According to the Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, it is estimated that more than 144,000 residents and visitors engage in recreational pelagic fishing in Hawaii each year. In the summer of 2020, fishing charter bookings from visitors dropped to nearly zero at a time when bookings usually sell out. Rather than having their boat sit idle, local business owner Captain Al Gustavson wanted to give back by sponsoring and running a special fishing tournament, the Reel First Responders Fishing Tournament, for Big Island police and fire department members.
“Basically, it’s a big mahalo for these first responders: the police and the fire department. We really appreciate what they do,” said Captain Gustavson, whose businesses include Topshape Kona Charters, Queen K 76, and Kona Marine Supply.
Every Tuesday and Thursday in August and September, Topshape Kona Charters is offering 8 hour fishing charters open to anyone in the Hawaii County Police Department (HPD) and Hawaii County Fire Department (HFD). The normal charter rate is $1,090.00 per 8 hour trip, but Reel First Responders tournament participants’ entry fees are 100% sponsored. The month of August was dedicated to HPD, September to HFD. Teams will consist of up to four members, at least one of which must be an active member of HPD or HFD.
Reel First Responders is a jungle rules, four flag point tournament. This means that equipment restrictions and guidelines are relaxed and fish caught are awarded point values before being released. Points will be assigned as follows:
|Marlin||Up to 300 lbs||300 points|
|Marlin||Over 300 lbs||Points equal estimated weight (ie, a marlin estimated at 550 lbs would be awarded 550 points)|
|Stripey||All Weights||100 points|
|Spearfish||All Weighs||50 points|
|Ahi||50 lbs and over||75 points|
|Mahi Mahi/Ono||20 lbs and over||1 point for each pound over 20 lbs (ie, a 25 lb Mahi Mahi woud be awarded 25 points)|
In the event of a point tie at the end of the day or the end of the tournament, the earliest Marlin caught will break the tie and decide the winner. The winner of the HPD August tournament bracket was Team Sea Men, with a 675 point score. Team Sea Men will compete in a fish off with the winners of the HFD bracket at a future date (TBD, October) for the championship title.
Currently, donation of volunteer hours and in-kind charter expenses are being provided entirely by Captain Al Gustavson’s businesses, valued at over $20,000. Local businesses or community members who would like to sponsor tournament prizes are encouraged to reach out to Captain Gustavson at (808) 283-1281. To follow the tournament on social media, please visit Top Shape Kona’s Facebook page or follow @topshapekona on Instagram.
Captain Gustavson hopes that locals of the Big Island community will continue to take the time to acknowledge the important contributions of the Big Island’s first responders, during the current pandemic and otherwise. “Just tell them thanks,” said Gustavson. “They really appreciate it.”