Spyda's Blog

A Hawaiian Style Fishing Blog

Browsing Posts tagged Ulua Fishing

“Same old Bays” says Dean, I just nod in agreement. The tall ironwood trees still stand guard at the edge of the road, looking down at the small patches of naupaka fighting to reestablish after the hoards of 4×4’s and atv’s tore at them for years and years. Help has come in the form of large concrete blocks that prevent the entry of the motorized demons. Not especially pretty, but, effective none the less. They have brought back a touch of the peacefulness that we once knew here. I was first introduced to this little gem of a beach back in the mid ’70s when Steve brought me here to surf. It was also when I first met and got to know the boys. They had all been coming out to this area since the ’60s and had their own names for all the surf breaks along this stretch. Bays became our regular surf, dive and fishing spot. While a few things have changed over the years the one thing that has always been the same is the water. All the time we’ve spent in the water here has brought us to know the reef and currents well. The spot has become like and old girlfriend. We know her moods. We respect her when she’s angry and are always grateful when she’s generous.

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Naturally the ride out to Bays is familiar one for us. Over the years we’ve made that drive at all hours of the day and night. The decision to drive out here has on occasion been a questionable one when considering the number of glasses we raised prior to heading out.  Some of those late night  journeys resulted in us all sleeping in the car until the heat of the mid-morning sun would wake us. Sometimes we’d just get out of the car, take a pee, get back in and drive home.  In those early days we were mostly there to surf. A quick surf was always the best cure for a hangover. It always took one person to break the ice by paddling out, usually Steve, then one by one we’d drag our boards out and jump in.

While we’ve had some success fishing there and certainly a lot of good times, Keith remains as the only Zee Packer on record to score an Ulua there. A mystery we’ve circled around for many, many  years. It’s been a long while since we’ve caught much of anything there, but, there we were. Perhaps ecouraged by the oama in our live bait bucket, maybe just because it was comfortable being there. It was in fact the first time we had been out there since Keith passed away. Neither of us had said it out loud, but, I think Dean and I both felt it was the place to be that day.

Keith’s funeral had been a mixed bag of emotions. Touching bases with a few old friends, looking at the collage of pictures of his life and seeing his portrait on the mantle. This had been the first time any event had caused the whole gang to pull in the fishing poles and drive into town from our annual beach house vacation. With all that he and his family had been through in the last few years of his life you could sense that within the veil of sadness there was a breeze of relief and a feeling of joy knowing that he was done with the pain and in a much better place. The MC at the service gave a nod to the fishing gang by asking everyone to keep Keith in our hearts and minds and that perhaps Keith would bring a fish our way someday!

As we made the long drive back to the country from town we reflected on the service and talked about some of our favorite memories of Keith.  While the general mood was pleasent, I know it was tough for all of us to accept that we had just said our final goodbys to our brother.

Getting back to the beach house I wondered how much energy I would be able to put into fishing after such a draining evening. As Daniel and I sat drinking some beers on the deck Dean got right to checking the live bait well and re-rigging his lines. After a bit Dan and I finally decided to get on it too and got some baits on our lines and tossed them out. It was a clear beautiful night, so in the softer country lighting there were a ton of stars in view. As I was gazing up at them I saw a formation that looked like an Ulua with its mouth wide open ready to inhale a helpless baitfish! I was about to point it out to the guys when I thought better of it and decided it would only bring waves of drunken ridicule my way….

Just after midnight, Dean had gone down for the count and Dan and I were still up talking story when a hard bell ring penetrated the alcoholic blur! I looked up and saw the tip of my spinner rod dip out of sight behind the plants between us and the beach, wow fish on finally!! When I got to the rod I could hear the line smoothly peeling out of the Fin-nor despite the rather tight drag setting I was using. I removed the bell and the tie-down. After a few seconds the run eased up and the tip started to lift. I pulled the rod out of the spike and leaned back on it. The fish turned and headed left crossing Daniels line. I had to follow to the left to try and get it to clear. I had just managed to do that when it decided to head back to the right. This time it stayed clear and I shouted to Dan that it was coming in. A short while later we saw the flash of a white ulua in the shorebreak and the next wave tumbled it on to the sand! What’taya know? Ulua, first in a long time for me. I had not caught any ulua since leaving the Big Island over 18 years ago!

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Small bugga, but, definately ulua for sure. It would later weigh in at 14 pounds. The first thing that came to mind when I landed it was Keith! Keith had brought the boys an ulua!! I couldn’t stop repeating it the rest of the night, Keith brought us a fish! It made us all happy, it was a clear sign. The first sign came few days after Keith had passed when Dean had a dream. All his life Dean has had dreams about people close to him shortly after they die. In his dream about Keith, Dean said Keith told him he was fine and he looked good. The second sign was the ulua I saw in the sky that night. This ulua was the third and final sign, a confirmation if you will, for all of us that Keith was indeed okay and doing fine!

Keith had made the long ride home.

 

 

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!!

I talk about the core group of guys that cut our Ulua fishing teeth together all those years ago quite often. After much mis-adventure which included what seemed to us anyway, an inordinate amount of missed opportunities to catch fish of our dreams we took comfort in making a little fun of ourselves. It certainly wasn’t for lack of strikes as we experienced a fair share of those. We just wern’t able to capitalize on many of them. At times it felt like we were cursed, that the fishing gods were determined to show us every possible way to lose a hooked fish.

A couple of clubs on Oahu at the time were Atlapac and the Pacific Casting Club, taking the “Pac” theme from those club names we decided to call ourselves the Zee Pac Casting Club. Never truly formalized as an official club it was basically just us making fun of our own misfortunes. Given the number of times we had experienced the dreaded strike (Zeeeee!) and resulting breaking of our lines (Pac!!) Zee Pac seemed an appropriate name for us.

Fast foward to the present, we recently re-united with one of the original Zee Pac members Keith and when Dean came to town we decided fishing together would be a good chance for us to really reconnect and reminisce about the early days of the Zee Pac.

After securing a spot where we could overnight without getting hassled the plan was in gear! Just like the old days a tent, our gear and a cooler of bevera….um….bait! We were ready once again for fishing adventure!!

Adventure……..well, three old farts humping fishing and camping gear over a couple of hundred yards of sand was, in its self, quite the adventure! More squeaks and groans then a 30 year old Yugo going over speed bumps in a K-Mart parking lot!

One thing we were always pretty good at was rigging up a mean tent! Well, the weather report was predicting 25mph gusts and a 50% chance of rain so, we had our work cut out for us! What the heck were we thinking?

After about an hour, there it was! The little three-man (more like three-munchkin) tent and a strong wind-break to protect it! See, we know what we doing! On to the fishing.

We had done some diving here before so knew there were a good amount of baitfish to be had. Of course there was also a week old frozen tako in the cooler too. Dean and I set off down the beach with our small spin outfits rigged with floater set ups. Soon we had some lively hinalea lauwili in our live bait bucket.

The low tide had swung its way through and the waves picked up a touch as the rise began. An 18 inch snowflake eel was the first to bite one of our live hinalea baits. We put it out of its misery and set it aside for later. If we were sliding it would be one bait, but, since we were baitcasting it would be three.

Late afternoon, Keiths new Nitro takes a solid strike, it doesn’t seem too big, but, takes a few good rips straight out then turns. Oh oh…..line’s hung up….can’t tell if it’s gone or not. It’s cold and windy, but, why not, Keiths first strike on his new rod, I strip down to my surfshorts and jump in the water. I follow the line out to where I can feel it stuck and pull carefully away from the obstruction, it’s free, but, the line is cut off…

Zee Pac!

Disappointed, naturally, but, encouraged by the strike early in the rise we all get busy working our poles!  My hinalea comes back strong and lively so I toss it back out to give it another go while I prep the snowflake eel. I cut the head off leaving about another 5 inches or so of the body attached. The fillets are left attached to the head, but, cut away from the spine which is left in place, cracked once or twice to release some smell and the entrails hang from the head also.

After dinner the tide is really moving now, time for the puhi! Being that we had to hump all our gear out to the spot all I brought was my Rainshadow baitcaster, a 1567F Rainshadow blank the good folks at 5O7S (5 Oceans 7 Seas) were nice enough to special order for me. A step down from the 1569F which is the heaviest they make, the 1567F still has impressive power and very light weight. My return to fishing with conventionals has admittedly been a little rough, too much spinner fishing may have taken me out of rhythm, so, lately I have been leaving the spinner home to force myself to work on my casting. It’s finally starting to work and I am casting with much more consistency and adequate distance. Didn’t bring the big stuff so had to search for a bigger hook among my baitcasting stuff. I find a pack of complimentary hooks from Bruddah Bill at Ewa Beach Buy & Sell, they look like about size 26 or 28. Perfect!!

I get a decent cast out and set the rod in the spike for the wait. I stop for a second to think back to years ago when I lost a 540 Sabre with a Black Marlin 6’o on it out to sea on a vicious strike, gotta tie the rod down. I find a strong two foot section of driftwood, tie my safety cord to it and bury it two feet deep in the sand. All set!

10:30pm just starting to fade off to sleep…..calang calang….zeeeEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!! I shine my light down the beach and the Rainshadow is bent way over pointing out to sea the safety cord is a tightrope!! I get there unclip the safety cord and pick up the rod. It’s pulling hard, but, feels manageable, it’s still taking line then stops I get a couple of pumps in then it goes again, then, gone…….

Zee Pac…….

01:30am I’m dreaming about the strike all over again…no…wait!! ZEEEE……EEEEEEEEEEEE…..EEEEEE!! Another strike!! I pop up and shine down the beach again…the rainshadow is at full arch again!!! I finally get there and the line is still ripping! I unclip the safety cord and just stand there holding the rod and watch the line peel. It finally stops I pick up the rod and try to start working it…”wha da hell?” I was so pumped up I had pulled the spike right out of the sand with the rod! Dean shows up and helps me get the spike off, it’s running again….it’s way out there now! It stops again and I try to lean on it, it doesn’t budge. Another run, all I can do is hang on. I’m loving the Rainshadow though, it’s standing up well, not noodling out. Finally I lean back on it and get some line, then it takes it all and more back. This goes on for another 20 minutes or so, back and forth. Gain some lose some, now I’m gaining more than its taking so the reel is finally filling back up. Suddenly it stops the side to side and turns straight out and makes another run.

Zee Pac…..

I curse myself for not leadering up this rig before leaving home. At my age I wonder how many more opportunities like this are going to come my way. Complacency, it’ll get you every time! I should know better….next time…when the Zee Pac rides again!!

 

Ol’ skool

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When did I become old school? Have to admit I am. When I think back to days out on the lava fields on the big island I realize just how lucky we were as many of those places we used go to are now gone under new construction. In a few decades there will be even fewer places still.

Long way down, slow going, hot, I still miss it a lot!!

 

When we started, old school was things like Templars and full bamboo rods. Black Penn 6’os, Long Beaches and Jigmasters were the norm.  High speed Penn 6’os, 4’os and Newells were gaining popularity along with their kits to modify Penns. Daiwa had just entered the market with their Penn “clones”. Half and half rods were still common and one piece rods were the rule.

The new ulua blank in town was the Sabre 540, a two piece blank that came with a fibreglass dowel to splice it together. The standards were Lamiglass SB160 or SB162’s and the Fenwick 16810. Two piece ulua rods were the exception rather than the norm as they are these days.

A half & half and a Sabre 540 restored beautifully by Gilbert Madriga

So, there I was trying to get back into it after a decade plus hiatus. It’s not as though I totally gave up fishing, just didn’t go very often and outings were far, far less serious, fishing primarily with spinners. I’d rig up the big spinner when the family or neighbors picnicked or stayed at a beach house. Then Facebook came along and I started to seek out other fishermen to share the interest with and met “Bruddah Bill” on his Ulua Fishing page. I enjoyed talking fishing and giving beginners advice on the page. This eventually led to Bill inviting me to become a moderator on a new fishing forum he was starting up. I had no idea what that entailed, but, I dove in anyway just happy to feel a part of the fishing scene again! http://forums.ifishhawaii.com/

It was the “big” forum in town commonly referred to as “HFF” that taught me a lot about the “New School” and made me see that I was “Ol’ skool”.  The nice thing was that through the forum I was also able to re-connect with old fishing friends from my time living on the big island. http://www.ulua-fishing.com/hff/index.php

So, in this day and age of social media on the Internet, where are our historians? Is it just the data stored on servers that will become our historical libraries? As far as Ulua fishing, the only “official” Ulua fishing historians I know of are Brian Funai and John R. K. Clark. Brian was born into the family of an ulua fisherman and has done much research on the subject for articles he has written about ulua fishing history. John Clark, a former life guard has written a number of books about beaches in Hawaii and spoke to many ulua fishermen while researching his book “Guardian Of The Sea – Jizo in Hawaii” which chronicles the Jizo statues and obelisks placed as warnings near spots where fishermen have died.  Much of our sports deeper history is so to speak “under-ground” or local knowledge handed down from friend to friend, father to son or daughter. One of the old friends I mentioned re-connecting with through HFF is known on the forum as “kona-ulua-style”.  He is one of many who have transitioned from what the young guns these days call old school to the current state of ulua fishing. He continues to “pound” as they say, perhaps in a slightly more laid back fashion then back in the days of casting club affiliation and more serious, less family oriented outings, but, his knowledge of all things “Ulua” is un-questioned. Perhaps it’s people like kona-ulua-style, that we, who may be interested in the history of ulua fishing need to tap into to help keep the knowledge and adventures alive!!

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

“Excuse me, what is hoe low hoe low?”

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

“What?”

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

Blitz

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The happy campers!!

 

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

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

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

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

 

Wheels

2 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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