I remember reading somewhere that human beings are more likely to return to something over and over if the outcome is uncertain. We quickly lose interest in the sure thing, perhaps because it’s a sure thing. I don’t remember where I read that, but I believe the point was that we are psychologically hard-wired to enjoy activities of chance, which goes a long way toward explaining why gambling is so popular.

I have never enjoyed casinos, cards, slots, sports betting, et cetera, but I think that I can see how gambling could be addictive, even and unfortunately to a pathological degree. Trolling for big fish is usually boring. Makani and I spent a recent afternoon cruising around a seamount and chasing seabirds. We did not even have a hint of a fish, but the sunset was lovely.

I went out again with Ed this past weekend to fish for ono, more commonly known as wahoo. Regardless of the target, all trolling is essentially the same. There is definitely an element of knowledge, where and when to go, how fast to drive, what lures to use, but once the lines are set, it’s basically just a boat ride. The engine growls and vibrates, the hull slides and bumps along. The weather, no matter if it’s wind, rain or bright sun, becomes more intensely noticeable from the lack of activity.

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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

Chasing Tails

chaisingtailsI have been chasing a lot of tails lately, bonefish tails mostly.  Using my new light tackle reel and rod I have been spending a lot of time refining my flats fishing technique and the current evolution has proven effective.  I have managed to catch nearly all of the reef fish species that hunt on the flats, though my last four bonefish have come infuriatingly un-hooked (there is no consistency in these loses so at this point I am chocking them up to bad luck).  I have also had some pretty epic wildlife sightings – after twice spotting a big shark cruising the flats, I had a close encounter with a Hawaiian monk seal.  I have seen monk seals hauled out and sleeping on land but have never spotted one swimming in the wild.  This one was swimming slowly in about four feet of water, well inside the surf zone, and was close enough that I could make out it’s whiskers when it poked it’s nose up for a fresh breath of air.  It may have been hunting, reef critters like octopus and lobster are among their primary prey.  From the size (big!) I suspect it was a male.  According to the Waikiki Aquarium website there are only about 153 of these endemic and endangered mammals in the main Hawaiian Islands so I feel extremely lucky each time I encounter one.

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.

You Give Love a Bad Name

Our good friends in Hawaii just got married. Tara was the maid of honor and I agreed to play photographer. Needless to say we were pretty busy but I managed to fit in a few days of fishing between wedding related activities.

I met up with my friend Kirk early one morning and we waded out to fish for white ulua along the edge of the reef. We had some success, a couple of whites, one bluefin ulua and a big cornet fish:

A few days later we went out for o’io (bonefish.) We often fly fish for o’io but Kirk reported that the fish in this particular area are very difficult to hook with a fly rod. Instead we headed out early, at low tide, to catch some crabs:

With our bait in tow we made our way to the edge of the reef. The hope was that the bonefish were waiting in the deeper water for the tide to rise so that they could safely enter the flat in search of a meal, like the delicious crabs we had just caught. We cast our bait along the drop off and waited patiently. Within ten minutes Kirk had a nice fish on his line:

We spent most of the day on the water. Kirk landed one more fish and I hooked one but lost it. We saw many fish though, some quite large. Kirk says that he has seen o’io in the area that are probably bigger than the world record. I can’t wait to get back out there!