June 30, 2013

HONG KONG, CHINA -- There had been stories of marlin in Hong Kong waters over the years; a group hooked up with one a few years back and some believe juvenile black marlin come here in the summer months.  There were rumors of the big one that got away out there but there was no evidence, and to the best of anyone’s knowledge, there has never been anything big caught, black or blue.  David Tuthill and his team have been fishing these waters for three and a half years and have seen a lot of dolphin, yellow fin tuna, barracuda, and wahoo, but had never been lucky enough to see or catch a marlin of any size.  They always believed, however, that the elusive big fish had to be out there, and put more than 10,000 miles on Warbird’s engines searching for her over the years.

The fishing trip in late June was a special one, even without the marlin.  The owner/captain of the boat, Dave Tuthill, "Tut" as his friends call him, was leaving Hong Kong in a few weeks so the team knew this was going to be the last big fishing trip offshore in China.  It was the end of an era; of exploring; the end of incredible adventures in the South China Sea.  There hasn’t been a non-Chinese fishing boat that has ever covered as much water as Tut and Warbird have over the years.  Warbird is a 33-foot Hydra Sport with triple-225hp engines.  She holds a lot of fuel and has the ability to run to far off destinations in safety and speed.

There was an amazing crew on board.  Brad Ainslie, Greg Moore, Andrew Bazarian, Dan Shepherd, Carl Vine, and Captain Tut left the docks of Aberdeen, Hong Kong at 4:00 AM on the dot.  They cruised past old fishing junk boats and weaved through dozens of fully-loaded shipping containers en route to the US.  It was a perfect morning to head offshore: no wind and flat calm with a 3-foot ground swell.  They caught the perfect window, just ahead of a typhoon due to hit the next morning.  They cleared Stanley and Po Toi island and got up to 35 knots for the long journey out to the oil rigs and blue water, 75 miles southeast of Hong Kong Island.

The polluted waters of Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta are called the dead zone because little survives in the greenish-brown water.  On a normal day, the green water line around Hong Kong shifts into the pacific blue of the South China Sea at about 40 miles; today was different.  The team didn’t hit the blue water line until 65 miles and when they did, around 6:00 AM, there was an immediate shift in visibility from 5 feet to well over 100 feet.  This is the strong Western Boundary Current that comes in thru the Luzon Strait between Taiwan and the Philippines.  The water was amazingly blue; as always there was an increase in life everywhere.  “This always reminds us of how many species of marine life should be living in and around our waters of Hong Kong,” notes Brad Ainslie.  “We’ve seen manta rays, bottlenose and spinnaker dolphin, green turtles, loggerhead turtles, huge schools of tuna and mahi mahi, and always tons of flying fish out there in the blue water.”

This day was out of the ordinary; there were more birds than normal working the waters, small dolphin and tuna jumping everywhere, and flying fish all around.  They got the lines in the water and Carl Vine and Dan Shepherd quickly hooked a few mahi mahi and got them in the boat.  Andrew Bazarian noticed a big group of birds working real hard just where the green water line hit the blue  water line so they put a few dolphin lures on and started chasing the birds.  Not long after that -- at about 6:45 AM -- it happened.  The marlin attacked the blue dolphin lure on the right outrigger -- it was an explosion.  The marlin came half way out of the water when it hit, its bill fully out of the water and the huge tail splashing away.  The fish went ballistic, jumping 20-30 times off the back of the boat.  Tut jumped on the rod, Brad grabbed the steering wheel, the rest of the crew quickly cleared the back of the boat of rods, lures, and beer cans, and the battle began.  Greg Moore jumped on the rooftop and began filming.  The marlin dragged the boat all over the place.  No one remembers exactly how far, but they’re sure they must have covered six or seven miles of water fighting and chasing the fish down.  Three and a half hours of sweating, swearing, and fighting went by and this fish was not going to give up easily.

In the past, the crew always tagged and released their marlin; a few of the team had tagged a 950-pound black marlin three years ago off the Great Barrier Reef.  Today, this fish was unfortunately not going to give them a chance; she had wrapped the line around her body and clearly had every intention of fighting to her last breath.  This was the first marlin any of the crew had ever caught that was going to have to come home with them.  The fish was down about 25-30 feet in the water, dying, and was dead weight.  The line was worn and they couldn’t get her to the surface as they were sure the line would snap.  If they waited much longer, the sharks would be on her soon, mako sharks and oceanic whitetip sharks were in the area and would surely sense the dying marlin.  They could not let this beautiful fish go. 

“Tut decided to try something that I have never seen on the open water or have ever heard of anyone doing before,” remembers Brad.  He threw on a mask, snorkel, and fins, grabbed a gaff, and dove down to the fish.  “He must have been down there for what seemed like two minutes before he surfaced.”  As Tut dragged the beast to the surface, the crew quickly grabbed the gaff from Tut and got him back on board as quickly as possible.  It took all six crew members to get the marlin over the side of the boat and into the cockpit; three gaffs and a massive rope tied to the tail, six grown men heaving and straining.  It was a beautiful blue marlin, the stripes already fading from her fate as she lay in the boat.  All six stared at it, speechless.  They each had mixed emotions about such a majestic animal leaving the ocean, but it was meant to be.  This fish was theirs.  It was their Hemingway moment and it was an epic end to five years of exploring these waters.  Captain Tut declared, “The fishing gods wanted us to catch this marlin, bring her home, show everybody in Hong Kong what was out there, and then have her for dinner.”

Seven hours later, the Warbird Fishing Team was back at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club with a massive blue marlin, a few yellow fin tuna, a bunch of mahi mahi, and celebratory rum drinks in hand.  They measured her length (12 feet) and girth around the body (6 feet); based on the IGFA equations the fish was somewhere between 500-560 lbs. 


“None of us will ever forget this amazing day and the experiences we have had fishing the blue waters of the South China Sea,” says Captain Tuthill.  “We all hope that everyone in Hong Kong who reads this remembers how amazing Hong Kong’s marine ecosystem is.  If we clean these waters up the marine life will come back.   Maybe in 10 years the marlin will only be 10 miles offshore!”

The marlin was caught on a 50W Shimano Tiagra reel (a 50lb class rod), 100 lb mono leader on a black & blue R&S #44 made in Fort Lauderdale lure, 8/0 Mustad Hook.

For more pictures, visit

Brad Ainslie
Hong Kong
(852) 2843 1425
Mobile: (852) 5328 3370

Eva Ciminio
Mobile: 954-947-7147