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Spyda's Blog

A Hawaiian Style Fishing Blog

Browsing Posts tagged Papio

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!!”


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!!



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”!!


A bit of sarcasm in this title I suppose, truth is I can’t find any really legitimate excuses for the way I fished this past weekend at the Ewa Fenceline to Fenceline Tournament. Kind of a weird thing, even Jeff had to ask me what was up. I really don’t have any answers, I just sucked.

I guess it began on Thursday, the day before the tournament. My plan was to head out to the east side to my favorite tako grounds to pick up bait. The low tide was early in the morning so I made plans to leave Ewa at 630am. Got up at 545, woke my grandson Brendan up and told him to get washed up and ready to go. This is when I find out his father has his diving equipment, all he has is his wet suit and shorts.

So I get my gear in the jeep and start shuffling the cars in the driveway around so we can get out. When I get back to the jeep Brendan’s sitting in the passenger seat adjusting the strap on a set of goggles. “Hey, where’d you get that?”he tells me his aunty (my oldest Elisa) let him some of her kids stuff. OK, good to go then!

As we are passing through Kahaluu I see him struggling with a pair of “kiddie” swim fins! “Hey, that’s not going to work, you may as well go barefoot!” Sigh………..So, I pull into the first open store I see knowing that most along this coast carry a few fishing and diving things. I end up spending $22 on a set of Cressi fins that are nicer than my crusty old pair! Sigh…………

So with that and stops along the way for road construction we pull up about 30 minutes later than planned. The tide has already turned and is on the rise, the current will be moving. We work the inside first knowing that Brendan won’t last too long before he gets cold. So, another 45 minutes have passed before I head out alone to find the grounds out side.

As I’m working my way slowly out I notice a sandy puka with some loose rocks, don’t know how to describe why, but, it was just a little odd. So, I dive down to get a closer look. I flick the rocks with my spear just as a surge comes through, I see the rocks slide back out of sight. I can’t tell if it was the surge that did that, so, I push at the rocks with the spear again trying to find an opening somewhere. I keep flicking rocks away, but, still only feel more rocks, no opening. I dive down hold on to a rock to get a look inside as I flick rocks, FOOOM!! A huge ink cloud envelops me, I back up keeping my spear in the hole and try to watch for the tako coming out. I don’t see it, I still can’t see the hole, but continue to blindly scratch around with the spear trying to feel something. When the water finally clears I go back down and dig like crazy, nothing!! SH&*!! I circle the surrounding area for a good 10 to 15 minutes, nothing. Schooled by a tako!!

When I finally find the grounds, the current is ripping now, I fight with it for as long as I can. I realize that I’m not focused, I’m swimming back and forth not following any sort of plan to cover the area. My left calf starts to cramp, I’m done. Bruddah Bills words ring in my ears, “You sure you don’t want to pick up one tako from the shop before I sell out?”

Plan “B”, catch live bait. OK, that should be easy enough! After dropping off my gear at Bills, I grab the light whipping rig and a small bucket and the shrimp. There’s a spot I take the grandkids to now and then, lots of baitfish so they always have fun. Big tide heavy on the rise water is coming over the little barrier reef we usually stand on when fishing. No prob, just gotta figure out where the baitfish would move to in a big tide like this. I set up a little floater rig so I can explore the area easier. First cast gets stuck on the reef, lose the leader below the floater…… I check my little bag, no leader spool!……So I strip some 6lb test off the reel, re-tie the swivel and floater and attach the piece of line and tie on a new hook and split shot. The bigger leader shouldn’t be a problem in the rough water. I find fish near the middle of a small pool on the inside of the reef. I pick up two 4″ Hinalea Lauwili, perfect size! One more would be nice! Shoots, lose the leader again, re-rig with another piece of mainline, first cast  stuck again! it’s almost start fishing time, gotta go, this will have to be good enough.

Roll back into Bills, Jeff has his Ballistics locked and loaded ready to go. As I rig up I’m second guessing myself, I keep flipping back and forth, which rig to put the live bait on. Besides the hinas, all I have is ika. 6pm, start fishing! The whole beach is suddenly a flurry of activity. I put a hinalea on my new Rainshadow, whoa! Way out there! To bad it’s only the bait and not my rig………..awesome…….one left…….

Jeffs fully loaded reel after his cast! Dats how!

Unfortunately, this set back, set the tone for my casting the rest of the weekend. I had one of the worst backlashes I’ve had in years! Even cut the line in the middle of my spool! I ended up removing the sideplate to pull the spool out to get everything off, good grief!! I did throw some lead way, way out there though! I can say one thing, it brought back some memories. Memories of being a newb sitting out on the rocks at Moi Hole wondering if I’d ever get it right. Teetering on the brink of saying I quit, then realizing how stupid that was, just taking the easy way out. So, I’d pull and pull until the spool was clear, wind it all back up, re-rig and walk out to cast again. The persistance eventually paid off and my casting got better and problems encountered far fewer. That was then, this is now…..

In trying to understand, I backed up to 1996 when I basically abandoned the sport to move back to Oahu to get married. Back then my Ulua arsenal consisted of a Daiwa 450H, 600H and a Penn 9’o. The answer may just be right there. With these bigger reels, stiffer poles and heavier lead, skinny guy that I am, I could never rip these things around so my casts are dependant on rhythm and timing more than raw power like the young tigas do. So, I believe with this smaller much lighter rig I’m trying to “blast” ‘um too much! I’m losing all my rhythm and timing and basically losing control of the cast! We’ll test this theory when I get a new tip for the rainshadow……Yes, insult to injury, the tip spun on the new rod. To match the dark frames of my guides I used the closest size they had at the shop I was at. The tube was pretty big so I had to build up the tip before glueing it on. Despite re-doing it once because I wanted it stronger, it still didn’t hold! Search is on for a better fitting tip………

OH, the tournament? Well needless to say I didn’t fare very well, but, Jeff was able to land four Oio. He released a couple and weighed in the two largest for 7th place in the open class!

Jeff 7th place fish, lots of Oio in the 21-22" range, a few ounces split the places!

First Place Open, same guy that won the GT Masters! On a roll!

The rubbish bag weigh in! Danny gives prizes to the heaviest bags!

Tournament Director Danny Chamizo (left) and his volunteer crew!

My first experience fishing with girls was at a little stream near Kihei when we still lived on Maui. My sister Cheryl was trying to “cast” her bamboo pole and promptly hooked my other sister Kay in the left nostril! Being the proper little brother, I laughed and laughed ’cause I thought it was so hilarious! Don’t know if that little incident had anything to do with it, but, my sisters never did take a serious interest in fishing.

Years later I was lucky enough to be invited on a camping trip on the Big Island with Dean and some of his family. His cousin Charlie worked for the Forestry department so had access to pretty much anywhere on the island. We were camped at a remote beach out on the south western coastline. As part of his job, Charlie had hiked much of the coastline with his crew, so he knew the grounds well. The plan was to hike out north from camp about a quarter mile or so to fish for menpachi that night. When Charlie asked who wanted to go, among the hands raised were Deans mom and his auntie Nancy.

Now, Mom and Nancy are Big Island girls so they had done this sort of thing all their lives, still I was impressed as we all hiked out over the lava trail carrying fishing gear, buckets and lanterns. Turns out, Charlie knew his stuff and we filled several buckets with menpachi and aweoweo. Going back to camp, Charlie, Dean and I tried to carry most of the extra weight, but, despite that Mom and Nancy still hiked back with more than they took out. Not a peep of complaint from either, Fisherwomen.

A few days ago I had the pleasure of meeting and spending some time with fellow blogger and super poster “fishergirl” from the beautiful island of Kauai. With “fisher” appropriately at the fore front of the name and “girl” pointing out the unique and fresh perspective with which she tells her fishing tales I was looking forward to learning more about her and of course talk fishing!

I met the fishergirl and her husband in Kunia and after introductions and some small talk, she and I headed down the hill to Bruddah Bills where we spent the next few hours talking story and whipping the Ewa Beach shoreline behind his place. I had to leave for work so made plans to meet fishergirl the next morning take her out to some of my regular grounds the next day.

As we headed out Wednesday morning the beautiful weather and rising surf had us both feeling good about the conditions, things looked promising. First stop was at a beach that me and the boys had spent countless hours surfing, fishing, diving and in the old days, camping.

After setting our gear down under some trees it didn’t take long for her to get rigged up and off down the beach. I had a bruised toe that had I aggravated the day before walking in the sand at Bills, my fishing would be limited to dunking. With the help of a little palu I was able to catch a small hinalea and tossed it out on my baitcaster. I felt a little guilty just kicking back and cruising while fishergirl worked the shoreline, but, after hobbling around all night at work I didn’t want to risk it.

I gotta say, she hit it hard covering the entire stretch around the point and back. Despite working this stretch of beach hard the fish didn’t cooperate so, we decided to move on down the road a bit.

Although I’ve fished this area a lot over the years, there are places that I really haven’t stopped to look at for a long time. I found myself marveling at some grounds less than a quarter mile from one of our regular spots. I found it interesting that just being there with someone who had never seen these grounds before was changing my perspective!

We were looking at a nice section of sand and rock shoreline that had lots of interesting ledges and rocks that really made it look fishy! We had to give it a shot!

Told ya she gets right to it!!

Fishergirl was rigged up and off in a flash, leaving me to fight the shore break for a live bait to toss out. A little Awela took my shrimp bait and was promptly send back out on the end of a 3’o hook on my baitcast rig.

I watched fishergirl work her way down the shoreline. Very focused, spray a few casts, move on down, constantly scanning the water looking for signs, the moment of clear water to get a glimpse of the reef, perhaps some structure that might hold baitfish a predator would be hunting for. All business.

Soon, she had disappeared around the bend out of sight. I switched my focus to the surrounding beach. Don’t know it’s a carry over from my youth or something, but, I like looking at rocks. Yea, ha ha, laugh if you want! I’ve built a Japanese garden in my yard and have learned a little about form and placement, so, I’m always looking for interesting shapes in natural settings. I was sitting there messing with my camera when my bell rang and a little rip of the ratchet suddenly electrified the air!

My “Frankenstein” rod (Kimura Fenwick top with an unknown bottom half I bought at a garage sale) and the Daiwa XSHA with 40 overpowered the small yellow spot and it was soon at my feet. I looked for fishergirl, but, she was nowhere in sight, so, I ran over to my tackle box to get my tagging kit. After a couple of quick pics, measure and tag I took the fish back to the water to revive it a bit, it was strong and didn’t take long to start kicking hard and fighting me to get away. So off it went!


I caught another bait and threw it out and waited for fishergirl to get back. I was feeling like the bad host catching when I hadn’t gotten her on a fish yet. Shoots! Did I just take her fish? She certainly deserved it since she worked  10 times harder then I had. Oh well….

When she got back I was bummed to hear she had no luck, but, like a true fishing friend, she was happier than I was when I told her about the 19″ Yellow spot!

Although we stopped to look at a couple more spots, this would be the end of fishing for the day. After lunch in Haleiwa we headed back over the hill to meet Mr. fishergirl and reluctantly give him back his wife! All kidding aside it was a great day spent with a great new fishing friend!

I’ll have to say this, I know a lot of guys who moan about not catching much, but, don’t work anywhere near as hard as fishergirl does. They need to get with the program and start to fish like a girl, uh I mean a fishergirl that is!!

The Old Man

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“Yea, before time ova hea had pleeeny papio!”

Dean and I had just been laid off from our jobs and were spending our first summer unemployed since graduating high school. We were dunking some spinners at little beach park in Waialua. Back then it was actually just an empty lot. An old man had walked over to see what we had caught and that was his response when we told him that we hadn’t had any luck.

I recall at the time we were a little bothered by his remark initialy, perhaps fueled by the fact that we had no time limits on our fishing and still our fish cooler remained empty! Ah well, he was just curious, He no doubt had fond memories of fishing in the area and just wanted to talk story. He told us he lived in Waialua all his life and had fished there for many years. He didn’t fish anymore, he said, he was too old.

When he came by we were just about start to packing up to go home. I don’t know if it was the “pleeeny papio” or  the thought of not being able to fish anymore that made us change our minds, but, that we did. Instead of breaking down our gear and heading home we shoved our still rigged poles and coolers in the car for a quick trip to the store to restock our supplies!

As we drove to the store we laughed saying that someday we were going to be the old men telling the young boys how there used to be pleeeny papio! We nearly ran off the road laughing when Dean said “I guess we better start catching or we goin have to lie to da kids!”

Fast forward to the present and we find ourselves a lot older and perhaps a tad wiser! We’ve put in our time, paid our dues as they say and actually do catch more fish than we used to. I’m not saying we catch ulua every time out or anything, but, lets just say we’ve lowered our expectations these days and have realistic catch targets. We still whitewash sometimes, but, more often then not we get something to take home or release back into the sea.

Oio about to be revived and released.

Catch and release, now that’s probably the biggest change in our fishing philosophy and perhaps the most important!  It all started when Dean called from California saying he had been giving fly fishing a try and was really enjoying it. He wanted the boys to come up and give it a shot! “Fly fishing?” I asked suspiciously. “Yea, it’s pretty cool, more like hunting, ’cause you actually see the fish and target a specific one!” “You catch anything?” “Yea, rainbow trout!” “Did you eat ‘um?” “Nah, released ‘um.” “what?”

Despite our initial scepticism, we all ended up in Northern California, stuffed into neoprene condoms, uh, waders and kookie little vests that looked too short. Turns out though, fly fishing was pretty cool! I ended up going yard, bought my own waders, boots, kookie vest and even wrapped a G. Loomis 4wt rod when I got back home to Kona.

After catching a few fingerlings in a local stream near Deans house to get the feel of things, we headed north to fish the upper Sacramento river and it’s tributaries in the Trinity Alps. We had decided the best way for us to really learn was to fish on private land, somewhere that they supplemented the wild stock in the streams with farm raised fish giving us better chance of hooking up. The thing was that these types of places are normally catch and release only. We all chipped in and rented a cabin on a private ranch that gave us one mile of well stocked stream to ourselves! We all caught and released fish and had great time doing it! Next challenge, mastering the dry fly! That’s a story for another forum.

Back home in Kona, the first release was a papio I estimated at about 3 pounds. Tagging kits weren’t available back then so it was just a simple admire, quick picture and release. Felt pretty good actually! Since then several ulua, a bunch of papio and oio have been fought to submission, revived and set free!

My tagging kit.

I recently got tagging kits for papio and ulua. Perhaps if we keep at this we can change that line to “Still get pleenty papio!”

Tako Time

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It irked the heck out of me, Dean would just say, “Look for tuned over rocks or you can see their color”. Yea, so easy…. hours and hours of swimming around looking, but, not finding anything was getting old.

But, there I was swimming again! “Just look for da holes!”, sure, no problem! OK, so I start poking any holes in the reef I saw, big, small, rocks piled up, no rocks! “How ’bout dis one, or dis one!” I thought to myself as I stabbed at any hole, “or dis….ooo, what dat?” A small tentacle waved out of the hole!

It was a little guy, barely legal size, but, since it died of fright when I tickled it with my spear, I had to take it……uhem.

Did this first find open the floodgates to tako diving stardom? Nope. Next time out, swimming again!

Well, I’m older now and perhaps it’s just being more patient, I seem to have better luck finding tako. I don’t consider myself a “tako diver”, I just dive for tako. What’s the secret? Well, I don’t know about a secret, but, I’ve found that pretty much everything people had told me about tako diving was true! Problem is I never understood what they were saying until I started to find tako myself! Put it this way, how do you describe someone who is a master of disguise? “Oh well, sometimes he’s blond with long hair other times he get short red hair, once in a while he get beard, sometimes only long side burns” . Well, I think you get the picture. How you gonna find someone in a crowd with a description like that!

So, how do you learn to find tako? One way is to find someone who is a good tako diver and also a good enough friend that they will let you shadow them on a tako dive. I don’t mean just go dive together, you gotta be right there along side them. They’ll have to be patient enough to just point out the hole without poking the tako or teasing it until you’ve had a chance to see the tako in the hole! Understand though that it still may not be easy to see ‘um! They may end up putting their spear right up to the opening of the hole to get you to see it. The tako will see you long before you see it! Sometimes you can be looking at a hole with a tako in it, but, not see it, however as you drift past it’ll be watching you and often will move a little to keep sight of you, that’s when you get ‘um!!

One thing that has helped me a lot is dressing comfortably for the dive. By comfortably I mean warm! A long sleeve wet suit is a must for me! What warm does for you is allow you to relax and take your time which is a must for tako diving.

I’ve taken my grandson on a few dives with me and have found tako each time. I think the reason is when I dive with him, I have to go real slow to keep him next to me. Obviously I want to keep him safe and I guess I’m also motivated to help him learn. I figure if I can teach him to catch tako, grampa don’t have to do long dives by himself any more to get bait! Maybe someday! Right now he doesn’t last too long in the water, skinny kid so he gets cold fast.

A good friend of mine and a very good tako diver back in the day always told me that once you find a tako, you should carefully search the immediate area, good chance you’ll find others. This helped me a great deal as I would stay near Dean when we dove so I knew when he scored one. I would immediately poke my head up to mark the spot, then scour the area and yea, a couple of times I was able to find another tako near by! 

Some guys just have an instant knack for it, others like me struggle for years before developing, as they call it “the eye”.  As I mention I don’t consider myself a very good tako diver, but, I find them now and then. The hard work is worth it though! Tako equals good eats, whether you cook or smoke the tako yourself or get fish to eat using it for bait!

Dats what I'm talking about!!!

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!