Lucky Number Six

We had about two weeks of cloudy and rainy weather in Honolulu but, fortuitously, the clouds parted and this weekend was forecast to be sunny and calm. My two most reliable fishing companions had been missing in action for part of the month. Ed’s boat had some engine trouble and Makani had taken back-to-back work trips to Hawaii Island, so I was stoked to get a call from Ed with an invitation to fish.

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Fishing from a Sailboat

We spent two weeks in May sailing through the Leeward Islands of French Polynesia. Our shipmates were two good friends, who actually know how to sail! Together we chartered a bare boat (meaning without crew), the 43 foot Utrillo.

This is our second sailing adventure. Two years ago we joined the same friends for an eight day journey through the Whitsunday Islands of Queensland in Australia. I trolled several lures during that trip, including one recommended at the marina, but had no action at all.

Before this trip I tried to do some research to increase our odds of catching fish but I did not find very helpful information. A lot of the specific tips came from sailing websites and seemed to focus on the fish, how to get them on board or how to kill them. This makes sense because sailors are not necessarily fishers, but I was more interested in how to hook fish, not what to do afterwards.

After having some success, I thought I would write down a few things that we learned so that I and others don’t have to start from scratch on the next voyage.

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The Way To Waimea

Recently Tara and I took advantage of a long weekend to spend a few nights on the Big Island of Hawaii.  We stayed at one of the many mega resorts along the Kohala coast,  the north-west facing shore of the island.  We perused our guidebook each morning over breakfast and picked a new area to explore that day.

Much of the Kohala coast is steep, rocky shoreline which looks good for papio fishing.  Back in May I broke my ‘ulua rod’ but before the trip I picked up a replacement from my friend Kirk.  I was able to carry my new 10′ two-piece rod onto the plane and spent a few hours each day whipping for papio.

Summertime often brings calm conditions to the North facing shores of Hawaii and this weekend was no exception.  The ocean was flat and the water was crystal clear.  So clear that I could see fish streak out of the depths to attack my lure.  This unusually visual aspect to papio fishing was thrilling but after watching several fish, including two big barracudas give chase and fail to bite I started to wonder if the conditions were so clear that the fish were able to recognize my lure as a fraud just in time not to get hooked.

I did fool a few fish, landing one papio each day.  In retrospect these fish also supported my theory that the clear conditions were putting the fish off.  The first fish I caught in the late afternoon when the light was changing and visibility was poor.  The second fish hit along the shallow edge of a submerged reef where there was much more surface disturbance than the surrounding deeper water.  The last fish I caught on a south-west facing area where the southerly surf was just big enough to ruin the otherwise great visibility.