For my first fishing of 2018 I decided to start small. Very small. We took some micro-fishing gear out to one of our favorite places, a long level reef full of pools and holes that teem with a variety of tiny fishes.
For bait I brought along some bits of squid. The squid is harder to separate into really small pieces than shrimp, but it stays on the hook a lot better and I find it to be more productive.
We had good success an caught many of the regular reef dwellers. I was also excited to add two new fish to my list of species caught. Both fish were a complete surprise because, although they are abundant in the tide pools I don’t remember either one showing much interest in my offerings before.
I found the goby in a tiny pool way up on the reef. After dangling the bait for a bit I saw the fish poke it’s head out of a small hole. Slowly it crept out, closer and closer. After inspecting the morsel of squid closely I watched it open wide and gulp down the bait. I set the hook as the fish turned back towards it’s hole but the wily critter spat the hook and disappeared. I put the bait back and waited. Soon I saw the goby poke it’s head up again. The scenario unfolded the same way, with the fish spitting my hook and darting back into the reef. I had to try three or four time before the tiny hook finally found a purchase.
The damselfish was a complete surprise. I dropped the line over the edge of a small ledge that obscured the bottom of the tide pool from my view. A second later the damselfish was hooked. These shiny little fish are in nearly every pool and always hover in the same area, protecting a small territory. Usually when I spot them they are looking up, watching me warily, and show no interest in any bait. Given this behavior, perhaps they are a bit smarter than the average fish. If that’s the case then I suspect hiding from view is the key to catching them!
The catch of the day was a voracious Hawaiian Flagtail, perhaps the tiniest saltwater fish I have ever caught with hook and line. Implied by it’s name, the tail has a dramatic black band. However, in the Hawaiian species, this marking occurs only on juvenile fish and gradually disappears as they grow.
The day was an excellent start to a new year, and the fish can only get bigger from here!