Feels Like Summer

There are some places on the flats where big fish regularly feed, but they are crazy-difficult to catch. When I see these fish I go directly into stealth mode, with lots of crouching low to the water and slow-motion steps. Most of the time, no matter how stealthy I am, the fish turn and swim away as soon as I make a cast, sometimes even before my line touches the water. When I do manage to put a fly in front of them, they usually look at it with such scorn that it’s hard not to take it personally. As they swim away I can almost hear them laughing, “you call that a mantis shrimp?”

Early in the year, I tied some flies specifically to fool these big, smart fish. I went with a subtle tan body made from some puffy EP fiber. I attached some matching rubber legs, but I tied them in parallel to the hook shank. My idea was to fish the fly very slowly, like a small crab crawling sideways. I tried it out this spring, and was able to get a couple of big fish to follow it.

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Trevally Fishing in Tahiti

Our trip to French Polynesia this Summer was especially interesting because I had a chance to explore the differences between one tropical Pacific island chain and another.

In doing my pre-trip research, I realized that the Leeward Islands of French Polynesia had extensive barrier reefs and relatively small tidal fluctuations. This got me very excited to try fishing for trevally there.

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The Omilu’s Strike Zone

IMG_20171010_082121 (1)In the course of some internet research I found a link to Hawaii’s Mike Sakamoto Presents 101 Fishing Tips on Google Books. The relevant section was “The Omilu’s Strike Zone” and I clicked on it excitedly. Mike Sakamoto was one of the most recognizable faces in Hawaii for his long-running television show, Fishing Tales. He also wrote several books on fishing in Hawaii and I was very interested in what he had to say about catching big trevally. Continue reading

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.


I finally made it back onto the water with Chris.  This time we were better prepared and both the weather and the fish were cooperative.  Together, we scouted a couple of new reefs and rocks, including “monster rock” where I hooked up to a big fish that peeled line off my reel for a few thrilling seconds before I lost it (and all of my tackle with it).

Unfortunately, that lost fish was not the only casualty of the day.  Upon returning to dry land I noticed that my rod had a six inch crack where the two pieces join together.  For the $20 or $30 I paid, it has been, dollar for fish, one of the best rods I’ve ever owned.  I don’t usually believe in spending top dollar for fishing equipment, but I do firmly believe that when I break or ruin something through proper use then an upgrade is justified.  I guess it’s time to do some shopping…

The Secret of Chan’s Reef

I have been fishing with my friend Kirk for more than a decade.  During that time we have fished all over Oahu; on sandbars, reefs, flats, docks, streams, lakes, bays and islands.  We have caught everything from tiny native gobies to hammerhead sharks.  Just before New Year’s I had a chance to join Kirk for an afternoon of papio fishing.

Papio are an ultra-popular game fish in Hawaii but Kirk has his own method for catching them.  It is hard fishing but the rewards are commensurate.  The scenery is spectacular and the experience of fighting a strong apex-predator fish over a jagged and pitted reef in the pounding surf is a truly unique thrill.

Kirk picked up the first fish and narrowly missed a second, much bigger one.  I caught the next two fish, with each successive fish a bit larger than the last.  The second fish was so strong I had a moment of panic as I felt the plastic reel-seat on my rod bend nearly to the breaking point. 

Eating sashimi on New Year’s day is something of a tradition in Hawaii so we kept most of the fish to share with friends and family.
I don’t keep fish very often so I had dust off the sushi knives and try to remember how to cut fish. You can see the results of my effort below…

Fresh papio sashimi dipped into home-grown Korean chili pepper-infused shoyu. Delicious!

A Fishing Story for Tomorrow

I was inspired this morning by a NerdFitness blog post to try something new. Last time I went fishing I had some success but access to the prime spots was limited by deeper water and waves. Today I decided to pack extra light and bring along an old boogie board to help keep my rod out of the water if I blundered into a deep hole or needed to swim across a channel. Things were going pretty well at first. The board was definitely helpful in getting out to the reef and I started casting at a likely looking spot. I had the board fastened by a 6 foot cord to my belt and it would tug slightly when a wave came through. Pretty soon the tugs got a lot harder and I noticed the board was foundering a bit in the passing waves. Then this happened:

The board broke in two. One half was still tethered to me but the other half was floating free in the waves. I couldn’t in good conscious let the big chunk of Styrofoam drift away but I was not ready to admit defeat. So, I splashed after the piece, broke it into smaller chunks, shoved them in my shirt and kept on fishing!
When I graduated from the academy in October, a friend and former co-worker gave me a fishing themed lei and attached fishing lures to it.

I don’t know if it was coincidence but these are one of my favorite papio lures and this was my first chance to try them out. I waded/swam my way along the reef with my broken board in tow. I stopped at any spot that looked promising and eventually found myself on an unusually shallow outcrop right in the surf zone. A perfect place for papio. Sure enough, on the third or fourth cast my little squid lure got hammered and I pulled in a nice fish.


For the first time in months I managed to fit in a morning of fishing. Chris, a classmate from the academy, joined me for the short drive to one of my neighborhood spots.

The plan was to look for bonefish but after 30 or 45 minutes of fishing in poor conditions I suggested that we instead take advantage of the low tide and wade out towards the edge of the reef to try fishing for papio. We made it to the break and fished hard for a while. The surf wasn’t big but when the sets came through it felt more like we were swimming than fishing! Despite the challenges we had a great morning and I managed to hook up one nice little fish.

It felt healthy to take a break from work and remind myself of the reasons I live in Hawaii. I believe Chris felt the same and I think it’s likely we’ll be out on the water again soon.