On Monday, I came into work and started the normal daily routine we do every morning. Makani wasn’t in the office yet. I started ordering tickets for tours, replying to emails, and other normal office stuff that I knew that needed to be taken care of for the day. Makani came in and took one look at me, he said “Good you got on board shorts, we’re going fishing today!” (What a hard job right?) Makani then told me that we (and by “we” I mean Makani because he knows how and where to fish the specific type we targeting) were going to be filming for a T.V. show called “Hawaii Goes Fishing.” I started getting all the gear ready; fly-fishing rods, spinner rod, tabbies (hard felt sole shoes for walking on reef so you don’t cut up your feet), and two throw nets. After getting all the gear in the truck, we were off to a secret fishing spot to hopefully find and catch an Oio (pronounced o-e-o) or bonefish, a prized fish that people come from all over the world to fish for in Hawaii. Now, I grew up fishing all my life but that was in lakes, rivers, and creeks on the mainland, but in Hawaii I spearfish, which is a very different skill set than using rods and reels. I was excited and intrigued to learn a new way to catch fish.
On the ride to the “secret spot,” (all spots are secret when fishing) Makani and I spoke about various laws and bills trying to be passed that will affect fishing here in Hawaii. This is a big part of the Hawaiian culture and fishing in order to provide for your Ohana. We pulled into the secret spot and we were met and greeted by Margo, the hostess, and Dean, the camera man, from “Hawaii Goes Fishing.” After getting all set up Makani gave a lesson on how to use a fly-fishing rod to Margo (and me) on camera. Makani is a self-taught fly-fisherman, who’s been doing this for 10+ years and has caught some amazing fish using a fly-fishing set up. As he was going over how to cast the rod and fly to Margo, I was intently listening. I’ve tried, and failed horribly, to fly fish before but never in the ocean. After listening to Makani for 5 minutes, I learned more about fly-fishing how to’s, the do’s, and the don’ts than I have in my 20 something years of fishing. Now that Margo had the jest of it down, Makani then went over the basics of using a throw net, another method of fishing used here in Hawaii. We started to walk out to the reef, so Makani could show the crew how to use a throw net to catch fish. “10 minutes or less and I know we’ll have fish,” Makani said half jokingly as we walked out.
On the way out we were all keeping an eye out for signs of fish, such as the tails of the Oio breaking the surface when they eat in shallow water ranging from 10 inches to waist deep. As we were walking Makani, who was in the lead with the net, stopped and pointed out a school of Manini or Convict Tangs (side note: Margo had stated that she loved Maninis as they brought back childhood memories of fishing). He slowly crept forward trying not to spook the fish. Then, he slightly bent at the knees and in one fluid movement threw the net in a perfect cast, or throw, and landed it right on the school of Manini. He had at least caught about 15 good, pan-fry sized fish, so it was back to the shore to change our gear. Walking back in I thought to myself, “Ha, Makani was right! Only about 15 minuets to get fish using just the throw net, and most of that time was used on the walk out to the reef.”
Now, we broke out the fly-fishing rod and a spinner rod. Using two types of rods would increase our chances of getting the elusively prized Oio. Makani took the fly fishing rod and Margo used the spinner rod, with a simple set up of a small lead, a small hook, and some shrimp for bait. It was now go time with all the fishing gear. With Dean and I following Makani and Margo set up, we were hopeful to catch an Oio. As we walked the reef waiting for a bite, I kept watching Makani and how he was using the fly rod, intensively studying his movements. We were waiting and talking story (local slang for having conversations or sharing old memoires) when Margo started to get a nibble! Makani told Margo to wait for just the right moment to set the hook, as fish would nibble at the bait for a little bit before they fully bite down. At the perfect moment Makani told Margo to reel in the fish. As Margo did, she stated she thought the fish came off, but as she reeled the line in we could see the fish swimming in towards us still on the hook. As the fish got closer I could tell it was a Weke or better known as a Goatfish. Makani went to unhook the Weke, it twitched and jumped off the hook. “Ha that makes it easy,” Makani said jokingly. I thought that we got some good video footage of us catching fish, now we was to get the Oio.
We fished for a few hours and Dean stated that his battery had about an hour left and we hadn’t got an Oio yet, so unfortunately we decided to head in. Makani was determined to catch an Oio, so as he was walking back to the truck wading through the water he continued to fish. Margo, Dean and I walked back on shore; we talked story about as we waited for Makani to get back to the truck. This is when Makani came walking up with a shine in his eyes. “BRAH, get the net I just seen a school of like 30+ Oio,” Makani stated excitedly. He grabbed the net and headed back out. I threw back on my tabbies and ran to catch up so I could help. Following behind Makani, I was slowly moving to make sure I never spooked the fish. Makani froze and said that the fish were right in front of him! Again with a perfect throw, he threw the net right on two Oio. CHEEHOO!! As we wrangled the fish out of the net and into the bag Makani said, “Bra, look another Oio!” Slowly creeping up on another school, Makani got prepared into his stance to throw. After a second or two, he threw the net and landed another Oio. Now, with three Oio in the bag we decided to head in. We got in, cleaned off the gear with a quick rinse, got the fish in the cooler with ice and brine. Makani stressed that this last step was super important to keep the fish fresh. After saying our good byes to Margo and Dean, Makani and I got into the truck and headed home. Not a bad day of work, I got to learn the basics of fly-fishing and watch my boss catch some fish in a traditional Hawaiian way, and in my opinion pretty bad arse technique. Lucky we live Hawaii nei!
-Jack Wells is a tour guide at Keawe Adventures. Between 2005-2009 he served in the US Marine Infantry and is an Iraq veteran.