Andy Cho

Big Island angler, Andy Cho, is, perhaps, the man most often associated with contemporary Hawaiian kayak angling.  In the five short years that he has been practicing the sport, Andy has drafted an impressive list of accomplishments, including four first place finishes in the Makahiki tournament.  Luther Cifers, the founder of Yakattack, once alluded to the fact that while the sport contains celebrities who have done great things, these individuals are also the people that we go fishing with.  Andy Cho exudes such a combination.  Record setting marlin and consecutive tournament victories aside, Andy has a passion for simply fishing from his kayak. 

What first drew you to this style of angling? When was that?

I was first drawn to fishing by my family; they have been commercial fishing the Kona coast for many generations, so I have been fortunate enough to gain some fishing knowledge from that. But my interest turned to kayak fishing when i saw my brother, Steve, starting to give it a shot.  I decided to tag along and quickly got hooked. The first day I went yak fishing, I watched my brother catch a 30# white Ulua (giant trevally) using a live Moano for bait.  Getting to watch his pole bend over when he got the strike, and him battling that fish up, fueled my passion for the sport.

Do you remember the first fish that you caught from a kayak?

The first fish I can remember catching off my yak was a Moano, a type of goat fish, using a simple sabiki setup and dropping it to the bottom. The first pelagic fish came about a month later, and was a small shibi (yellowfin tuna), about 10 pounds.  I remember I was so happy to catch that little guy.  We had tried to go for pelagic game once before without very much luck, so my brother and I tried to see if we could modify some rigs and techniques that we used on boats fishing with our family. To our surprise, the modified rigs worked out well.

What food and/or music fuels your drive to the put-in?

A few artists I like to listen to on the way to the beach are Bob Marley, Alborosie, and Sublime.  My standard lunch bag consist of two Tiger’s Milk bars, two Powerade’s, a bottle of water, and a Red Bull.

You have an impressive number of world records to your name, perhaps the most notable being that of a 225 pound marlin.  Tell us about that catch.

That day started out like any other by first catching a few bait fish and heading to the drop-off to try for some pelagic game. I wasn’t out there very long before I started to see some big splashes to the outside of me.  I started to head out that way, but decided to try and change my bait to a frisky live one. As I was reeling it in to change, a marlin charged in and grabbed the bait. He instantly started tail-walking, and started to turn and head for my yak. So, I put the pole down on my lap, and started to paddle out of the way.  Good thing, because I saw the marlin pass by the front of my yak right under the surface.  I quickly grabbed my pole and started to wind down on it to get the line tight, and the fish quickly started to tow me around. Having gotten a good look at him and being out by myself, I grabbed my phone and called my brother (who luckily was at home). I told him that I was hooked up to a big marlin and asked if he could come out for some support. The marlin had towed me over 1.5 miles out to sea before my brother reached. After that, it started to dive and made me work for it to bring him back up.  At one point he may have been close to a thousand feet down. After I landed him, my brother helped me strap the marlin between our two kayaks and paddle him in. He ended up weighing in at 225 and was landed on 80# tackle.

Who, specifically, is shaping the future of kayak angling?

I think the future of the sport is being shaped differently in parts of the world, because kayak angling is so different in separate areas.  Each area has it’s own style of fishing and angling, making it important for every one to do their part at shaping the sport for the future.

Given that you have been angling from kayaks for five years, the rise to your present stature could be described as steep and fast.  To what do you attribute to your expeditious mastery of the sport’s fundamentals?

I like to feel that my family’s background in fishing helped out more than anything. I have been able to get out on the ocean with them on boats since i was a child. So i feel like my learning curve was much steeper, as i had already learned a lot of fundamentals that you need to know, and just had to transfer them and make them work on a kayak.

With regard to kayak angling, what issues are important to you? What, if anything, can be done about them?

I think safety is an important issue that needs to be addressed as one of the first and most important things learned about kayak fishing. Kayak fishing can be a dangerous hobby; if you’re going out into the ocean, remember to always keep an eye on the weather, which means knowing all of the forecast and local weather patterns. You never want to see anything happen to anyone – especially those who, despite having seen what others have done, do not know their own limitations on a yak. I think we need to start focusing more the safety side of kayaking by holding classes, or something of that nature, regarding safety issues.

Barring money or logistics, what is your dream kayak angling trip?

Being so blessed to live on the Big Island, I feel like I’m on my dream trip every time I go out, but I have always dreamed about catching a big dogtooth tuna from a yak. So my dream angling trip would have to be to an island in the south Pacific that is sheltered from trade winds and has deep drop-offs within close range for kayak access.  There would have to be a lot of dogtooth tuna, with shots for them up to 100+ lbs. Dogtooth is my dream fish that I want to catch – the strength and stamina of a yellowfin, and speed of a wahoo. It would also be nice if there was an abundance of other pelagic and bait fish as well. This trip would have to include my brother and a few of Hawaii’s top anglers.

What’s in your milk crate?

For me, when I think of a milk crate, I always think of Hawaiian style commercial skiff fishing. Where milk crates were often used to hold hundreds of yards of the handline that fishermen would use to catch 100+lb ahi.  It is an unreal feeling to have to fight a beast fish with your bare hands, pulling him in hand over hand until you get him to the boat.

Tell us about your best day on the water.

For me my best day on the water is any day I’m out there. I feel blessed to be able to go out onto the same waters as my ancestors used to fish hundreds of years ago using a similar style of human powered vessel. Being able to go out and feed family and friends from doing what I love to do is the best day on the water by far.

Having won the Makahiki tournament an astounding four times, you have often been referred to as perhaps the best kayak angler in the world.  What does this title mean to you?

This is a great title to hear associated with my name, and it definitely means a lot to me.  But I would definitely like to see some kind of tournament where a collection of the best anglers from around the world battle it out somehow for the title for world champ.  Until that happens, there will always be speculation about who the best is. When that happens, you can bet I will be there trying to represent for Hawaii. As for winning the Makahiki four times, it is something that means a lot to me because of Hawaii’s diverse pool of talent.  Some of the best anglers in the world are gathered here in one tournament.

What is the kayak fishing lifestyle?

For me the kayak fishing lifestyle would have to be one of self reliance, as I always refer to a kayak angler as the captain, crew, angler, and the motor on his boat.  It is a fun lifestyle filled with camping trips and long days on the water.

Tell us a story, any story.

One story that pops into mind is one about the first billfish my brother got to encounter off the yak. It was Sept. 5th, 2008, and was niece Kyleiah’s birthday.  We were heading to the beach to try to catch something for her birthday party that was coming up that weekend, and we joked to each other that maybe we’ll get a 90# ahi for the party. When we reached out, it was a normal day and the bite seemed to be alright. I had just got a 20# Kawakawa (false albacore), when I hear my brother yelling “whoa bro i got a marlin,” and i looked to see a marlin jumping out of the water all around his yak. A two hour battle ensued, and it was filled with tailwalking sessions and deep dives to depths up to 800 ft. This was a black marlin and he was mean – repeatedly charging at the yaks trying to get us. It turned out be 132 pounds and made wonderful poke ( a raw fish marinade dish) for the party.

What does the future hold for you?

Not sure what the future is going to hold for me, but I want keep on kayak angling for a long time. A guide service may be in the future, but for now I’m going to keep commercial fishing for salmon in Alaska during the summer, and kayak fishing in Hawaii for the rest of the year. Hopefully we can get more tournaments organized to showcase all of the great kayak anglers out there.



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