They walked by holding long bamboo poles with no reels and a bucket. Just a silent nod of acknowledgement as they passed. I watched them walk out to the right side of the point and settle into a little pocket in the ledge. They sat in darkness setting up their poles. “Hooking lobsters, I think….” says Dean. I had never heard of such a thing!
Hand pole fishing for lobsters it turns out has been around along long time. When we went home the next day I took a look at Edward Hosaka’s book “Shore Fishing in Hawaii” and found a description of several methods used.
Years later in Kona, my friend Carl came by one day and described a slightly different rig that he used. This rig used a reel to accomodate spots higher above the water.
It was a very basic rig, kinda like an Oio set up. 18″ to 20″ leader 40 or 50 lb test, short leadline 3-4″. Use a lead slightly heavier than you normally use for that rod and reel, i.e. if you dunk with a 4oz use a 5oz. We liked to use odoul hooks, I don’t see them around much these days, so, those hooks they call “octopus hooks” look like a good replacement. The rod needs to be at least 10 to 11 feet long to keep it clear of the edge as you will be dropping the the rig straight down.
Set up a spike the same way you would for a hang bait, basically straight out almost laying flat. If all you are going to do is fish for lobster you can just hold the rod if you like. We usually did this to kill time when ulua fishing so used a spike and a tie down for the rod. No bell, you do need to watch the pole if you are not holding it.
Bait the hook with a strip of ika, set the rod in the spike and drop the line straight down. When you feel the lead hit bottom, engage the gears (or on a spinner, close the bail) then reel the line up a few turns to get the lead off the bottom, not too much, you want the bait draging back and forth across the bottom with the surge.
Then you sit, wait and watch, if it’s too dark to see the tip of the rod you can tape a small glow stick on it. If the set up is good you will see the rod tip bend and move in the direction of the surge, back and forth. Now, what you are watching for is break in the back an forth rhythm. Usually, it will stop at one end of the swing, then slowly start pulling the tip away. When you see this happen, carefully take the safety cord off, lock down the drag, slowly take the rod out of the spike, take up line slowly as you point the rod down to the water, then, quickly lift the rod up, if you feel weight, reel as fast as you can. Hopefully when you get the line up a lobster will be caught on your line! Swing it over land as quickly as possible. Many lobsters have been lost back to the sea at this critical moment! If you don’t get it coming up when you first lift, just hold steady pressure on the line hopefully it will give up it’s grip and come free. You need to be ready to reel it before it gets another grip on the bottom or wedges its self in a hole.
Look for places that are fairly deep, it helps to have a bit of a ledge so the “swing” doesn’t take the line into the rocks. It will take some trial and error, you’ll get stuck a lot until you find the right setting and/or spot. That first place I mention seeing the guys with bamboo poles was Laie Point back in the early ’80’s. Truthfully, I learned and only used this technique on the Big Island, where there are a lot of spots where this can be done.
Spots that work usually are the same spots that you can catch moi and mu at. In fact, I later modified the rig with another swivel and short leader and hook about 3 feet above to catch them with. I use a #18 oio hook for this and usually aama crab for bait.
We usually spent time catching red fish for bait, but, when everybody started to settle in for the night and it got dark around the shoreline, this was a great way to get your mind off the ulua poles. I have always believed in not “vibeing” out the rods, in other words staring at the poles waiting for a strike. I don’t think I ever got a strike when I was looking at my poles. Going bolohead on the ulua rods is not as bad when you bring home moi or lobster!