Spyda's Blog

A Hawaiian Style Fishing Blog

“Eh! You off tomorrow? We go holoholo!!”

“Excuse me, what is hoe low hoe low?”

“If I tell you den no sense we go brah!!”

“What?”

In the Hawaiian culture it is customary to not speak of fishing when one plans to go. The belief being that the fish will be forewarned and therefore the fishing will unproductive. So we say “We going holoholo!” Harry Uhane Jim, the Kahuna, healer, teacher and author of “Wise Secrets Of Aloha” describes holoholo as “kind of like a journey without a destination” which seems to explain the common use of holoholo as “code” for “we go fishing!”

Holoholo doesn’t mean fishing, but, if your fishing partner says it, it probably does. There is a contradiction though, in the book “Hawaiian Fishing Traditions” by Moke Manu & Others published by the Kalamaku Press, Holoholo is described as type of fishing net used to catch fish such as uhu, kala, uouoa, manini and nenue. So this brings the question, “If we say we’re going holoholo, will the fish not think that we are going net fishing and run away?” Anyway, I believe that much of what we, who do not actually speak the Hawaiian language use to express our belief in Hawaiian traditions has been watered down somewhat and may be hapa-haole versions of actual Hawaiian sayings and traditions.

Bananas, one of the most common fishing superstitions says, ” If you bring bananas fishing you’re gonna have bad luck!” I recently read one of the best explanations I’ve personally heard that dispels this superstition on one of the local fishing forums. Way back in the beginnings of long distance ocean voyaging, sailors commonly suffered from scurvy. Scurvy is a disease caused by a deficiency of vitamin C. Before research identified the specific connection to vitamin C the fix for seamen was to carry a sufficient amount of fruit on board to prevent the occurrence of scurvy which sometimes included bananas. This where it starts, bananas as we all know don’t have a very good self life and start to spoil quickly. The bananas rotting accelerated the spoilage of the other fruit in their supplies and became “bad luck” on board ship!! Needless to say they stopped stocking ships with bananas!

At our recent annual “Summer Camp” (which actually occurred in September) we had bananas in our kitchen! We didn’t catch a hundred pound ulua, but, we caught fish and had hella lot of fun. We won’t be worrying about bananas any more!

 

8.9 lbs. caught with a live Hinalea! I'd say that's lucky!!

 

 

Blitz

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It happens now and then in the fishing world, you just happen to be at the right place at the right time. Some crazier than others, much more common for boat fishermen, the fish just get crazy and the bite is on! For Ulua fishermen it’s much more rare, but, it does happen.

Back in the eighties Mel Hamada and his friends were out at Kaawaloa near Kealakekua bay when they experienced what most of us would consider a once in a lifetime thing. Being such a long time ago I’m not sure of the exact number, but, it was something like 8 to 12 Ulua on that one trip!! A couple were big boys I think one was in the 90+ range. Incredible trip for sure, these days I’m sure some of the fish would have been tagged and released, but, Ulua tagging programs had not been implemented back then. I seem to recall that the late Mike Sakamoto was with them and documented their awesome outing on his TV show “Fishing Tales”.

Our gang experienced something similar, no where nearly as impressive size wise, but, for sure a once in a life time deal for us. It all started about a month before when my friend Carl came home from a solo outing with a nice Omilu in his cooler. He said he was out at a near by spot that both of us had fished before. The fish in his cooler was not the exciting part, he told me he had seen a huge school of Omilu pass by while fishing, “Not just a few!!” he said, “too many to even guess!!”

Naturally this peaked my interest, so, a few weeks later Keith and I decided to “scout” the spot for our gangs annual summer camping/fishing trip. I’ve mentioned this trip a couple of times before as there were some memorable things that happened on that trip, both good and bad. I mentioned the good in “Catch or no catch” http://spyda.ifishhawaii.com/?p=596 and the bad in “When Fishing Friends Leave” http://spyda.ifishhawaii.com/?p=50 The good was catching 4 Omilu Ulua on that overnight trip and the bad unfortunately was finding out someone had died there the day before.

A week later we arrived at the same spot with the gang for our summer outing. That first afternoon Judys son Greg experiences “beginners luck” when he catches an 18 pound white ulua with the first bait on his first time using an ulua rig!! He had caught the first bait fish of the day, a Moana and used it to catch his first Ulua!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later that afternoon I picked up a 12 pound Omilu on my spinner using a live Mamo for bait. We were off to a good start, but, while we had hopes we would catch more we had no idea how many would come!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day my spinner takes a hit again and a 15 pound Omilu is in the box! That one took what I call a black mamo, don’t know the Hawaiian name for it I believe it’s a Rock Damselfish. Looks like a Kupipi, but, much darker colored with no discernible spot like the Kupipi has.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later that afternoon a 10 pounder takes a Mamo on my spinner again and as I am walking back to camp with my fish, Steve’s pole takes a hit and lands a 16 pound Omilu! Five fish in the box! Never happened to us before!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Needless to say dinner was joyous occasion that night the beers were flowing and even a bottle of bubbly popped! Boy did that cot feel good that night! But wait!! Bell and ratchet!! My 6’0 is going off!! I had slid down a live moana before going to sleep, a 24 pound white Ulua decided to join the party!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, the fun had to stop sooner or later, the final day of the trip Keith takes a vicious strike, his first on this trip, a screamer! After a 40 minute fight he gets cut off….oh well, it’s a real bummer for Keith, but, how can we complain?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The happy campers!!

 

Most would agree with “Little”, but, not many would consider “Toughest” as an accurate description of Danny Chamizo’s “Ewa Fenceline to Fencline” Tounament. You gotta think about it a bit though, there’s only about three and a half miles of shoreline, some of it inaccesable, in an area dominated by local resident fishermen. It’s like trying to out fish a Bass touring pro on a pond at his grandpappy’s farm where he learned to fish!! Most of the entrants are these local fishermen and women who fish right in this stretch of beach all the time! You can’t deny local knowledge, especially at Hau Bush were there are locals fishing pretty much everyday! Don’t get me wrong, there are lot of nice fish caught there, but, the place gets pounded!!

Options on the stretch are Ewa Beach park at the opposite end and the public access points between them. Other than that you need to live on the beach or know someone who does. There are a few rentals available, but, good luck snagging one during tournament week.

The tournament is strictly casting, no swimming, kayaking or ballooning your line out. The locals however, use an interesting and by rule, legal technique they call “walking it out”. In areas shallow enough anglers will walk their rod and reel out as far as they can before casting. You can add 50 yards or so to your cast! Of course casting while standing on the reef and getting blasted by waves you’re generally not going to get the same casting distance as you would, but, you can get your bait out further. One drawback to this technique though, recasting in the middle of a dark night can be challenging not only physically, but, mentally as well. You’re definately not going to check bait every 20 minutes! Also what do you do if your lead line breaks on the cast? Stand in the waves and re-rig or walk back in re-rig then walk back out again?

This years tournament took place last week with about 120+ entrants less than 20 fish were landed! Tough fishing for sure, there have been regular tournament fishermen who have had some success, but, they definately don’t dominate. This is why I feel beating the locals at their favorite pastime at their favorite spot makes this “The Toughest Little Fishing Tounament in the West”!!

 

Wheels

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Fishing vehicles come in all shapes, sizes and configurations. When you add the last bit, configurations, the permutations are endless. Like leader set-ups they vary depending on which island you live on and what kind of areas you fish. The urban fisherman for example, may just throw their gear in the family sedan or mini-van. Even on the Big Island if you have access to private lands, some of them have pretty tame trails that allow a long wheelbased work truck to do the job just fine. Other more “raw” trails require a more serious off-road set up to get there and back.

One of the many benefits of a strong military presence in Hawaii has been the number of trails they have carved over the years to set up various outposts, radio towers, etc. These bulldozed military roads along with the ancient trails of Hawaiian messengers and warriors are a big part of the trail system that gets  ulua fishermen out to the remote areas that they prefer.

The further off the “beaten” path you go, the more extreme the requirements for your vehicle become. Unlike the typical off-road enthusaist, whos load consists of some tools, their best friend and a cooler of beer, the ulua fishermens normal load is much heavier and demands a balance of carrying capacity, approach/departure angle and wheelbase. Balance being the key word here. An old flat fender jeep will get you to most places, but, is limited as far a the amount of gear you can haul. A F-250 will carry a lot, but may “high center” or sit on the rear bumper on the rougher trails. Imagine putting a hole in your gas tank two hours from the main road! I know of one case where this happened and they used a wad of chewing gum and duct tape to make it back to civilization! They were lucky, it doesn’t always work out so easily.

My old Scout "Ben" stock with 31's.

Note in the picture above my scouts backend is sitting a little high. The reason for that is I had air-shocks in the back to level out when the truck was loaded down with stuff. In this picture we had unloaded the big coolers, 170qt packed with ice, 120qt with food and drinks and a 48qt of bait. Not a radical rock-crawler, but, capable on most established trails. The little extra the air shocks gave back after loading up helped a lot!!

Reliability is another key, don’t matter how capable your truck is if it don’t run, overheats or something! You never know what will happen and not many tow trucks are gonna come get you hours deep off road.

 

A lot of us used to roll with CB radios in our vehicles for the purpose of communication on the trail. Depending on the number of trucks your in your gang, the caravan can get pretty stretched out especially if it’s dusty. We were crawling along the shoreline once in south kona, I was at the head of the line in my old Scout “Ben” when the CB crackled to life. It was my friend Al at the very back of our group. “Ho, hold up! Something just wen broke on my suspension I think!” I stopped and looked back, we had only four trucks that day, but, were spread out over about a quarter mile. I could see Al getting out of his truck and looking underneath. A minute later, “The leaf spring wen break!” I could see everyone starting to back up to where Al was stopped. On a’a lava trails you usually can’t turn around unless there’s a turn out or a big flat spot, so reverse it was!

The main leaf had just broken off clean, weird, how can you prepare for that? Luckily there was a turn out about 20 yards away from where he had broken down. We managed to jack the Scout high enough to stuff a piece of 2X4 between the axle and the frame to keep the tire from jamming in the wheelwell so he could slowly crawl to the turn out. There was enough room for all of us to park in the turn out, so, Als Scout had just selected the camp site for us! (Well, it was a “Scout” after all, isn’t that what they do?)

It actually turned out to be a pretty good spot for red fish which is primarily what we were out there for. After a couple of days of menpachi/aweoweo action it was time for most of us to head home. Al? Well, luckily he and Jerry had a few more days before they had to go back to work so, Al stayed put while Jerry made the long trek back up the trail to the main road and home to Hilo. Once there Jerry tracked down a new leaf spring for Als scout loaded up some fresh supplies, dropped off a couple of coolers of fish and repacked them full of ice and headed back! Now that’s a good friend!! All told it was a good 6 to 7 hours of driving plus the time to get the spring and reload. When Jerry finally got back the next day Al had filled up another cooler! After swapping out the leaf spring, the two crazies stayed another couple days before heading back home!!

Typical bunch a local guys I guess, some friends from back in their hana-bata days others from work or school. Me from Maui, two from Kauai, one guy from Boston (hah?!) and the core group (or hana-bata boys) from Oahu. Surfing was our thing during the day and when not working, hostess bars at night. Life in general was a lot more free and easy. Beers at the bar were a buck and a drink for your “hostess” was three. No curfews and no D.U.I. check points!! Yea, life was good!!

Don’t recall who started or made the suggestion, but, one day we found ourselves being drawn into the fishing thing.  We had all done some fishing in our youth with parents or friends, but, never took it to the real hobby or pastime level. I guess there was enough of a seed planted that once we started into it, we got pretty serious, quickly.

One of the guys, Steve, had gotten serious about a young lady from Maui and had taken a transfer to Maui to be close to her. This started a series of day trips to Maui by Dean and I to go fishing on the back side of Haleakala with Steve. Our success rate there was much better, further setting the “fishing hook” if you will.

Several “sayonara” strikes later, Ulua became the object of our fishing desires and we upgraded our equipment. We got pretty good……at finding things…..We found a five pound lobster stuck in a tide pool, another time Daniel and Bruce (the Bostonian) found a 67 pound ulua!! Catch an ulua? Nada……

Sayonara strikes, the fishing gods way of setting the hook in you without letting you catch one! When you least expect it, violence! The bell clanging like something scared the s*%t out of it and the ratchet screaming like your hook got caught on a freight train passing by!! Your pole’s bent over further than you ever though possible, shuddering and shaking like it’s possessed!! THEN…..”pac”……..suddenly you speak fluent “French”……As you wind up your line your legs are shaking, your mind racing with “What ifs” and the could’a, should’a, would’a!!

Our quest for ulua continued, many nights and days of vienna sausage, pork and beans, leaky tents and puhi strikes. No, not strikes on our puhi bait, puhi strikes! You know, you jack up your pole, rerig, cast and slide down a fresh bait, then after you wash your hands and finally settle back down on your cot, “ding ding”. Not the previously mentioned violence, just “ding ding”….#*%^!!!

Now comes the hard part, do you leave it and risk getting bankrupt, lose everything? Or do you get out of your warm sleeping bag, put your headlamp back on and go out there? #*%^!!! No goin catch nutin when your rig stay deep inside one puhi hole!!…#*%^!!!

It was one of those times, third re-rig and slide in one hour and of course, “ding ding”……..apparently I had set up my pole right in front of a puhi honey hole! Silence, I guess everyone else was getting some sleep or quietly snickering, wondering if I was going to get up again. Funny, haha! Why are puhi only bothering my pole? Damit! I sit up, grab my headlamp and walk out to my pole. I give the pole a good boost, stuck…..sigh…..So I take a couple wraps of line and go for the “full pull” to break the line and it gives! I quickly take up the slack and start reeling, it’s coming, but, some dead weight on the line. Guess I got lucky and got the puhi to come out! OK, boost, crank, boost, crank, crank, woh big paka! Aurite, fresh bait!

About 30 minutes later, the pole is casted back out and puhi is filleted. The head is sitting on the cutting board, it’s about the size of a 20oz soda bottle with some backbone and guts hanging from it. OK, lets go for it! I put a knife edge on a 52 BKN point and shove it through his mouth out through the top of his head. Slide da bugga down! “Let’s see a puhi swallow dat!!”

OK, fillets bagged and on ice, wash hands, wash face, tide goin turn in about two hours, time for a short snooze……”ding ding”…What da…”CALANGA LANGA LANGA LANGA!!! ZEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!ZEEE!!” YEEEEHAAA!! “CLANG CLANG CLANG!!! ZEEEEEEEE ZEEEEEE EEEEEEE EEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!” “Eh who’s pole dat?” AZ MINE, NEVA MIND GO BACK SLEEP!! “ZEEEEE PAC!!!” @&$^#(^&#&%!!!

Yep, das us!! Da “ZEE PAC” Casting club!!!

 

Ebisu

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Before my Dad passed on in 2010 he and my step-mom Mary had the good sense to down size from their home in Kailua to a condo in town. Closer to all the doctors offices he had been going to with increased fequency in the last few years. All of this requred a serious effort to reduce the amount of stuff they had. One of the things that they both enjoyed was Japanese antiques. After prioritizing and parrying aside all that they could, moving into and decorating their condo there were still a number of things that got stashed away into storage.

I got a call one day from Mary saying she had this statue she had no place for and asked if I would be interested in it. She said she thought of me since the figure depicted in this statue held a fish in his arms.

On a trip to Japan they had visited with one of my uncles in Fukuoka and he had taken them to an antique dealer he knew of. While brousing in the store they came across a statue that they both liked. After considering all the things that had caught their eye, they decided not to get the statue. Upon their return home to Hawaii they found places to display the items they had puchased in their home. For some reason the statue they had left behind stayed on their minds and they decided to call my uncle and asked him to go back to the antique shop to get that statue for them. A few days later uncle calls back and says that the statue they wanted had been sold, but, he had found a similar one that was formed with the same medium as the other. He had bought it and was sending it over. He told them it would be a gift to them since he was not able to get the original.

As much as they did like the statue, it did not make it into the decor of their condo when they moved and it had been stored away. This is why she was calling to offer it to me.

I found some time to stop by to visit with Mary and take a look at the statue. I immediately loved it! A portly man with a beard, holding a large fish in his right arm and holding what looked like a spear in his left. Mary mentioned that when they got the statue the “spear” was bent, not akwardly just not straight and it had bothered my dad so he very carefully straightened it. Looking at the detail on it I’m thinking it’s a fishing pole and may try to restore the bend Dad had taken out.

As soon as I get home with it I go online and see what I can find out about this statue. Turns out it is known as, Ebisu, one the Seven Gods of Good Fortune, also known as the Japanese God of Fishermen!

 

All the way from a little store in Fukuoka Japan, it was destined to be in my home!

 

“In the end, one loves ones desire and not what is desired”. Friedrich Nietzche

You kinda gotta let it digest for a minute……

No doubt, we would all love to catch whenever we go fishing, but, history seems to tell us that when the challenge fades, so too does desire. The quote is a favorite of mine.

In a Ulua fishing sense, what he is saying is, it’s not the fish itself we love, it’s the challenge, the one on one battle, an Ulua in it’s element the sea and you in yours on land. Would it be such a prize if they were easy to catch?

Of course, I hear you out there, “Yea! I’d to like catch every time!”, but, think about it…how long would you keep going if every time you threw your line in the water you caught an Ulua? It’s desire that gets you to pack all the gear in the truck, haul it all out to the ocean, unload everything at the beach, set up and sit in the elements waiting for a strike.

Would you be out in the middle of no-where without some kind of motivation?

The last few years I was in Kona there was one spot that really started to produce for us. It became our regular “Summer Camp” spot for a number of years. Keith and I went out to this spot the week before the first of those camps on a scouting trip of sorts, just an overnighter. It turned out to be quite a trip! Keith caught his first ulua ever! Then, he caught his second and then his third! I only managed to catch one, but, it was (ahem!) the biggest one! They were all relatively small Omilu ulua, but, hey, how often you gonna catch four on an overnight trip?

So, what does this have to do with catch or no catch or motivation? Well, this trip happened in 1992. We started our serious pursuit of ulua back in 1981! Eleven years! How or what enabled Keith to maintain his desire for so long? Where did his motivation come from?

Back to the chase. The most frequently asked question by newcomers to the sport of ulua fishing is how to catch that first one! It’s this quest that provides the motivation that drives them.  There certainly isn’t any problem these days getting decent equipment. In this day of ulua rods being sold at Sears, we are also seeing a lot more used equipment for sale. While some of it may be anglers who have upgraded, much of it I’m afraid is from those who have given up the chase. Lost desire…

Some that have given up the chase are those who got straight into Ulua fishing and had little if any other fishing experience. Most of my fishing buddies and I all worked our way up the ladder so to speak from bamboo poles to spinners along the way developing a desire or understanding that papio were the fish we wanted in our buckets. Of course as the accent up to heavier equipment continued Ulua became the prime target. Climbing that ladder taught us the ups and downs, the patience and persistence that is necessary for success. The knowledge gained climbing is invaluable when the serious bug hits. Part of that knowledge is respect for the ocean and the land we stand on fishing for ulua. A little good karma never hurt anyones chances at the big one!

I’d never tell anyone that it’s easy! For sure, some certainly make it look that way! You could say it’s often just plain luck that brings an ulua to someones line. While that may be true in many cases, luck is not exactly something you can learn or buy more of, so, learning to do it right is the way to go. Studying and learning techniques can be a huge motivation! With knowledge comes confidence and with that motivation!

For me, I’ve caught my share of Ulua over the years, although I’ve never caught “the big one” myself,  I’ve seen many and gaffed a few. Perhaps that is part of my motivation, that glimmer of hope in the back of my mind that the big boy will come to my line. Honestly, these days I’m very happy just getting out there, catching is a bonus, but, you can’t help thinking “maybe, maybe…..”

This trip was bound to be special, Deans cousin Charlie’s position with the Forestry Department provided him with access to basically anywhere on the Big Island! As part of his job he had hiked miles and miles of  Big Island shoreline! He knew all the regular fishing spots as well as all the lesser known spots that were on private land. He has seen places very few other people ever have! He and his crew hiked areas not accessible by normal means. In some areas they followed trails that were probably used by ancient Hawaiian messengers.

I like talking about the things in my minds eye, I can only wonder about all the things Charlie has seen!

This was a family trip so, me being the only non-relative in the group, I felt privileged to have been asked to come along. Besides Dean, Charlie and I, Charlies wife Lorraine, Deans Mom, his grandmother, Auntie Nancy, Uncle Mits and Uncle Wakida were with us on this trip. It was a long drive from Volcano where Charlie lived, to the southwest end of the Big Island. This is where we finally turned off the highway and on to a dirt road that headed us down towards the ocean. About a mile down we came to a locked gate, Charlie jumped out and pulled out his “magic” key chain. Nothing really magic about it except for the fact that it held keys that gave him access through various private lands to get to the oceanfront pretty much anywhere on the island! This would be my first trek out into a remote, generally inaccessible area of the Big Island, excited doesn’t completely describe how I felt! Having been born into a home nestled in plantation camp 3 near Sprecklesville Maui I’m comfortable in rural “country” type environments, but, this was something beyond that, it was like stepping back in time! Save for the modern vehicles we rode in, the scenes were not unlike what travelers in the islands would have seen a hundred fifty years ago!

We were headed to a bay in the south Kona area. After passing through the gate and locking it behind us we followed the dirt road down through pasture land. At the lower edge of the ranch we passed through another gate and out into open land. Hawaii, or the “Big Island” as it is more commonly known is made up of several large mountains, the Kohala mountains, Mauna Kea, Hualalai and Mauna Loa. This day we were working our way down the southern slope of Mauna Loa. You couldn’t help but be impressed watching Uncle Wakida, all of 65 maybe 70 years old 4 wheeling that big Ford pick-up down the rough lava trail. Some parts of the trail had been partially washed out by the winters rains so, it was a little gnarly in a few spots. Uncle took it all in stride, nary a blink of concern, he’d been here and done this before!

When you go to these places there are no “facilities” at all, period. Problem? Not really, Charlie brought all the facilities with him! I’m serious! His Ford F250 pick-up and attached trailer were filled to the gills with everything you could imagine and more!

When we got down to the bay, Charlie guided us into a clearing under a group of huge Kiawe trees. Setting up camp was a serious undertaking. He first tied a heavy rope between two large trees, over this a canvas tarp created a huge (20’x40′?) tent. Another canvas tarp became the floor. A couple of sheets of plywood and some posts came together like a puzzle and created a table with a shelf underneath which became our pantry. Stands for stoves were set up. Another rope was thrown over a big branch and tied to a 5 gallon bucket that had a shower head attached to the bottom. When it came time to shower the bucket was filled with water and hoisted up. Now of course we did have a mixed group of men and women so some privacy was required. No problem, a wooden cargo pallet was placed below the bucket as a floor, pvc pipes were fitted into pre-drilled holes to create a frame and a plastic tarp was wrapped around and attached to create a shower stall! Not done yet, Charlie grabbed a shovel walked around a clump of bushes and started digging. When the hole was of satisfactory size he put another wooden pallet down over it. This one had a hole in the middle, getting the picture? He wasn’t done yet! On this pallet he attached four equal sized pieces of plywood that formed a box over the hole, a big garbage bag was put down into the hole and a wrapped over the top of the plywood box, then, (get this!) a pre-fitted toilet seat was snapped into place. Then, again a pvc pipe frame went up the tarp wrapped around and the private toilet was done, even had a toilet paper holder inside and a bottle of pine-sol to “tone things down a bit”!! Extreme? Well, we did have gramma there, so, Charlie made sure that she and the other women would be comfortable! He had good reason, for the next couple of days the women cooked and fed us three square meals a day at camp! I ate better than I did at home, way better! I think I gained weight on that trip!

One morning when the tide and wave action were favorable we worked the shoreline harvesting opihi. Later that evening we came in from fishing to a hot bowl of miso soup as a starter to our meal,  a scoop of a half dozen or so opihi were dropped into your bowl, in a few seconds they would be tender and slide right out of their shells! Beach gourmet cuisine ala head chef Gramma! She knew what she was doing, if you put opihi in a soup while cooking they’ll get hard and rubbery, this was the way to do it! Sooo ono!!

After cleaning up the dinner dishes, Gramma would settle in to sleep. Charlie, Dean, his Mom, Auntie Nancy and I would grab our Menpachi equipment and hike out about a quarter mile from camp to a spot that Charlie knew would be good for red fish.

It was just as advertised! The action was great! While Dean and I worked it with light spinners, his mom, auntie and Charlie used long hand poles and pretty much schooled us on Menpachi fishing! Everyone caught a bunch and we all hiked back with heavy buckets!

Thinking back to that trip, I recall that Dean and I had not yet graduated to heavy Ulua equipment and were just dunking with spinners. It makes me wonder what kind of action we might have had sliding live Menpachi and Aweoweo out at that remote spot!

It really kills me to think that I don’t have a single fishing or camp photo to commemorate that trip! Ah well, once again, the minds eye will have to do!

A few years later when I moved to Kona to pursue what had now become a passion, fishing for Ulua, I would often dream about Charlies key chain and all the places I could go with it!

Japan, land of my ancestors, sushi, sumo and millions of fanatical fishermen!

Resturants specializing in Fugu and Tako

Although this was a business trip, there was never any doubt that I would find my way to a fishing tackle shop some how, some way! The last time I was able to visit a Japanese tackle shop was probably 15 or 16 years ago in my moms home town, Saga on the island of Kyushu. My uncle was kind enough to drive me to a local shop a few blocks from the family home. The shop was typical of the traditional type of shop that you find in most smaller cities in Japan. Not unlike many of the older establishments back home. Small yet packed to the gills (pun intended) with every conceivable item a fisherman could want. I immediately knew it would take hours to satisfy my curiosity about all the different items stuffed in there. So I took a quick (20min) tour through there to wet the appetite and told my uncle we could go and that I would come back by myself later. So I’m waiting for my uncle out in the parking lot and here he comes carrying something. It’s a small cooler I had been admiring in the shop! He hands it to me and in his broken English says “Presento for you!” I guess I had been so distracted by everything in there, I didn’t notice my uncle watching me trying to figure out what I was interested in. A cooler is not the first thing you’d guess I’d be looking at in a tackle shop, but, as I would find out, many items had little touches or innovations that made you realize these guys have been into this a long time! This cooler was nothing fancy, just really well built and that’s why I had been taking a close look at it. I still have and use that cooler today!

The next morning after breakfast I borrowed my aunties bike and headed back to the shop. I should point out that I only speak very little broken Japanese and don’t read it at all (I know, shame on me….) this is why I wanted to get an early start, besides that auntie would need her bike in the afternoon to ride to the various little shops to get the ingredients for what ever she had on the dinner menu that night. Japanese typically have tiny refrigerators that only hold a few things, they buy things fresh every day! This was only one small part of aunties daily responsibilities as the wife of the eldest son in the family. I could go on and on about her life! Absolutely amazing! My sisters would never….

So I managed to work my way back to the tackle shop without getting killed by a taxi or dump truck navigating the incredibly narrow roads. The lady at the register smiles, bows and greets me as I walk in, as I return the bow she motions with her hand rattling off a few more sentences I didn’t understand, probably telling me about some specials or fresh bait maybe? Now, where to start? I go over to the rods, there are probably a hundred or more in the racks! All sizes and styles, some look like Oama poles but they have reel seats & guides on them! There are extension poles probably 25, 30 feet long! You begin to see that yes, they’ve been doing this a long time and have explored every possible piece of water with a fishing pole. So it becomes clear that each of these poles are for a specific type of fishing in specific types of water.

On an earlier trip to Japan back when I was in my teens, another uncle took me fishing in a local stream. The piece of water we fished was a pool in a little stream (I mean little!) the pool was about 4 feet wide at it’s largest end and about 15 feet long. we used bamboo poles about 5 feet long that tapered down to “Oama” size. The movement of the stream was barely a trickle so I had my doubts. We tied tiny floaters on and hooks that were so small my uncle used a magnifier when tying them on. Surprisingly enough we caught a bunch of little silver fish  between 3 to 6 inches long! I was doing pretty good, out fishing my younger cousins and just behind my uncle in terms of fish caught. The conversation turned to his father-in-law, my grampa, and his love for fishing. He told me grampa was a very skilled angler and fished quite often in younger days. He suggested that I must have inherited my knack for fishing from gramps.

Back to the tackle shop. There’s a lot that’s familiar like damashi, squid jigs and such, but, there’s also a lot of things I’ve never seen before. I must have looked koo koo staring at little packages for 10, 15 minutes at a time trying to figure out what they were! Fortunately the Japanese are very visual people so they put pictures and drawings on most of the packaging. I ended up buying steel pegs with rings on them for tie downs, spiked boots and a whole bunch of little packages of all sorts lures and other terminal tackle. Oh, and a rod & reel ended up in my basket somehow….

After dinner that night at grammas house, the conversation centers around my obvious obsession with fishing. So, I figure it’s the right time to bust out my fishing photo album. As it gets passed around the conversation is brisk, they are amazed and impressed by the fish I caught and the fact that they were all hooked and landed from shore! Gramma quietly slips away and comes back a minute later with a package. She gives me the package explains to me in Japanese that it was my granpas gyotaku and she wanted me to have them!!

16" nose to fork on a hand pole!!

 

To top it all off, my gramma was a calligrapher and that’s her writing on the print! Framing it cost me a bit, but, I wasn’t overly concerned the important thing was for it to be preserved. I told the framer not to restore the print, the stains and wrinkles were part of what told the story of the print. It was totally old school, rice paper and ink and this is typically how gyotaku were stored by fishermen in Japan. My granpas gyotaku were neatly folded, wrapped in paper and stored in a drawer. For me this gyotaku is absolutely priceless!!

So, back to the original topic, my recent trip to Osaka Japan. I had an open day in my business schedule and the other guys I hung with during off hours all had to work! A day to myself, tackle shop here I come!! After googling tackle shops in Osaka I go down to the concierge to see if I can get any tips on how to get to one of the shops. The concierge is very helpful and actually finds another shop I didn’t have on my list. Even better, travel there is simple, three stops away on the local commuter subway line and one block from the train station! Yea, I can do that!

Twenty minutes later I’m in an area called Umeda exiting the train station under the Hanshin department store (for you baseball fans, yes, Hanshin as in Hanshin Tigers of the Japanese Major League). I follow the the map I got from the concierge and viola there it is!

Bummers!! It’s not open yet! It is so packed to the gills that before they can get set up and accept deliveries and such they have to pull all these displays out of the aisles of the store so they can get in!! OK, relax……they’ll be open in 45 minutes…..damm!! I walked by a coffee shop a few doors down, I’ll go amp up on some caffeine before I check it out!

I get a coffee and a muffin and stare at the map. Maybe there’s somewhere else I can go….NOT!!

With no one to converse with 45 minutes is a loooooonnngg time!! Still, I give it a few extra minutes, I don’t want to look like some of the locals back home who stand in line to be the first one into a new Target!! (Woo Hoo!!?)

There are six customers already in there when I walk in, one guy is already paying for his purchase! Gee, I knew that the trains run on time, but, does everyone synchronize their watches?

The thing about these Japanese tackle shops is always “Where to begin?” Except for the narrow aisles every square inch of the store is packed! The first display is a rack full of lures. I said they are a visual people, what better to catch the eye then an array of colorful lures?

Interestingly, although very helpful and generally customer oriented, they don’t bother you unless you ask for help. So, I’m free to roam around without being bothered. This particular shop was actually a bass fishing shop, which surprised me a bit. I do know that the world record largemouth bass was caught in Japan, I just don’t automatically think bass fishing in Japan. While a large part of their stock was centered around bass fishing it seems they are evolving with the growing interest in “GT” (Giant Trevally) or for us Ulua fishing. There was a good amount of tackle specific to plugging for GT’s. While bass and GT dominated this store there was still lots of other tackle including fly-fishing, hand pole and boat gear. (Told ya it was packed!!!) While I do some bass fishing with my bud Dean in Cali my interest in this store was definitely GT! They had some massive GT poppers and stick baits (unfortunately way too expensive for my budget!), but, man they are obviously serious about the sport!

They had some nice GT popping rods also, again very expensive. Unfortunately in the tight confines of the shop it was difficult to get good pictures without getting in everyone’s way, so, I only got one shot of one rod that was interesting. I have seen rods where the first guide is mounted with the single foot facing the reel, this one had two.

Don’t let the thin blank fool you, this rod had plenty of backbone!! It had a 30 to 50lb line rating! They had the biggest selection of Shimano Stellas I’ve ever seen! Custom handles, side plate kits all kinds of accessories to customize your gear. You could easily walk out of this store a couple grand in the hole!

Reels anyone?

 

 

Many familiar and many I've never seen before.

I resist the temptation to buy a reel and just get some little do-dads I know I can stuff into the pocket of my carry-on bag. I look at my watch and it’s 11:45! Over two and a half hours! Time to go! I walk outside and turn down the hallway around the corner of the same building, it takes me to the back side of the store. There’s a massive gyotaku and pictures showing the actual fish and the angler.

Found out later that this is the former JGFA record!! Pretty nice catch whipping with a spinner anyway!! Notice the information listed, Stella SW2000 custom spool & handle. Like I said these guys are really into it!!

 

Hah?!? What is that you say? Well, the Wrong place was the cafeteria, the Wrong time was being there when they had spoiled Ahi sushi and the Right place was the Hospital which is where the cafeteria was!

It had all started with a text from my daughter Michelle letting my wife and I know she had been admitted into the hospital for a flair up of her asthma. After a haircut appointment we stopped at Gyotaku to pick up a take out of Tonkatsu which was the only thing “Chelle” said she wanted us to bring. I was eyeing up the sushi platters I saw going by as I waited. The last time we had been at this particular hospital we had enjoyed the lunch we had there at the cafeteria so we had already planned to eat there, but, boy did the Rainbow Maki look good!

At the hospital Chelle is feeling a little lonely in the tiny room so we decide to get take out from the cafe and eat in her room. None of the hot entrees are speaking to me so I walk over to the chillers and see some sushi! Spicy Ahi rolls! OK, I grab the first tray and hesitate for a second thinking the other tray looks a little better, nah, no matter!

About 5 minutes after eating lunch we’re just sitting around talking story when suddenly my face just heats up like I’ve been in the sun all day! I tell my wife and she looks over at me and her eyes get big! “Oh My God!! You’re red!!” A mad scramble through their purses produces a couple of Benadryl capsules, I down them and wait.

We say our goodbyes and head downstairs to another doctors office to set up an appointment for my wife, as I’m sitting there waiting I feel my stomach start to gurgle a little. “Oh oh!!” Good thing we’re at a hospital, the ER is down the next hall. The nurse takes one look and says “OK, lets get a little information and get you in here!!”

Scromboid fish poisoning. Just to be clear Scromboid is the type of fish not the poison. Scromboidei is a suborder of a larger scientific grouping of fish. It includes billfish, tunas, mackerel and barracudas to name a few. Scromboid food poisoning is the second most common  type of fish food poisoning after ciguatera. It develops when fish is not refrigerated properly and actually begins the decay process emitting histamine which is the actual toxin. Besides the heat and redness in my face I also experienced a dull headache and some diarrhea. Other common symptoms that I did not experience are nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping, burning or swelling of the mouth or a metallic taste. It all depends on how much of the spoiled fish you eat and your particular sensitivity to histamine. They say that generally symptoms usually go away in a few hours without treatment and that if they persist an antihistamine like Benadryl is advised. Know that it can get serious, so, if you ride it out and symptoms get worse or last more than 24 hours you should seek medical attention! A temporary loss of vision is not common , but, is a known symptom. Others include shortness of breath, mouth, tongue or throat swelling, accelerated heartbeat (over 130 beats per minute), dizziness or fainting.

Bottom line, avoid eating fish that you think may be spoiled or poorly refrigerated. Don’t eat it if it has an unusual bitter peppery taste. Any seafood should be refrigerated at less than 38 degrees Fahrenheit (3.3 degrees Centigrade) to prevent spoilage. Most local commercial fishermen know this and take great care of their fish to bring the best possible price at market. It’s the smaller vendors who buy it that typically take less than adequate care of the fish. I experienced relatively mild symptoms, but, wasn’t much fun anyway! Take care everyone, listen to your instincts! I didn’t and paid the price!