NORTH SHORE, Oahu (HawaiiNewsNow) - Del Saldajeno has been waiting for this moment for more than two decades.
The 45-year-old Wahiawa man reeled in a huge ulua on Saturday at an undisclosed location off Oahu’s North Shore.
“Some of them (fishermen) have gone their whole life not catching one, so it took me 23 years. So that’s pretty lucky,” Saldajeno said.
Saldajeno says he and his family were camping Saturday night. They cast a line and that’s when it happened.
“My pole went and my bell went racket and started going off on my reel and I fought the fish for about 20 minutes. The whole time I was thinking it was a shark so I didn’t fight it like it was a regular fish," he said.
But it wasn’t. He pulled it in ― and that’s when he saw it was an ulua.
“When I landed it, lo and behold, it was an ulua and it was bigger than my personal best, which was a 73-pounder, so I was stoked.”
Saldajeno’s 12-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter jumped into help.
“My boy tried his best to carry the tail part of the fish which is lighter than the head, but it was too heavy so we ended up wrapping it in a tarp and the three of us pulled it towards the camp site,” he said. “We put it in a cooler with ice and the rest is history."
After all these years without landing an ulua this size, he credits his kids for the rare catch. He calls them his lucky charms.
“It’s so surreal. Both my wife and I look at eachother, y’know. it’s hard to believe, I can’t believe it happened."
Saldajeno told Hawaii News Now that he made a promise to his wife: If he catches an ulua over 100 pounds, he’d sell his gear and quit fishing. But he says he doesn’t plan to make good on the pledge.
Instead, he’s going after an even bigger prize.
“The next best thing is to catch another one because it is super rare,” he said.
Saldajeno wants to remember his once in a lifetime catch, so he’s getting a gyotaku print of it.
As for what’s next for the fish, Saldajeno plans to have a big feast and share it with his friends and family.