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Modern Day Kewalo Harbor

Jun 03, 2015

Choy's Monster

In Hawai'i, the words "marlin" and "fishing tournament" in the same sentence may not necessarily evoke images of Honolulu's South Side. But that's about to change with the first ever Kewalo Harbor Big Fish Chase.

On June 6, some of Hawai'i's top fishermen and anglers will gather and compete to catch the largest marlin, ahi, ono, and mahimahi in this inaugural event at Kewalo Harbor. Inspired by the Harbor's rich history as a fishing community decades ago, the Kewalo Harbor Big Fish Chase was conceptualized as a way to honor the awe-inspiring story of "Choy's Monster" - the biggest marlin, weighing in at 1,805 pounds, ever caught by rod-and-reel in the world.

Almost exactly 45 years ago to the day on June 10, 1970, Captain Cornelius Choy, daughter Gail Choy-Kaleiki, and vacationers Mike Wachtier, Pat Morello, Charles Lewis, and their wives had departed Kewalo Harbor for a chartered afternoon of sportfishing aboard the Coreene C, a 48-foot Hawaiian sampan fishing boat.

They had hoped to land a marlin. They would return with a monster and a world record.


"Marlin!" Gail Choy-Kaleiki yelled at the top of her lungs that afternoon.

Once on the water, one of the vacationers had managed to hook a massive Pacific blue marlin that darted and shot like a jet, twisting and arching the heavy fishing pole, and madly spinning the reel. The vacationers wrestled with the rod and reel for the first few hours while trying to bring in the beast, but they became exhausted and seasick.

"We swarmed down to help the client get into the fighting chair, but it was too much fish for him," Choy later recalled to the New York Daily News, and published in Amazing But True Fishing Tales. Gail Choy-Kaleiki took over from the vacationers while Captain Choy managed the helm.

They later switched roles, this time with Captain Choy taking the reel and Gail Choy Kaleiki piloting the ship in a pursuant course after the fish. Racing away from the boat time and again, the marlin yanked at the line, thrashing the Captain.

"As I held the rod, I felt it double and the butt kicked me in the belly," Choy said. "I came back hard and felt his weight, striking me again and again and again."

The marlin leaped into the air like a greyhound, glistening in the sun, jumping in and out of the water more than forty times in a struggle lasting eight hours.

As he hit the water he threw a column of spray like a bomb bursting. Every time he jumped, it was a sight to make your heart stand still.

With sweat pouring down his face, Choy was finally able to pull the fish out of the water and his daughter wired it. Due to its size, the marlin had to be towed into port, and when weighed, came in at an astonishing 1,805 pounds. Although it didn't qualify for an International Game Fish Association (IGFA) world record because more than one angler assisted in landing the beast, the fish remembered as "Choy's Monster" is still the largest blue marlin ever taken on rod and reel. All this, right at Ward.


Half a century later, that spirit of adventure, seafaring, and seamanship lives on at Ward Village. On June 6, teams of fishermen and anglers will gather in a display of fishing prowess, each competing to bring in the largest catches of the day. A guaranteed $10,000 purse will be split amongst the winners of the Kewalo Harbor Big Fish Chase, and for anyone able to bring in a catch larger than Choy's 1,805-pound Monster, there is a special $50,000 grand prize reward.

Multiple anglers optional, nerves of steel mandatory.

Historical photos courtesy of Shannon H. Edie

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Kewalo Harbor

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