Peter Fithian first came to Hawai‘i in 1948 as a midshipman on a US Navy cruiser; he later studied hotel management at Cornell University. (Kelley)
In 1954, Fithian was hired to manage the Augusta National Golf Club. A year later, he was back in the Islands, having been hired to manage the Kona Inn. However, Augusta’s Masters Golf Tournament was an inspiration for a tournament of another type he would start in Hawaii. (WHT)
Fithian and five others, Porter Dickenson, Dudley Lewis, Richard MacMillan, Desmond Stanley, Edward Sultan, Sr and Charlie Cooke, joined together to operate a big-game fishing tournament in Kona.
In 1959, just two days after the Territory of Hawai‘i became the 50th state, the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament (HIBT) launched its first sportsfishing tournament in Kona on the Island of Hawai‘i.
It is the second oldest big game sport fishing event in the world. (On May 26, 1950 the Ernest Hemingway International Billfish Tournament started at Havana, Cuba.)
In the tournament that continues today, points will be awarded for each billfish weighing 300 or more pounds. The allowed species are black marlin, broadbill swordfish, Pacific blue marlin and striped marlin. Tuna are judged in a different category, with points given for each fish weighing at least 100 pounds.
It’s not just sport, it later became evident that there was little or no knowledge about the life cycle of the marlin. Due to John C. Marr’s urging, the HIBA Board founded a 501C3 Scientific Corporation and called it the Pacific Ocean Research Foundation (PORF).
Over a period of 15 years, more than 65 scientific papers were written by scientists with credit to PORF. PORF dominated the study of science for the Pacific Blue Marlin working with Stanford University and the IGFA to further the understanding of the life of this marlin which has had so much to do with the rise in interest for game fishing worldwide. (HIBT)
Points are also given for marlin that are tagged and released. Rules note, “To be counted as a tagged and released fish, the leader must be taken in hand and the fish tagged with a NMFS Tag and Released.”
“The hook or hooks must be disengaged from the fish or the leader cut as close to the hook/s as possible. The fish must be alive and capable of survival when released.” (HIBT)
The Kona Inn was also instrumental in developing the Kona Coast as one of the world’s greatest fishing areas. With the Inn as unofficial billfish tournament headquarters, the place has attracted marlin fishermen from all over the globe.
“Tournament entries include charter fees for each team to fish aboard one of Kona’s leading charter boats … Each day the teams switch to a different boat”. (BlueWater)
7:30 am, at the first of five days of fishing, ‘Longnose’ broadcasts over the tournament radio, “Billfishers, Billfishers, Billfishers, Start Fishing, Start Fishing, Start Fishing,” starting the tournament and the ‘and they’re off’ race to respective fishing areas.
Longnose is the radio call name to Tournament Control; longtime Longnose, manning the radio, was Phil Parker. He and his brother (and subsequent sons) were iconic Kona marlin fishers.
“Teams that have been coming to this tournament for a long time know what it takes to win. Our new teams sense the importance of Kona’s waters and they are here to fish and win.” (Fithian; HIBT)
“The first year we had 23 teams and probably 21 were from Honolulu and Kona, but it grew. … This was such a little town when we started.”
“Probably for the first three or four years, we were weighing the fish at the Kona Inn. Later on, we moved to the pier with the thought that this was something people should be seeing.” (Fithian; WHT)
The 59th Annual Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament will be held Saturday August 4th, 2018 – Sunday August 12th, 2018; again, in Kona, as it has been since the beginning.