as we left the famous Kailua Pier so we could get some shots of the boats as they streamed out to find the fish.
While Charla is an accomplished Kona portrait, event, scenic, and wedding photographer, she doesn't spend a lot of time on fishing boats. She was looking forward to an exciting day, but was also aware that the odds of us witnessing anything truly spectacular were not high. Fishing photographers like me sometimes spend weeks on boats without getting a single good shot; magic can happen at any time, or only once in a great while. I've spent entire trips in big game fishing hotspots and come away with nothing. 
Now, you may have surmised that we were a naughty little press boat. Press boats have one job: to wait until other boats are hooked up, and then jet over to them in hopes of getting shots of them with their fish jumping near the boat. Press boats ain't supposed to troll lures! But this being 'The Land of the Giants', many HIBT press boat captains and their mates find it impossible to resist deploying one or two lures, just in case...
For this reason, I wasn't surprised when KJ started deploying lures, again. As you can see in the above photo he did it with a grin while talking on his cell, the mischievous fellow! Then again, what harm could come of it? I sure didn't speak up in opposition, especially after our incredible episode two days prior, and I figured that the odds were against us hooking anything again. 
So we're trolling lures, the sun is out, and the water is incredibly calm with just a slight breeze; just the conditions that make Kona such an appealing fishing location (BIG fish, calm waters). Less than an hour into our day, one of our reels starts screaming again, and guess what? A giant marlin starts jumping behind our boat!! Can this really be happening?!!
As you may recall, the marlin that rammed our press boat two days earlier had been estimated to be 550, or even 600 pounds. (In fact, B.C had called it 550, and renowned angler and Director of the famous Lizard Island Black Marlin Tournament, Bob Lowe, who witnessed the entire spectacle, estimated it at 600!) Now B.C. is calling the one we have on 700 pounds!!!
It took some fantastic leaps, and thankfully, didn't charge the boat like the one we had one two days earlier. (And to be fair to that fish that "attacked" our boat two days earlier, it wasn't an unprovoked attack, it was doing what it felt it needed to do to get away. Had it only known that we planned to tag and release it..... but I'll revisit this interesting issue in a later blog post and include exciting accounts and video interviews taken from several experienced eyewitnesses).
Now back to the present fish! Of course, we have no anglers aboard; Charla has little fishing experience and although I do, I'm hesitant to put my cameras down, so once again, mate KJ hops into the chair and starts battling the fish. To his credit, the only help I gave him was the occasional sip of water and a turn of his fighting chair.
As if the irony of our little press boat being hooked up to the biggest fish of the tournament wasn't enough to blow minds, I get a call at this very moment from Peter Fithian, the venerable and esteemed founder of the HIBT. I thought he might have heard that we were hooked up again and was going to tell us to quit being such rascals, but he hadn't yet heard the news; he was calling for another reason.
"Hi Jon, this is Peter... I wonder if you wouldn't mind speaking with a reporter from a TV station in Honolulu about your encounter with the marlin the other day?"
"Peter, I'd love to, but there's a big fish on right now and I can't talk now!" I yelled into the phone.
"Who's hooked up, Jon?"
Back out to the deck I ran, trying to see if the huge fish would jump again and provide Charla and I with some more photo ops. KJ kept fighting the fish with great strength and vigor, applying as much drag as his 80 pound tackle would let him. The line grew so taught that it made whistling sounds as the air blew over it, and it cut zigzags through the water, making an incredible pattern on the surface that portrayed the tension of the moment. I tried to capture it on my camera:
This was a truly incredible fish with immense power reserves, and every time KJ would get it up to the boat, it would light up in glowing shades of silver, teal, and blue and take off on another run. It became clear that KJ and B.C. wanted to be able to claim the fish as an official catch and release for the boat; big fish caught on boats are basically their resumes. But before they could claim it as an offical boat catch and release, a tag would have to be inserted into the fish, hence the term tag and release.
These tags contain data on them which is then recorded once the fish is tagged, and then an official tagging report is sent to an organization that keeps track of these things. If the fish is caught again, they can use the information on the tag to assess things like how far the fish has traveled and how much it has grown, all information that can aid in protecting and maintaining healthy stocks of billfish worldwide. (For more information, see The Billfish Foundation's website at www.billfish.org. TBF is a non-profit organization dedicated solely to conserving and enhancing billfish populations through the world).

We were now faced with a dilemna: who would tag the fish? I'd come all the way out here to get pictures of fish, so I was not eager to put my cameras down and miss the shot of this fish jumping out of the water at boatside, but at the same time, no one else could do it.  Eventually I put my camera down, joined the team, and talked strategy with KJ and BC. We agreed that once KJ took a wrap on the leader, I'd follow behind him and insert the tag. Although I'd caught small marlin from kayaks and released them, I'd never bothered to tag them, so this would have to be a first for me! You can bet my adrenalin was pumping; I wasn't so much afraid of the giant fish as I was about screwing things up for KJ and BC!

After one hour and ten minutes of fighting the fish, KJ made put the rod in the holder and grabbed the leader, but the fish still had way too much energy and wasn't ready to be leadered. It's tail lit up everytime it got close to the boat and it shook it's massive body like a giant bull. This was one huge animal! In the above picture that Charla took, you can see KJ struggling with the mighty fish at the stern. Finally he led the fish to the port side of the boat and took several wraps with his gloved hands. I followed right behind him, determined not to let the guys down and ruin their chance at glory. The moment of truth had arrived!
"Tag the fish! Tag it!" screamed KJ. I leaned over the rail with the tagging stick and readied myself, but to my inexperienced eyes, it seemed that the fish wasn't close enough for me to implant the tag. I'd seen some trained mates blow it and either miss or send the fish flailing away from the boat. I sure didn't want to botch the job, annoy the fish, and send it racing away from the boat in another desperate lunge; that might put KJ in a bad spot!
"But shouldn't I put it just below the dorsal fin in the shoulder? What if I put it in the wrong spot?"
KJ was insistent:
Now I really felt the pressure! Realizing that I'd be better off screwing up by following his directions than hesitating and messing things up on my own, I committed myself to the act, leaned over once again, and followed through, sticking the tag solidly into the fish. The below picture gives a good feeling for just how big that marlin really was!  Not a 100% perfect spot for the insertion of the tag but considering the circumstances I think it worked out OK. At least it was close to the dorsal fin!
Thank gosh Charla was there to get the photos because I don't think anyone would believe that we actually pulled it off. Of course, I did almost nothing; KJ perfectly executed the job of both the angler and mate, and BC did a great job of positioning the boat. When the 550 pounder rammed our boat two days earlier, there were many experienced witnesses, including Captain Kevin Nakamaru and angler and respected Australian tournament director Bob Lowe, but this time we were all alone, and showing back up at the Kailua Pier with an a tale about an even bigger fish was definitely going to arouse some skepticism. But as you can see from the photos, as fantastic as the story is, it's all true: the little press boat was the luckiest boat on the whole Island of Hawaii! All hail Captain B.C. Crawford of the mighty Chiripa and his mate KJ Robinson! 
Note: Be sure to check back soon at my blog Jon Schwartz's Fishing and Travel Blog for the great stories I have to share about what happened after the HIBT ended! Think sharks, big ahi tuna, and two marlin underwater at the same time, with one of them free swimming!! If you have any free time, also check out my site www.bluewaterjon.com for more cool fishing and travel stories and photographs.


Huge marlin attacks press boat in Kona Hawaii during HIBT fishing tournament!

Jon Schwartz from bluewaterjon.com here with some wild fishing news: a huge marlin attacked the boat I was on today in Kona, Hawaii! I am a fishing photographer and writer and was on the press boat here at the HIBT (Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament). Captain B.C. Crawford, owner of the 36' Hatteras Chiripa, and mate K.J. Robinson were helping me document the billfish action by chasing after boats that were hooked up. The morning saw a flurry of action and I was able to get some good shots of marlin jumping. By midday the action had slowed down, and I was sacked out on the couch, my 4 cameras strewn across the floor of the salon.
Though we were the press boat, we were also trolling some lures; as long as we had to be moving around, often simply waiting for the next boat to call in a hookup, the boat trolled two lures. That might help us catch a nice mahi mahi or small tuna for dinner, I thought. The rest of the boats are trolling at least 6 so this is a very light setup, and I told KJ that if the lures got hit, I was manning the cameras, not the rod!
I used to do a lot of fishing, mostly kayak fishing, where I chased smaller striped marlin up to 150 pounds in Mexico. One day I was lucky enough to catch and release 5 of them, and it was filmed and featured on Nat Geo TV's "Hooked: Monster Fish II".
I was so obsessed with it for so long that within a couple of years I had gotten it all out of my system and took up writing and photography, which seemed to befit a guy like me with 3 kids, a wife, and all that. Enough with pulling on the fish! I'd let others do the work and simply document the highlights without breaking a sweat. Once in awhile I go in the water and get shots of big fish if they are calm enough, like the below photo (actually that sailfish you see was kind of sketchy, which is another story) but for the most part I sit on my rear end on the boats, twiddling my thumbs, and wait for hours until the action unfolds. 
Compared to what I used to do, it often feels too sedentary, but I guess to be a marine wildlife photographer, you have to be patient. It's kind of like waiting for a rare animal sighting; jumping marlin don't (or so I thought until today!!) spend a whole lot of time in the air. So you get a lot of down time with a couple of seconds per day, if you are lucky, to witness something cool. If you're even luckier, you might get a good photo of it. Getting the shot is every bit as satisfying as catching the fish with your hands, and you get to hold on to it forever, assuming you don't delete it by mistake.  Here's one I took of a 400 pound black marlin in Panama crushing a football-sized tuna in it's mouth:
Anywho, there we are on the Chiripa trolling lures and waiting for the next called-in hookup. Suddenly I was jolted awake by the sound of a screaming reel- one of our lures had been hit!  We'd been pulling those things for the past two days with no hits, and I basically forgot they were even there! 
I ran out to the deck and KJ had taken the rod and was yelling, "It's a tuna, it's going straight down!!" That seemed plausible to me because whatever it was, it wasn't jumping. My first thought was, "Bummer that I didn't bring my underwater camera housing; it's probably a nice tuna and because we're not in the tournament I could have swam with it and taken some pictures of it!! Now we'll be stuck here for hours while they reel in this fish, and I won't get any action shots!"
All of a sudden a huge blue marlin, later estimated by many long time big game angling experts who witnessed the event to be over 550 pounds,  starts careening through the air in every conceivable direction, throwing massive walls of water with every move of it's huge tail, and leaving car size holes in the water when it came crashing down, sometimes belly up. This was one angry fish!
I ran back into the boat to get my cameras, and I was hooting and hollering in excitement. Finally some action!!! KJ knew that I wanted to get pictures rather than do the angling, so he took the rod into the chair and started strapping himself in. 
I guess I must have kept shooting photos the whole time because I got these images of the fish going ballistic. Notice the remoras on it's underbelly! I wonder what they were thinking!!  Some free ride they got!
KJ was born and raised in Kona and has spent time learning from B.C. on the Chiripa as well as doing some work on legendary Kona Captian Gene Vanderhoek's boat, the Sea Genie II. He knew the drill, did everything quickly and efficiently, and was ready in a matter of seconds for anything that the fish would do. Or so I thought....
After a couple of dazzling runs, which big gamed fishing expert Bob Lowe from Australia later called "The wildest thing I have ever seen on my 50 years of marlin fishing!" the fish started to run, and head toward us.
Now mind you, I am watching all of this through my 300 mm telephoto lens. I was so focused on getting the shot that I probably lost sense of what was really happening in terms of how the fish was behaving. All I knew was that the fish came at us so quickly that soon I was unable to see it through the camera (see shot #4 in the photo above)  and I was starting to miss it because my lens was too long! "It must be close!" I thought! "Where's my wide lens?"
The last shot I took prior to impact was this:
Then came the impact. 
The fish hit the side of the boat to my right, and my first thought was that it had come off (bummer!) and that the boat, and possibly the marlin, were in bad shape. But no! The reel was still screaming and KJ is yelling, "He's still on! He's still on!" but now we had a big problem. The fish had evidently slammed into the boat and just kept on going, and was pulling the 80 pound line under the boat. We were all waiting for the line to snap, but the reel kept on screaming! 
Captain B.C. swung the boat around and KJ told me to help him by turning the chair, so I put my cameras down and became the deckhand. By this time the fish was going straight down and when KJ was able to get a bit of line back on the reel, he shook his head in resignation- the line surely couldn't last much longer, because it was coated with the black paint from the underside of the boat and was frayed.  B.C. encouraged KJ to stick with it and soon they settled into a rhythm, slowly gaining back line.     
If it looks like KJ is forcing a smile, he is! He was rightfully concerned that the fish would break line, and even though they planned to tag the fish and let it go, after the fish rammed the boat we seemed to all be committed to winning the battle and bringing it to heel, if only for a brief minute. Here's what he really looked like when I wasn't asking him to smile:
I'm not sure if you can sense it from the picture but we were all just waiting the whole time for the line to part, and that sinking feeling stayed with us for the duration of the fight. As I mentioned, this kid is a Kona native, and he knew exactly what to do. I helped a bit here and there but he performed the tasks of two people, the mate and the angler, grabbing onto the line to help him wind it on to the reel, repositioning himself, and so forth. He wanted to win and redoubled his efforts, and after maybe 20 minutes, the rubber band on the line had come up, meaning the fish was pretty close.
"Get the tagging stick!" he told me, so I reluctantly put my cameras down and got it for him. I didn't know what the hay we were going to do; I guess I was going to have to ditch my camera, but I figured I'd get one last shot in. KJ turned a few more cranks, and just as we started getting ready for the end game, and I fetched his leadering gloves, the line came up and the fish seemed ready to jump.
And then the line went slack..... it was off, and so close!!!
We figured the hook had pulled, but upon closer inspection, it turns out the hook had in fact broken! Tackle failure! Bad hook!
Below here you can see some pics of KJ, and also of the reel with the line that still had paint from the bottom of the boat:
KJ and I talked a bit about it and decided that we might dive underneath the boat soon and inspect the boat to see if it has any damage. I will take pictures if we see any!
Here's Captain B.C. Crawford, mate KJ, and the boat back at the Kailua Pier after it all was over:
I have many more great pictures that I'd like to share but I have to get to bed- it's 2:10am and I need to get up in less than 4 hours to go out again tomorrow! I will try to post some videos of the interviews I recorded on my iPhone with the people who witnessed it all. It turns out that as incredible as it seemed to us, the anglers that witnessed it were doubly blown away! Many of them have been fishing for giant marlin their whole lives and said that they had never seen anything like it, and they'd never seen a fish act like that or move that fast. They also said that they were worried about the guys in the boat!!

Check in tomorrow for my blog and report after day 3 of the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament (HIBT). Hopefully I'll have some more big fish tales- and photos- to share with you. In the meantime check out the gallery on my site Bluewaterjon.com: fishing photography, articles, and travel for interesting content.
Until then,
Jon Schwartz


HIBT day 1 results: Kona Marlin Fishing Tournament sees red hot action!

Jon Schwartz here reporting from Kona, Hawaii on the  HIBT (Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament) results for day one. I witnessed some great marlin fishing action, including one boat that had two on at the same time
I don't have all the stats for today, I was so busy taking photos that all I know is what I saw from the press boat. Above you see a team of anglers from some far off country (New Zealand maybe) getting ready to tag a marlin. People have gotten the impression over the years that the fishing scene is Kona is all about keeping the marlin and bringing them back to the docks. That is a falsehood. Yes, fish are kept, but most are tagged and released. (In fact, if you are really concerned about protecting billfish stocks, go to The Billfish Foundation, a non profit that is dedicated to maintaining healthy billfish stocks worldwide, and learn about what what is really doing the damage to big fish stocks, which is longlining)
Look at the guys above. The marlin that their anglers had caught had gotten tangled in the leader, aka "tail wrapped". They brought it in and carefully cut the line off of the fish and then the mate took great pains to revive the fish behind the boat. It swam away in great shape.
Let's talk about how the day started. Anglers showed up with big smiles and boarded the boats that they drew for today; remember, everyone gets an equal chance at fishing on every boat here at the HIBT; no ringers.  
The fishermen then boarded the fabled Kona fishing fleet and set out for glory, prestige, and sport: 
A real Hawaiian priest came and blessed the 2010 HIBT, reciting Hawaiian prayers over the VHF for all the anglers to hear.
An hour or so into the contest, we got a call that the Korean Angling team, on the Northern Lights with Kona Captain Kevin Nakamaru, had TWO marlin on at the same time. One guy was even on the side of the boat reeling one in. Did I say two marlin at the same darn time? We raced over to investigate!
Sure enough it was true. And not only that, a kid was manning the tag stick! No joke here though, he turned out to be super qualified and did the job of 40 one man easily and with panache. They tagged the smaller one and let it go. It might have looked just like this blue marlin below that I photographed last year in Kona. It too had just been tagged and was swimming back home to, uh, wherever it calls home. I don't bring my underwater camera equipment and fins on press boats because the contestants would scream at me if I caused them to lose a fish while I swam around in the water!
Captain Kevin then backed down hard to enable their angler to reel in the other one, which was much bigger. Behold the mighty power of those engines!
I have a ton of really cool images from today's event but I am going to have to wait till another day to post them because I need to get my stuff ready for tomorrow. I do have times to share a couple more things that I think you might find interesting:
The above is what's called a "floater"- a log or a net or piece of something out in the middle of nowhere. EVERYONE loves seeing these things when they are trolling around for fish. They attract tiny organisms that attract small fish that attract bigger fish that attract huge fish. If a boat finds a floater, they'll spend time seeing if there are any big predators lurking around. There often are!  
One of the most common sport fish that love to congregate around these FADs ( fish attracting devices, I think) are mahi mahi, aka dorado, or for you East Coasters, "dolphin fish". Sometimes there may be hundreds of them around a floater, and if you fish there it can be 'wide open' action.
The above is ( how did you guess?) a sailfish. They are great fun on light tackle and people travel to exotic destinations like Guatemala, Panama, and Costa Rica to tussle with them. Some of them might be landed here at the HIBT but they will be quickly released and the anglers will be in a hurry to move on; they won't put up much of a fight on the beefy marlin tackle they use here at the HIBT and don't earn the anglers as many points, if I remember correctly. Can you guess why they are called sailfish? See below:
Also check my blog here about The Great Marlin Race because I will be talking about this exciting marriage of sport, science, and conservation via a collaboration between marine scientists and the HIBT. In a nutshell, these important marine scientists including Doctors Randy Kochevar and George Shillinger have come here to Kona to implant satellite tracking tags in marlin that are released. They then monitor these fish with the tags as they swim around, and whoever sponsored the sat tag on the fish that travelled the farthest in 180 days wins!
Above is the tag they insert in the fish. below is how they insert the tag. Then they let the fish go and it swims, as my 4 year old daughter Leilani would say, "Far, far away...." One fish swam over 2000 miles in 90 days.!That helps us learn about and protect billfish.
Below is Bob Kurz, he is here as an angler and also as the Great Marlin Race Director.
I figured I might pitch in to the Great Marlin Race by donating some photography so I told them, (and I am telling you!) if you sponsor a tag by contacting The Great Marlin Race, I will hook you up with some rare fine art fishing photography. You can even pick the species, including black, blue, striped marlin, mahi, tuna, sailfish, and sharks. Come on down!
Be sure to get the results of day two of the HIBT by checking in later on Tuesday. I'll be on the water all day hoping to witness some more great big game fun, and then I'll be blogging again after I get off the boat!
Jon Schwartz