Thursday, November 26, 2009

Shibi - Yellowfin Tuna or Bigeye Tuna?

Can you tell the difference between a juvenile yellowfin tuna, Thunnus albacares, and a juvenile bigeye tuna, Thunnus obesus?

I've been a fishing enthusiast but for a long time I've had trouble in identifying each of them properly when I took pictures of them. Hawaiian and Japanese fishermen call both juveniles as "shibi", and usually are careless about which. I've been the same way, too.

On the other day, I had an opportunity to compare the two species of similar size. I caught both species on the same day. By comparing them side by side, the difference was obvious.

juvenile yellowfin tunas are called, shibi in Hawaii and Japan, consisting of two differenct species of tunas - yellowfin tuna, Thunnus albacares (above), and bigeye tuna, Thunnus obesus (bottom), note the differences that bigeye tuna has larger eyes, longer pectoral fins and more robust body, Kona, Big Island, Hawaii, USA, Pacific Ocean

The most obvious difference was the pectoral fins. The bigeye tuna has a lot longer pec fin than the yellowfin, passing the dorsal and almost reaching the anal fin. Its body shape is naturally much more robust - looks a lot fatter than the yellowfin does. In addition, the eye of the bigeye tuna was apparently larger relative to the size of the body and head, which explains the origin of the common name of the species.

I always thought the bigeye tuna tastesd better because it looked fatter! Maybe that's not true after all. In any case, they are fabulously good eat. If you are catching one, make sure to take time and bleed them well. It'll make a huge difference at dinner table.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pantropical Spotted Dolphin Sunset Play
The Day Before Thanksgiving - Part II

Continued from the post: Trophy Mahi Mahi - Dolphinfish Bull 37 LB 1 Hour Fight - The Day Before Thanksgiving - Part II.

After all the excitement of catching the trophy mahi mahi, we cruised down to south in search of calmer water and tunas because the gusty north east Trade Wind messed up the northern fishing area where we were. We checked a few buoys cruising long distance but nothing much was happening. Soon we realized how late it was already, and decided to call for the day. We looked at our proud mahi mahi again and took more pictures with the sunset behind. "Damn! He was huge!"

My buddy and I were in a hurry trying to get home before the sun set, so that we could wash the boat under daylight!. A small dolphin suddenly showed up leaping toward the bright sun. And then, another one, and another... Pretty soon I was surrounded by hundreds of pantropical spotted dolphins, Stenella attenuata.

pantropical spotted dolphins, Stenella attenuata, juveniles and baby, doing synchronized jumping out of boat wake at sunset, Kona, Big Island, Hawaii, USA, Pacific Ocean

They seemed very excited about the arrival of my boat and welcomed us by bow-riding, wake-riding, and showing off their signature high leaps against golden sun. What a beautiful moment. I couldn't resist taking my camera out of the Pelican case and started shooting them as everything started to glow under purple-orange fluorescent light. Known as the sunset golden hour for photographers.

Shooting from a rocking boat at sunset wasn't easy, but luckily I was able to capture a moment when four young dolphins jumped out of the boat wake all at once. This dolphin shot would become one of my signature pictures of the dolphin for sure, and also was totally worth my effort of washing the boat in the dark ;-)

Trophy Mahi Mahi - Dolphinfish Bull 37 LB 1 Hour Fight
The Day Before Thanksgiving - Part I

I love fishing. Particularly when I hook something big on a light tackle outfit. For example, when I fish for mahi mahi or ono, small tunas, I usually use a light tackle instead of heavy marlin tackles because the same fish gives me far more excitement, otherwise, the game is over in a matter of seconds.

I heard a "rumor" that there were hundreds of sharks at OT buoy along with an endangered fin whale, Balaenoptera physalus. Hundreds of sharks??!! Fin whale in Hawaii??!! Never heard of such things around Kona, so my buddy & I decided to go out the day before the Thannksgiving to investigate if the story was true.

As usual, we were late getting out, and went straight out to the OT buoy about 15 miles offshore. My fish finder recorded many fish in deep, so I dropped some jigs but did not get anything. And then a shark showed up... and another one...then another one. We saw three sharks but disappeared quickly into deep. From the shape of them, they looked like silky sharks.

As we throw some baits to attract sharks or whatever, a big mahi showed up by my boat. "OK. That's more like it." I rigged some bait for mahi and put in in the water. Bang! Hanapa'a! Fish on! In a few seconds, the mahi was at the horizon leaping like maniac. "He's big!!!" We could tell that for sure from the distance. He looked that big.

A couple months ago we lost a 40lb (we think!) bull mahi just before gaffing by the gunwhale because we got greedy to hook more mahi at the same time and forgot that it was on 30lb line. So this time we were determined to get this fish in. No photography.

Suddenly the mahi at the horizon disappeared and my line slacked. Oh, no... wait a minuetes the fish is coming this way straight! I screemed, "Something's chasing it! A marlin!... no a shark!" A silky shark (perhaps) was chasing after the fish trying to bite its tail. What a speed! Both fish zip by my boat and went the opposite side in a matter of seconds! Wow.

I wound my reel to recover some line but the fish kept going. All I can do was hang on. With the help of Sue's boat maneuver, after about 1 hour of good fight, we finally got him on board.

It turned out to be the biggest mahi mahi I've ever caught. It weighed about 36 lb a humongous bull mahi mahi. Wow. I was exhausted. What a fight.

Mahi mahi for everybody and I will be getting him mounted for sure!

To be continued to: Pantropical Spotted Dolphin Sunset Play - The Day Before Thanksgiving - Part II.