Nick Wikida set a new record for biggest yellowfin tuna from a kayak with this 187-pound ahi. Photo Courtey Nick Wikida

Nick Wakida set a new record for biggest yellowfin tuna from a kayak with this 187-pound ahi caught off Maui. Photo Courtesy Nick Wakida

By Rich Holland

Maui’s Nick Wakida was looking to get in some fishing before work July 6 and ran into the biggest kayak catch of his life, a 187.6 pound ahi. The yellowfin tuna was weighed on the official scale at Maui Sporting Goods and beats out the 176.5-pound ahi caught off the Kona Coast of Hawaii by Devin Hallingstad for the largest yellowfin ever taken aboard a kayak.

To top the catch off, Wakida is entered in the Aquahunters’ Makahiki tournament and the ahi was landed on a Makahiki claim day.

“I am stoked for Nick that he beat Devin’s record,” says Isaac Brumaghim of Aquahunters, who confirmed that the tuna was an official Makahiki catch. The monster kayak tuna did not come easy

“The story of it is I went out just as the sun was starting to rise and first searched bait,” says Wakida. “There was no bait at first but I eventually found one nice big bait, a big opelu a little bigger than I like to fish with. I thought, well, if I am going to catch a fish on this bait, it’s going to be a big one.

“I took the bait to the 300 Mark, some ledges and some pinnacles and drug it around an hour almost,” he notes, “It still had a lot of life, the bait was real strong. The day was moving along and I decided to jig the pinnacles.

Nick Wakida's 187.6-pound kayak tuna drew a lot of attention on a popular Maui beach. Photo Courtesy Nick Wakida

Nick Wakida's 187.6-pound kayak tuna drew a lot of attention on a popular Maui beach. Photo Courtesy Nick Wakida

“I was jigging, jigging, jigging when out of the corner of my eye I saw a splash on the bait I was dragging behind me,” Wakida adds. “I thought it was mahi or it was getting messed around with by an aha (needlefish).

“I gave it a few seconds to eat the bait then all of a sudded the rod bend and the reel started screaming. There was no jump, so I figured it wasn’t a marlin or  a mahi. Right away in the back of my head I start thinking it’s a shark.”

Whatever was on the line, when Nick looked down there was only a quarter-spool of line left on the reel!

“I tightened down the drags and then it was a battle where I would get two inches, he would take an inch, he would take three inches, I would get a couple back, so it was inch by inch,” recalls Wakida. “The fish would just pull slow, steady and hard, exactly like a shark.

“Kayak fishing you pull the kayak to the fish and it was taking me super far and super deep. I tried to turn its head — I had to go to work! —  and when I tried to lift the pole and turn him the pole snaps.  Miraculously the fish was still on.”

A lot of work was left before Nick would ever get a chance to see what was on the end of the line.

“I had to see what it was, my biggest fish before this (besides a shark) was a 30-pound mahi and some small shibi,” Wakida admits. “The line was dangling down where it would not get cut off, but when I tried to use the rod I had no leverage. So I decide I have to hand line the fish in and throw on the gloves.”

Explaining that the fish was so heavy and pulling so hard that he couldn’t even get a single wrap, Wakida says he pulled the fish up 70 feet hand over hand only to get tangled with his “bonus” line: a dead bait dangling on a jig.

“So now the line from the other pole is connected to the fish too and the fish is pulling both lines,” says Wakida. “I tried to figure out if I could untangle them without breaking off, then decided to handline both lines to see what the fish was.”

Nick finally saw a shine of white at deep color.

“I still though it could be the white underbelly of a shark. It was unreal, there I am hand lining with lines from two reels all over my lap,” says Wakida. “I had to make sure nothing wrapped around my limbs or toes or in one second I could lose a toe or another limb.

“Eventually I could see the yellow of the yellow fin and I started to get really excited!” he adds. “I realize I need to get my kagi to spear it, but it’s covered in the fishing line, so I had to scramble and pull the kagi out of the web of line. Luckily I made a perfect hit to the head, but there was lots of blood and right away two sharks started circling my boat.”

“Now all I am thinking is how do I get this fish back to the  beach safely, and that no one is going to believe my story if my fish gets eaten by sharks,” says Wakida “I got the fish to the boat and tied up as best I could and called my dad. He called Maui Sporting goods, they called the nearest lifeguards and they came out on the Jet Skis to assist me. The ahi dragged me a couple miles out and a few mile up the coast. It’s a really dangerous area where winds and currents are very strong. The wind was picking up, so I had to make the call.”

“When the lifeguards first came up to me I could see a look on their face that said ‘okay, here’s some other guy that doesn’t know what he’s doing that has to be pulled in.’ Then they came around other side where the could see the fish, I pulled the headup to gill level, and they got excited and eager to help me out.”

Nick was fishing on a Hobie Revo 13 outfitted with a Hobie Ama Kit and said the fish was so heavy that even with the outrigger, pulling just the head up nearly brought the edge of the kayak to water level.

“The fish was so long I could not get a tail wrap on it, so I put a rope through the gill and left the gaff in the fish. The ahi was gut hooked, so I left that in too. The first thing the we did when the lifeguards got there was to get the fish better secured with a line on the tail.  I had been pedaling towards the beach, trying to keep out of the blood slicks the whole time and the sharks weren’t around by the time the lifeguards got to me.

“Still, we got out of there as quick as we could!” notes Wakida, laughing.

“The lifeguards dropped me off on a beach that is pretty popular with the tourists, so they were all checking it out,” he adds. “I still can’t believe this is all happening, I was in really shallow waters, about 150, and usually guys are going out to water a thousand, 1500 feet deep to find this fish. And I was so convinced it was a shark the whole time. Most of all I wanted to see what was on the end of the line.”

As noted, what was on the end of the line was a new record kayak tuna catch, as proven by the scale at Maui Sporting Goods. Wakida had his opelu rigged with a Nittal Zip Bridle that he fished on 50-pound Berkley Pro Series Premium monofilament on a Penn Squall 6/0 and 5’9″ Shimano Talus Trolling Series rod. The broken rod disqualifies the catch from any IGFA recognition.

“The local Shimano rep gave me a new rod to replace the broken one,” notes a happy Wakida. He was not the only one happy about the tasty catch.

“I have a wedding and a couple of parties to go to this weekend,” says Nick. “I’ve got everybody covered when it comes to fish!”

Related: This Fish is So Big it Might Sink Me