A 5-foot-9-inch woman tournament fishing in Hawaii waters fought a 12-foot marlin more than four hours before getting it on her team’s boat and weighing it at more than a half-ton — a would-be world record.
But 28-year-old Molly Palmer is missing out on the glory and thousands in tournament prize money for one pesky reason: Her team’s honor code.
Cheating would have been easy and tempting. The Big Island Invitational Marlin Tournament runs in part on an honor system and Palmer, her captain and crewmates put up roughly $9,000 to enter last week.
But the Kailua-Kona angler said it wasn’t a question of whether or not to cheat — her team just wanted to reel in the big catch. So they disqualified themselves and Palmer’s crewmates helped pull the monstrous fish aboard.
"The question was only can I land the fish or not," Palmer told The Associated Press. "I didn’t come here to set world records. I didn’t even really come here to win money. I came here to catch fish and that’s just what we were there to do."
Palmer needed to reel in the fish by herself in order for it to qualify as a valid catch for the tournament, according to rules set by the International Game Fishing Association.
Palmer’s fish weighed in at 1,022.5 pounds, well over the record of 950 pounds for a woman using a 130-pound line, tournament organizer Jody Bright said.
Officials at the International Game Fishing Association were not immediately available late Wednesday.
"I’ve had people try to slide things past me for a whole lot less money, for a less important thing than a world record," Bright said.
"We don’t have officials on the field like you do in baseball or football or anything like that," he said. "Everybody’s playing on the open ocean playing field and since there’s nobody there checking to see if you stepped out of bounds or any of that sort of stuff there’s a whole lot of opportunity to do things nobody would know of."
Bright said most of the fish caught during the three-day tournament were released, while those that died would be sold at market for seafood and marlin jerky.
Neal Isaacs, the boat’s captain, said the team knew the fish was big — but not necessarily a world record — when they saw it start jumping to free itself from the line nearly 40 minutes after it was hooked. The battle then became about whether the boat could position itself to give Palmer enough leverage to reel it in, he said.
She didn’t want to give up, but the fish stayed in deep waters and eventually died on the line, drifting directly below the ship, Isaacs said.
"We pushed it, but her husband suggested we get out of the chair before she passed out," Isaacs said.
Angling is as much about math and physics as the open-water adventure. Palmer, at 160 pounds, needed to get the marlin more than six times her weight positioned higher in the water to make it easier for her to reel in her line without attracting sharks or breaking the line or any of the boat’s equipment.
"It was a bad decision that stopped me more than my physical limits," she said.