Spyda's Blog

A Hawaiian Style Fishing Blog

We all have stories about the trials and tribulations we experience trying for that first ulua. Paying your dues some call it, it can be very frustrating when you’re one of those that seems to pay more than others. You do all the things you’re supposed to, you got all the gear, you’ve learned your knots and set ups. You even spent time practicing your casting to make sure your time spent at the beach is actually fishing and not fixing (unraveling bird nests). What else can you do? Well, I hear you! Been there done that! Most of us have!

I know it doesn’t help to hear this, but, truthfully, when things come too easy they’re usually not really worth it! People develop a passion for something when they have to work hard for it and gain a greater appreciation for their accomplishments. Case in point. A co-worker of mine had started ulua fishing a few years ago. On one of his first serious outings, a trip to the Big Island, he caught a hundred pounder! He doesn’t fish anymore. It all happened too quick, he never really developed a passion for the sport. Sad…..

When I first started fishing with my friend Carl, he had yet to catch his first. Carl worked hard when he fished, he was meticulous with his preparation and set up. He kept his gear in top shape. Still the ulua had not come.

Carl is a very talented artist so one day he decided to draw an ulua on the cover of one of his coolers. I was amazed at how quickly he did it and how accurate the details were. Even more amazing, he did it freehand with a magic marker, no picture for reference!

A couple of months go by and one morning there’s a knock at my door and it’s Carl. “Brah! Hanapaa!” he said, I knew he had his ulua! So I run outside and he pulls it out of a cooler. “Finally, f’ing finally man!! We stood there looking at it, not a monster, but, most definitely ulua! It was only about 8:30 in the morning, but, a celebratory beer was in order! As we toasted and drank to his catch, it occurred to me, “Eh, this ting almost da same size as da ulua you wen draw on your cooler!” Carl had a puzzled look on his face, he hadn’t thought about it! He opened his van and pulled out the cooler with the ulua drawn on it. When he laid the fish on the cooler both of our jaws dropped! It was nearly the exact size! So much so it looked like it had been traced!! Don’t believe me? Take a look for your self!

You can just see the black magic marker lines around the fish!!

You’ll find that no matter what your fishing style, process, what ever you want to call it, there will always be a difference of opinion among fishermen. There are some that say that you should lay on the pressure and try to stop’em, while others say “jus let’um run”. Well, they both work and they both fail too…there is no absolute.
Personally, I believe there are several keys to winning your share of battles. The first thing is to know your adversary. Papio with your ultra-light, small to mid size omilu or whites on light tackle, and of course big ulua for your heavy stuff. Which ever is your cup of tea, knowing the habits of these fish will help you draw more strikes and get more of them in the cooler. A big part of this is the spot you are fishing, what kind of terrain, how deep within casting range, how steep is the drop-off. Here again there is no absolute. I talked before about deep water but there are many shallow water spots that produce consistently. Many 100+ monsters have come out of water less than twenty feet deep.

One of the best teachers is your own failure. Think about what happened, what did the fish do? Did it defeat you or did you defeat yourself? This brings us to key number two, your instincts. Believe in your instincts, they’ll improve with time spent pounding the water.

The last thing is control. Take care of what you can control. Your knots, drag, sharp hooks and bait. Laziness will kill ya! Guys who hustle (not just when you first get there) get the most action. This is in your control, jus do it! You gotta check your knots, your line, hooks, etc…..everytime you cast or check bait and recast….everytime!

The differences between the Oahu and Big Island styles have been well documented over the years. It’s actually not just a difference between these two islands, there are differences between all the islands. Some, more obvious than others. A lot of that is due to the actual topography of the eight major Hawaiian islands. As most locals know, all the islands are different, from Kauai, the oldest, to Hawaii, the youngest. It’s not to say that fishing styles are radically different, or that one style can’t be used on another island. Each has it’s own proven or preferred style. In Kona, my friends and I experimented with different set ups, eventually settling in with one that proved itself on many a “submarine” or “tax man” strike. Bringing a large shark to gaff can really test your knots to the max. Prior to moving to Kona I thought bimini twists, double lines and the like were just overkill. But after losing a few fish when they dove off some of the abrupt, insanely deep drop offs common in south Kona, the need for a much longer, much more stout leader became obvious. The trade off of having strong leader set-up, is when you bankrupt. There are few spots where you cast from small rock platforms into deep, deep submarine channels. At these places your reel free spools twice as long after the lead hits the water than during your cast! It doesn’t matter how far you cast, your line angle once you set your lead will still be nearly straight down. If your hook or stop ring gets caught, good luck breaking your line. It’s amazing how much 200+ yards of 80 lb test can stretch! That’s only part of the problem, remember you’re on a rock, you can only walk back a few feet! Not fun, trust me!

You see some wild things fishing deep water, picture a 15 foot Tiger Shark flashing its stripes within spitting distance of your feet with your hook in it’s mouth! Or, having a whale swim by so close you hear it exhaling before you see it in the darkness, looking ahi in the eye as they jump out of the water chasing baitfish right in front of you! You never know what you’re going to see. Often during quiet moments you sit and soak it all in. You’re mesmerized , then KA LANG!!……Silence….it takes a split second for it to register…you turn just as the rod slams down and shudders…eerily, the bell swings back and forth but doesn’t ring…then, all hell breaks loose!! Elvis has entered the room….

Deep, real deep.....

Although the beginnings of my fishing bug started when my Dad took us fishing for Aholehole off of the piers at Maalaea harbor on Maui, it really took hold here on Oahu when our family moved here in 1965. The first house we lived in was near the north-east end of Kawainui marsh in Kailua. There you could catch talapia and Chinese catfish off the levee. Then just further north was the Kawainui canal where the Moilii would run now and then bringing in the predators like Papio and Barracuda. I got my first spinning outfit with 3 1/2 books of my Moms Royal Stamps. A “Red Devil” spoon purchased at Hughes Drugs fooled my first Barracuda. Funny how all fishermen can remember these things. We moved across town to Enchanted Lake in 1967, my Dad bought a house right on the lake. Talk about a dream for a pre-teen kid in love with fishing! The schools of Talapia were so big that when you tossed a stone out into the lake half the surface of the lake would erupt with scattering fish! When heavy rains came the lake water level would rise. On such occasions they would dredge out the opening to the ocean at Kailua beach, this would bring schools juvenile fish of all kinds into the lake. Barracuda, Papio, Awaawa, were great fun for kids fishing in the backyard! Into my teens motocross became my life and I fished only on occasion. The bug surfaced again when my sisters boyfriend started taking me with him out to Kewalo Basin to fish off the piers behind the fish processing plants. Then surfing set fishing aside once again and we traveled all over the islands surfing spots that I now know to be great fishing spots as well. As the surfing became a daily thing we spent more and more time at the beach which led to many nights camping out at our favorite spots. What to do with all those nights? Fish!  The bug hit hard this time as we quickly progressed up the scale of shore fishing equipment. Soon we were loaded up with conventional reels and long casting poles with Ulua on our minds! We still surfed but more time and money was being spent on the pursuit of Ulua. We toiled long and hard, many whitewash nights, big fish hard to come by. How long would it take, how many more nights? Papio, Oio, Kumu, etc…..not good enough….I even lost a brand new rig! 12 foot pole, extended 6’o out to sea on a monster strike at Mokuleia! What??? What’s it going to take? Finally, a breakthrough… Edmund brings our first ashore, a 24 pounder out at Laie Point. The ice is finally broken…I would eventually get my first, a 28 pound Kagami out at Moi Hole. We were on a roll! Some people pay more dues than others, we paid a lot!

Catching a fish that doesn't fit inthe cooler is always a nice problem to have!

Fishing on the Big Island

Obsession? Call it what you want, I needed more, the desire for Ulua burned strong. Yea, we had broken through on Oahu, but how long would the high last?

Speaking of “High”, life on Oahu was getting out of control the partying was never ending. Money burned quickly, paycheck to paycheck life was the norm. Had to find a way out. Dean left for California to look for work as a writer, for me a chance to move to Kona came up so, I went for it.

The Big Island, home of the Hilo Casting Club and its renowned annual shore-casting tournament. It’s legendary high cliffs and deep water promised great fishing adventure. I had lived in Hilo for about six months back in 1976 but couldn’t take all the rain. Weekend trips to Kona had convinced me that was where I wanted to be. I packed my fishing and camping gear in my trusty old Scout “Ben” and put it on the barge to Kahwaihai.

The first few weeks after my Scout arrived I had nowhere to live so I drove down to the shoreline behind the airport and camped out every night! This meant a chance to get a line in the water. Red fish like Menpachi and Aweoweo were fairly easy to catch for bait or a quick pot of “Sabao’ on cold nights. It was all-good, except for one thing, where were all the big Ulua?

My rods praying to the Ulua gods.......

The Club Scene
A friend at work told me he was a member of the Kona Coast Casting Club and if I was interested he would introduce me at the next meeting. I jumped at the chance figuring if I got accepted into the club, it would be a great chance to learn and experience more of the “Big Island Style”.

The Club experience turned out to be all that I expected and some that I did not. It was a small club at the time with twenty or so members. I was surprised to see Kinney Loui of Hilo Casting Club fame there at the meeting. I couldn’t believe that someone would take the time drive the two hours from Hilo to attend a small club meeting. The meeting was at Teshimas restaurant in Honalo. I happened to be living in a studio right there next to the restaurant, I didn’t even need 30 seconds to walk there!

I got accepted into the club along with another guy whom I later found out was from Oahu also. We also had another thing in common, we were about the only ones that weren’t married or living with their parents. The three of us, Chester my friend from work, Carl the other new guy and myself became regular fishing partners. Besides the Club outings we started fishing together regularly. Club outings were fun, the chance to see other styles of casting, setup, bait-cutting and selection was a big draw for me. Of course making new fishing friends is always fun. New friends means you can tell all your old fishing stories again just like there’re brand new!

Of course I wanted to catch big ulua but seeing a few big boys never hurts. It just jacks you all up! Gives you the urge to throw line someplace! The first hundred plus ulua I saw was at the weigh in for a weekend Club tournament. Two day quickie tournament and here comes Bernie with this big tail sticking out of his cooler! 127….holy cr#%!!! Sadly, on a recent trip back to Kona I found out that the spot where that big boy came up is slated for a new resort construction…..too bad, the trail to that spot was a pretty gnarly one that kept the crowds and “part-timers” out of there. Over the years a lot of “hardcore” spots have disappeared under new construction. But, the BIG Island is just that, big, and there are a lot of still untouched or rarely touched areas. Still it’s sad to see another one bite the dust.

This blog is dedicated to the late Kinney Loui who passed away in June of 2008.  His great passion for the sport of Ulua fishing, kindness and willingness to share his knowledge will forever be an inspiration to me. Rest in peace Mr Loui!!