China club lures lead at HIBT
The China Sea Wolf Club surged to front of the 55th Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament on Thursday, as Ji Xinhua reeled in a 664.8-pound blue marlin.
“This is the biggest fish I’ve ever caught in my life,” Ji said through interpreter Joanne Zhang of Hilo. “It was very difficult because the fish was huge. It was a strong fish.”
Ji hooked the fish around 3:50 p.m. aboard the High Flier captained by Guy Terwilliger and fought it for the next 70 minutes.
Official scores were not available as of press time, but the Chinese team should have a solid lead heading into the final day, although that’s not enough for Ji.
“I won’t be satisfied until I catch a bigger one tomorrow!” said Ji, who caught one of his team’s two marlin on the opening day. “But I’m very happy about it now.”
Members of the Laguna Billfish Club No. 3 also were happy on Thursday.
Martin Firestein’s team caught and released two blue marlin, a spearfish and a mahi mahi.
“It’s an excellent day for us,” said Firestein, who is from Los Angeles.
Fishing aboard the Lady Dee, captained by Chuck Wigzell, the team first snagged a 25-pound spearfish in the morning and quickly added a mahi mahi. Firestein’s team, which caught a 110-pound marlin on Tuesday, got another bite around 2:30 p.m. Thursday. Firestein’s son, Mitchell, battled the fish, estimated at 125 pounds, for about a 30 minutes before tagging and releasing it.
Just 15 minutes later, Martin Firestein got a bite. He needed a half-hour to pull in the marlin, which was estimated at 225 pounds.
“It’s just been a little slow for us, as it has been for the whole fleet,” Martin Firestein said. “We were lucky enough to be in the right spot at the right time today.”
Martin Firestein is in his fourth year of coming to the tournament and, although Thursday was a good day, it wasn’t his best in Kona.
“We’ve had some really, really good days and we’ve also had some slow days,” he said. “It is fishing, not catching.”
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