KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii (KHON2) — The search for 63-year-old Mark Knittle, who went missing Sunday, Jan. 15 on the Big Island while fishing, has been called off according to the Coast Guard.
Knittle was reportedly fishing with a friend at Buoy C, four miles off Honaunau Boat Ramp around 5 a.m. when he hooked an ahi. The friend said he heard Knittle say, “This fish is huge” before Knittle went overboard. The friend said Knittle disappeared in seconds.
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And, this isn’t the first time this has happened.
In March of 2019, an Oahu man went fishing with his wife 24 miles off the south shore and was pulled in while trying to reel in a big catch. His body was never found.
Charter fisherman Bruski Louis said he knows several people who have gotten pulled overboard.
“Luckily, they got free from the line and they just swam back to the boat,” he explained. “But, unfortunate incidents, some people can just get stuck and get dragged down.”
He said some fisherman use a fishing technique called hand-lining.
“They just hook a bait, drop it down in a basket and pull it up with your hands.”
With that method, since the fishing line is wrapped around your hands, he said hooking an ahi that can weigh 200 pounds or more can be very dangerous.
“If [the ahi is] gonna run again, they’re going to run back down; and you’re gonna get pulled down.”
Louis said he always carries a knife on his hip, just in case.
Coast Guard auxiliary staff officer Lenny Cantor said taking extra safety precautions can save your life because no one expects to get pulled in by a fish.
The simplest safety measure: wearing a life vest.
“This [lifevest] is automatic. If I were to fall overboard or in the water, it would automatically inflate,” Cantor said.
Many large fishing boats have fighting chairs that are mounted to the boat and harness you in.
“So if anything, the rod and real and yourself are not going to go over,” Louis explained.
If you do not have a fighting chair to strap yourself into, a simple tether can be used to hook onto your life vest, then to the boat. Cantor said it can keep you close to the boat if a fish pulls you over.
Every boat should also have a radio because cell phones do not always work out at sea.
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And, small personal locator beacons can be purchased in the event you do go overboard. It should be hooked to your life vest and can be used to help locate you by GPS.