Spyda's Blog

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Browsing Posts tagged Omilu

The Grey

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Morning grey, my favorite time. I’m usually alone during the grey, after recasting the poles for the dawn patrol it’s a time to sit back and collect my thoughts about what did or didn’t work the night before and formulate a plan going foward. One of the best times to throw out a lure in my opinion. I’m always amazed how the fish can see the lures I throw in the dark. I’ve had strikes at the moment the lure hits the water! How is that possible? You hear about papio and ulua tracking a lure in the air and hitting as it lands, but, in the dark? Baffling!

I actually try to get up well before the grey to recast so, by the time it starts, I’m done with all of that and most times already have a hot cup of coffee in hand or if the grounds are calling me I may have my whipping set up in hand ready to work the shoreline. Which ever it is there is nothing, for me anyway, like watching the sunrise down at the oceans edge somewhere! It’s not only about being on the east end somewhere to see the actual sunrise, as beautiful as it is here in Hawaii, it’s about seeing the world around you “waking up”. The color change as shadows fade, the movement of the ocean and trees come into focus. Natures original version of the “fade in”, think computer animations are cool? This is the real deal! Appreciate it, the view may not be the same forever.

By the way, this picture above is one taken about a half hour after “The Grey”.

Smell the coffee?

 

Ulua Blood

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“If she’s amazing, she won’t be easy. If she’s easy, she won’t be amazing. If she’s worth it, you wont give up. If you give up, you’re not worthy. … Truth is, everybody is going to hurt you; you just gotta find the ones worth suffering for.”
Bob Marley

It starts simply enough, a bamboo pole with Dad, Grandpa or an Uncle. That first tug of a fish on the end of your line, the fish is hooked and so are you. Like so many of us when I got to the point where my understanding was beyond just catching a fish and became more focused, Ulua became the “Holy Grail”. We wanted the secrets, because as hard as we tried, the Ulua never came. Were we really that bad?? We read, we asked questions, we watched other people, but it just wasn’t happening.

After the first two ulua poles I built failed to catch an ulua, one lost to a monster strike and the other a catastrophic failure, I realized that I had to step up my game to succeed. When the second rod I built broke a foot from the tip I was mad, embarrassed and really felt like a failure.

The rod was a 540 Saber which was a two piece blank which came with a dowel to splice the two pieces together. I drove down to McCully Bike to look for a top half to replace my broken one. I got lucky, there was a black top half which was cracked at the bottom. I took the damaged blank up to the counter and asked the clerk if they would be willing to sell it to me at a discount since it was cracked. The store manager agreed and I had my top half!

I knew looking at it I could cut off the cracked portion and still be able to use the dowel and splice it on to my old bottom half. It would be a little shorter, but, I still felt it would be fine. I had to build it better, stronger and well, something else. I couldn’t figure it out at the time, but, there had to be something I could do differently this time that would make the difference.

The first problem was getting the old top half off. I had loaded up on the epoxy when I had spliced it together so this was going to be tough. I had little experience with this sort of stuff, there wasn’t Google or Youtube to turn to, so I had to wing it, make a decision and go for it! The bottom half was a straight tube, no taper so I guessed where the dowel ended and cut it off! Second problem, not quite as serious, the bottom half was white. So, after I epoxied the butt cap on I got black butt wrap cord and started wrapping the bottom half. Part way up I decided to add some trim for accent. I found some sheets of stuff they use to dress lures with and cut some strips, red and silver placed them on the blank, that’s when it hit me! Blood! This rod would be all black with red pin stripes to represent the blood of ulua!

With the rod finished there was one thing left to do, go get that first ulua!

Well, as most of us know, that was easier said than done. I set about reviewing my entire process, knots, leader set up, where and when I went fishing, moon phase, tides, hook sharpening and drag setting. I thought about it constantly. In doing this I got a little obsessive and pushed myself a little further than I ever did. I was only working part-time back then so it did give me more time, but, even then it didn’t seem like enough.

One day a good friend of mine from work told me he was taking some vacation time and planned to spend a good part of it fishing. He planned to be out at Moi Hole out on the west side and told me to come on out if I could. Problem was I couldn’t get any vacation time off so would be working the entire time he was going to be out there. “Bummers” I thought, well, if I want to succeed I need to make some sacrifices. Like they say, “The good things in life never come easy!”

So the week comes and I figure my friend Hiro is out there pounding it already. I have to work in the morning so I pack what I can in the trunk of the car, the poles and cooler will have to wait until after work. One pm the next day I’m leaving work, I head to Tamashiro Market to look for bait. No tako so I pick up some fresh akule and ika and head home to finish loading up.

Out at Moi Hole, Hiro and a few of the other regulars have about 6 to 8 poles out and are kicking back when I roll up. No strikes so far they report, but, the weather is nice and the company is great so sprits are high! I get to work setting up. My patched up black and red Saber is the first I cast out, I slide a whole akule down on a 36 bkn. Next out is my Harrington with a Surfmaster (2’0). This one gets an akule fillet bait casted out. Soon it’s dinner time and the hibachi is lit up and everyone busts out some kau kau for the pot luck table.

One of the regulars in attendance is Andy Miyamoto, the Mayor of Moi Hole back then. Andy is a big man, I’m told he played semi-pro baseball in Japan. Casting was just casting until the first time I watched Andy cast! It was clear, when he casted he was fishing in an area we weren’t despite the fact that we were fishing right next to each other!

Dinner was great as it always seems to be out on the rocks or the beach. Just after sunset before it got real dark my Harrington takes a strike! A few minutes later a 5 pound Awa is on the rocks and into the cooler! Yes! Action, we’re all feeling energized and work our poles late into the night. I have to work the next morning so I’m the first one down.

Six am, after a little coffee I jack-up my poles and leave them by Hiro’s car, I’ll be back àfter work.

One pm and I’m driving to Tamashiros again. This time they have fresh tako. I buy tako and ice then hit the freeway back to the west side!!

When I get there Hiro kids me saying “Eh, you better not catch again, I never even get strike yet!!“. We all laugh except Andy, who just gives me a wry smile. Andys wife has come out and is in their tent cooking up a storm, she cooks for everyone. Good people the Miyamotos!

I work my poles hard, but save one whole tako for the big tide in the morning.

Five am music to my ears! The bell and rachet on the black Saber are goin off!! I had forced myself out of my warm cot about 3 in the morning to slide the whole 1.5lb tako I had saved for the morning rise. My mind is a blurr, but, quickly getting jacked with adrenelin! Is this it? The fish is straight out, now starting to angle to the right. it slows then swings to the left and runs again. I feel like I’m lost in a dream. Hiro is standing next to me coaching and giving me encouragement. The fish surges again then slows and swings back to the right. I’m gaining some line now, holy smokes! It this happening?! Suddenly someone yells “Color!!” I look down and there it is, the broad silver side of an ulua is shimmering underwater below us. I hear Hiro’s calm voice telling me “Easy, easy…watch the tip…let um take line if he like…” My anxiety is soaring! After what seems like forever it pops to the surface! “Kagami!!” “Hit um, hit um!!” The gaff hits home and the fish is hauled up on to the rocks, unbelievable!!

My first Ulua! My first and only (to this date) Kagami Ulua! What an amazing feeling!!

Later after breakfast, I pack to leave and say my good byes and thanks to everyone. The only thing not packed is the slide rig with the still fresh tako on it. I walk over to Andys tent and place it on his cooler. We say nothing, just nod and exchange wry smiles…

Magic bait, for me is the last bait that caught me an Ulua, but, for many of my friends it’s Oama. The little goats, papio candy and the reason that once a year all the stores run out of aerators. Every year, August there abouts, (as early as April or late as October) the schools of juvenile Weke appear near shore on all the Hawaiian islands. Fishermen and women flock to their favorite spots to catch Oama for consumption or for bait for papio. Newbees or just plain lazy ones ask “Where dey stay?”. In this day of the internet and smartphone technology the word gets around quickly and the schools get pounded. All part of the game, good or bad, unfortunately the fish populations don’t increase proportionately with the increase of fishermen and we see smaller “per angler” counts being caught each year. What has increased despite increased awareness in the community is poaching. Illegal throw nets and night trapping have become a common occurrence because truthfully, there is no active enforcement taking place. Brazen poachers perform their illegal craft in front of beach goers with no conscience what so ever!

So, where do we go from here? Many foolishly think that the fish will always be there. “How?” I ask, “What makes you think that?” I’m no expert, I have no college degree, I don’t even read all the information the real experts put out there to keep us all informed. What I do know is if we continue in this mindless direction of “Fish now, worry later” future generations will only have the stories handed down by their elders.

When Cook first landed in the Hawaiian islands for the first time over two centuries ago the Hawaiians already had serious concerns about conserving the oceans resources and many very focused restrictions (kapu) designed to keep harvesting of these resources in check. Contrary to the popular belief that the over throw of the Hawaiian Kingdom was the cause of the loss of this forward thinking, in truth it was the son of Kamehameha I, Liholiho (Kamehameha II) that abolished kapu. This is not to say that the kapu system was without fault, but, rather that the greater loss was the understanding that the then abundant resource was not infinite.

So, what’s the next step? I’d say little steps for the most part, as long as they are in the correct direction forward. Perhaps we should start with our keiki, instead of teaching them to keep everything they catch, teach them to appreciate catch and release. To let the little fish live!!

“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”!!

 

“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…..”

Spinning Ulua

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Recently on the forum Bruddah Bill posted a challenge for members to come up with a low cost set up for newcomers to the sport. Had to be using market prices for brand new equipment, including rod, reel, line and total out at less than $200.

http://forums.ifishhawaii.com/index.php?topic=484.0

Bill started us out with a pretty good conventional set up that quite frankly would be very hard to beat price wise! So, I decided (keeping the newb in mind) to go with a spinner set up that I believe will help keep them fishing and perhaps cement the stoke if you will, so that when the desire to try conventional gear arises, it won’t present challenges that turn them off.

Although I’ve not seen both components I selected in action matched together, I have seen both in action and know that they are both decent performing and most importantly tough!

My selection was a 12ft Ugly Stick Big Water rod matched up with a Daiwa BG90 spinner and Ande 30lb test. Over the years there has always been the thought that if you want to catch Ulua you needed conventional gear. No doubt, conventional gear is still King among Ulua fishermen and women, but, spinning gear can do it! Some of the modern spinners have very stout drag systems and frames which will stand up to a lot of abuse (by angry fish). Spectra braid line used as backing under monofilament on spinners has upped the capacity to a level where the odds of stopping a large Ulua have increased dramatically!

Getting back to my selection of a Daiwa BG90, while this reel is definately old school, it has proven itself many times over the years to be a capable and solid performer.

My good friend Steve hooked and landed a 20lb Omilu using a BG90 mounted on a Master 12ft rod. On that trip we brought home three, two were caught on spinners. The year before our annual trip produced six and four of those were landed with spinning equipment!

Steve and his 20 pound Omilu!

A 15 pounder with my trusty spinner behind me.

OK, so these are not large fish, but, ulua none the less! My point here is that newbies always think that they have to have a conventional to break the ice, I say, not so!

Here’s the video of Steve’s tussle with the fat omilu!

Just Hangin

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The Big Island, miles and miles of barren shoreline, some accessible only by boat or helicopter, in other areas access is limited to those who possess a much coveted key. This trip, we had a key!

We slowly worked our way down toward the shoreline, the three of us, in three trucks as is typical for a serious ulua outing BI style. That moment when you break through the treeline and see the dusty black lava landscape is for some, just a lot of rocks, but, for me that first gust of wind you felt as you broke into the open was like feeling Pele’s breath, hot and rough like she was there watching and waiting. Beautiful, yet hard and serious, unforgiving, yet, alluring. I always felt somehow undeserving, as though dues remained unpaid.

The better part of  an hour past before we reached the shoreline and worked our way towards the planned campsite. We were traversing a pahoehoe flow, a typical example of Madam Pele’s deceptive artistry, appearing smooth in comparison to an A’a flow which is essentially a field of large loose chunks of lava cinder, pahoehoe is the type of lava that forms huge underground tubes hiding pockets of air that can suddenly crumble under the weight of four-wheel drive vehicle like the ones we drove. Put wheel wrong and you can quickly end up in Pele’s grasp…

Gotcha!!

After selecting a spot and setting up camp we all walked out toward the water to look at the grounds. I was immediately drawn to a hump in the lava on the far right side. As I looked around I noticed an angled crack that looked like it would position a rod perfectly for hang bait! I normally would set up my big spinner as a hang bait rod, but, the crack was a little loose for all my rock spikes except for my largest one which I always used for my half and half rod and Daiwa 600H. So be it, I set up the half and half rod for hang bait. After setting up the rod I walked out to the spot and set it in the spike. Hmmm, a little awkward. I had built this rod with the idea of big baits and big fish so had set the reel seat up high (43″) so I could wedge the rod in the rocks and stand up and fight the fish (I’m 6’2″), problem here was the reel was out over the edge of the  water! Pulling the rod out with a fish on might prove tricky!

After we got all the rods out and slid some tako and puhi down, I set up a small spinner to hopefully get a nice bait for the hang bait pole. I tied on a floater with a 6′ leader and a small piece of shrimp. I dropped it right down about where my hang bait would be sitting and immediately hooked a good size hinalea lauwili (saddle wrasse)! Alright, good sign!!

I had 80lb test mono on the reel, a bimini twist doubled up the line which was albrighted to 8 feet of Berkley Big Game 120lb wire braid, a lot shorter that normal, but, I wanted all the knots already though the guides and tip when hanging the bait. I attached a 36 bkn with a flemish eye and crimp, hooked the hinalea on, dropped it down and watched and adjusted until I got it to stay right below the surface at it’s highest point of the swing. The water below was about 15 feet deep and the set up looked great!

Quiet night, puhi on the tako, nothing on the puhi. I walk over to check the hinalea, still there, lively as ever! The sky is starting to grey, time for the dawn patrol!

Before going to sleep I had set up my whipping rig with a black Pili so I only had to throw on the tabis and my backpack and I was ready to go! I glanced over at my hang bait as I walked past to the next point, I remember thinking it looked perfect, the surge was just kicking up enough white water to create some “natural cover” for the bait without being too rough.

Whipping, except for lack of strikes or follows was really nice in the soft morning light. I had worked my way along the shore about a quarter mile when I decided to turn back toward camp. I was working my way around a particularly rough section of shoreline when from the corner of my eye I saw something in the water, I turned to look and saw a spray of small bait fish and that distinctive black flash of an excited predator swirling below them! I had to slowly pick my way across about 20 yards of big rocks and large tidal pools to get to the actual edge where I could get a cast out into the zone. When I got there I crouched down on a rock and just watched the water for a minute, trying to catch a glimpse, a flash or another spray…….nothing. I stood and tossed  the pili out at a two o’clock angle, pop, pop, pop…nothing. I switched my footing and tossed it the opposite way about 10 o’clock position, pop, wham! It throws a semi-circle spray like a surfer does when they snap off the top of a wave, I raise my rod instinctively, “Gotcha!”  The omilu was about 8lbs, but, looked small compared to the black flash I had seen earlier. I took me a while to get the fish off the lure, as is typical it had hit the forward hook which was in it’s mouth, but, the trailing hook was also embedded in the area near it’s pectoral fins. I slipped the fish into a small pool and got back up on the rock to try for it’s partner. I worked the area for a for while with no success so grabbed the omilu and headed back to camp.

I was almost back to camp when I saw the boys looking over at me so I was mack’in it up raising my arms in  a “victory” motion when a bell rang and I heard that sweet sound of the ratchet on the hang bait line!! I could hear them laughing as I madly hopped rocks trying to get to the rod from the opposite side. I set the whipping rod down and un-clipped the safety cord. As I leaned forward to try and get the rod out something poked me in the back of the head! I had forgotten about the omilu in my backpack! I took a step back and took the backpack off (more laughter from the peanut gallery!) I finally managed to get the rod out of the holder and got to feel the fish, it was clear, but, still fighting strong. One of the advantages of hang bait is the fact that the fish will be closer after the intial run than when you bomb it out there, the trade off is it’s not fighting a long length of line in the water so the strength of the fish is more directly at you. Case in point this fish turned out to be much smaller than it initialy felt. Anyway, despite a clear lack of confidence in my skills by my so called friends, I managed to land it and one of the boneheads actually stopped laughing long enough to gaff it for me!

36 lb white ulua and an 8 lb omilu to go with it, not too bad a weekend!!

Spyda 2 Boneheads 0

As typical beginners, we wanted to catch, but, we soon found just wanting wasn’t near enough to get it done! When we started to get serious about it there wasn’t much available media wise except Edward Hosaka’s “Shore Fishing In Hawaii” and the “Hawaii Fishing News”! The now classic books from Jim Rizzuto and Michael Sakamoto had not been published yet. No knock on Hosaka’s book, I still refer to it, but, it was published in 1944 so, fishing regulations and techniques had changed quite a bit by then. HFN has always been the source for the latest information and a hell of a lot of pure stoke for local fishermen! Still, our hunger for Ulua knowledge continued to grow and become  more and more obsessive.

We were still slinging spinners exclusively when we decided a trip to the B.I. was the answer to all the “bolohead” days and nights of fishing. Dean has family up there and told us some of his cousins were experienced Ulua Fishermen, so, off we went!

Deans cousin Larry was kind and more importantly, patient enough to put up with us greenhorns and all our questions! Walking into Larrys house, except for Dean of course, we didn’t know what to expect. Little did I know it would change my life dramatically! As Larry showed us around his house we walked into a room mostly barren except for some rod wrapping stands with a partially built menpachi rod balanced on them. I’m sure Larry will laugh if he reads this, but, it was like a “zen” moment for me! I recall thinking, “Man this guy’s a real fisherman!” Years later I would flash back to this moment  and laugh while sitting in my home in Kona admiring a rod I had just built as it sat on stands in my living room.

Larry led us into his living room where there was a framed picture of  Larry and two other adult males kneeling behind a giant Ulua! Note that I said “behind” it not around or next to it! When we asked how heavy it was he told us it was too big for their coolers so they had cut it up at the beach and never weighed it! His estimate was 120, conservative I think!

Larry told us he would take us down to a spot that had been a favorite of the family for many years. We were excited! We loaded our stuff into his Toyota Land Cruiser Wagon. None of us had ever been four-wheeling before so this alone was going to be a treat!

The spot was near the bottom of a river mouth, the last winter storms had brought large rocks over the usual trail to the spot. We climbed over rocks bigger than I ever thought possible! Fortunately the run from the paved road to the spot was a short one. This was not the typical Big Island spot, no high cliff, water not too deep and there was a huge popper right out in front of where we would be fishing! I was a little surprised, but, Larry was calm and confident.

Larry didn’t bring any bait with him, we had a little ika in our cooler, but, he had no intention of mooching any bait from us. We were about to get our first lesson in using bait the ocean provided us locally. First, he showed us how to catch gori, alaihi and aama crabs along the shoreline we were fishing. Then he taught us the best ways to put them on our hooks. Techniques that all became a permanent part of our fishing repertoire.

I don’t remember exactly what we caught on that trip, but, we returned many times to fish there. We caught papio, oio, moi, mu, kumu, nenue and all sorts of other fish there. It became one of our “magic” spots. White-washing was definately the exception out there.

Mixed bag, typical of this spot.

I had some of my most memorable light tackle battles there with oio and papio on light spinners. My best catch was an 8lb oio on 6 lb test! I actually caught two about the same size on the same trip! One of the best battles with a fish I had there was with one that got away. Doesn’t it always seem to work out that way? To make matters worse, on that particular trip I was fishing alone, so no witnesses!

I had driven out there late one afternoon figuring I could wash away some of the “Bolohead Blues” I had been experiencing on my last few ulua trips with some light tackle action. I set up two rods, my big spinner (30lb test) and my favorite whipping rod a 6 foot one piece graphite rod with a Penn 722z which had 6lb test spooled on it.

The afternoon and early evening had been pretty quiet, not much action just one missed strike on the big pole. The wind was blowing pretty good and the water was rough. I jacked up both poles and recast. A big aama on the big pole and a small live gori on the 722. The tide was heavy on the rise and the water was rushing all the way around the big popper to the left like a stream.

The big popper on the left can be seen jutting out, the other big popper is just off screen to the right.

I stripped down to my shorts and poured some water over me to wash off some of the salt before I changed into warm clothes. I got on my cot and crawled in my sleeping bag. Still shivering, I had brief moment of self doubt thinking “What am I doing out here alone?”

I was just starting to doze off when I heard the little brass bell on the 722 ting-a-ling, I held my breath and concentrated on the sound thinking it  probably was the wind or waves, but, it kept on ting-a-linging! I grabbed my headlamp and shined at my pole….it was in full arch!!

I ran out and picked up the rod, line was peeling out furiously! The fish tore out the channel between the two big poppers and was headed out to sea! I ran to the left to line up better with the channel and to go under my big spinner line which I had cast into the channel. Nothing to do but hang on! It’s not like I could horse it with 6lb test! Finally it stopped, then started to swing left, it was way out there! I didn’t have much line left on the reel. I felt it start to rub on the left side popper. I grabbed my landing net and walked over towards the popper, the normal hop over was now a 5 foot wide crossing in rushing water! Somehow I got across, but, not before losing both my slippers and the net! I hobbled along the edge barefooted pulling my line from under ha’uke’uke urchins which were abundant there. When I got near the outside tip of the popper waves were splashing and surging all around! Amazingly, when I pulled the line free from the last urchin it was clear and I could feel the fish again! It must have felt me because it took off on another run! I have no idea how much time had passed at this point, but, it sure seemed like forever! The fish was still strong and it fought me back and forth, fortunately staying clear. Finally I started to gain line and the side to side swings got shorter and shorter. Then it broke surface, wow, nice sized white papio!

Now I was really nervous! I had to try and time the waves to bring the fish up onto the popper where I was. I waited until the water was high up on the popper and a wave came in over it. I reeled and pulled it in with the wave, it came straight towards me, perfect……right through my legs and into a crack behind me, I heard the line snap just as the water enveloped it and swept it back out in to the sea!! It was gone……I think I woke babies on the other side of the island sceaming every french word in the book at the top of my lungs!! Never have I agonized over losing a fish as I did this one! I mean, it wasn’t a hundred pound ulua, but, it was a dam good fish for 6lb test! I have an estimate of it’s size in my mind, but, will not say it here, it’s all moot! No one else saw it, no one saw me fighting it, no one can even verifiy that I was fishing that night! I went home the next morning with the worst case of the “Bolohead Blues” I have ever had…..crap!