Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Spooky Hawaii Unfiltered

Gad dang pretty water - North Shore 
We went to Kauai in January - Hawaii is pretty dern awesome.

Naomi and I may be the only people we know who had never been to Hawaii - so we went for 2 weeks.

The hiking and snorkeling were really really good. If the water is clear I would even say Snorkel instead of Fish as you will learn a lot more.  And since mid-day fishing is so so sparse and so random due to the clear water and lack of structure that I would say hike all day instead - and fish LATE afternoon and or dusk if you can familyman. Thats pretty much true most fishing places in fair weather... unless you need the water to warm up or you have day-active open-water fish like Mackerel or Bluefish around. But with Hawaii clear water and your target species being very transient mobile blow-by predators it seemed even more true in Kauai.

….so here's the fishing report....

I fished all saltwater - mostly the North Shore of Kauai and a little bit on Ohau.
The North Shores are getting the bigger surf in winter - so I had that as a factor everywhere.

Dark day had the papio inside a walled lagoon
I did manage to land a few Papio - the local word for juvenile Giant Trevally.  Papio = juvenile Giant Trevally and Ulua = Big Giant Trevally.  The adults (over 10 lbs. or so) they call Ulua. The typical macho way to fish for the really big ones is with live or cut bait hucked of a cliff on a big surf rod still-fished with 50lb. to 130lb. mono. They fish the cliffs so they can access deep water from shore. GT’s are eerily similar to the Jack Crevalle that we have on the East Coast of the US. - except they get a lot larger in Hawaii -  50 lbs. is really big in Florida but in Hawaii they can run over 100 lbs.!  I fished for big fish like this a few times in FL in 2002 but I don’t enjoy this type of fishing anymore.

Now I use a variety of artificials on a 6’6” 4 piece travel rod rated for 6-12lb. line. It is the beefiest 4 pc. travel rod Cabelas sells and it will fit in carry-on luggage.  For gear on Kauai - Hanapepe General had a lot of decent spinning gear and lures and their prices were good. I wish I had found them when I broke my reel on day 3!  I ended up fishing most of the trip with a lousy chinese reel - that in all fairness lasted almost the full 10 days that it needed to.

A coral head teems with life - South Shore 
Bobby Menks - a  local kayak fisherman recommended a lure that I am very familiar with called the Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow - and yo-zuri lures are beautiful and well designed but I am pretty much done with the multi-treble hook lures that can end up in a hooked fish’s eye or cheek - too many hooks. Moving away from hardbaits in saltwater altogether.

The highlight of the trip was a Papio in the shorebreak on a popper at first light !!
(The same wooden Hi-Roller popper I caught my biggest snook on in FL)


And then I got into them with a chartreuse curl tail in a laggoon on a cloudy day in the rain with discolored water. And if I were to go back I think the grubs would be the lure of choice for most conditions.  The locals fish a Carolina rig with a weight a couple feet of leader and an unweighted hook in a curl tail.   A fellow fisherman named Jerry on Ohau actually gave me a super cool homemade popping plug and some clear metal flake curl tail grubs as his secret weapon for Ladyfish.  Which intertestingly that lure with multicolor or “clown” flake is what sometimes actually is said to work on Mutton Snapper in the Keys - a fish notoriously hard to impossible to get on lure or fly. It wasn’t clear if Kauai has as many Ladyfish as Ohau...?? I did not see any Ladyfish while sorkeling or fishing on Kauai.  Flyfishermen reading this who are not familair with how awesome Ladyfish are - please go find out how hard they can pull !!

Lawrence Kansas on a clear day 
Jerry also told me they get small Amberjacks in the lagoons in summer - wow that would be cool!

I saw Mullet of various sizes and Needlefish school up in the lagoons in late afternoon in small schools of 20-30 fish or so but never any getting blitzed.

They also have an extremely pretty Trevally in Hawaii called the Bluefin Trevally which I was told fights even harder than the GT’s.  And a Surfer at the Surf Shop in Kapaa showed me a photo of 10lb. Bluefin he struggled with on a bass rod.

Apparently they eat Trevally in Hawaii ? Years ago I tried cooking a small Jack Crevalle that I had bled and iced right away after catching  - based on a recipe in Florida Sportsman - it was edible but not good and I would never kill one again unless starving. 
Amish man with perfectly ripe Breadfruit

In Hawaii with lures from shore you are pretty much fishing for Trevally or Bonefish or Barracuda. You kind of have to decide what you are targeting as the Bones are not much of fish eaters right? and the Cuda can bite through any leader material except steel wire.  I feel like the only roll-of-the-dice you have for the Trevally is some reef structure or drop off with dawn or dusk lighting and/or murkier water and false dawn/cloudy stormy day and/or all of the above.  The few sessions I had with them they blew through really quickly. I would only hook 2 or 3 and land 1 or 2.  In Florida we would get them to hang in a small basin on low tide and hammer almost any jig thrown in there for 15 min. sometimes.  Maybe Bonefish are more actively feeding mid-day on certain flats.. but alas Kauai has not many flats to speak of...that I saw at least. Anyone feel free to inform me on this Bonefish stuff.
A good spot on the East side Kauai

You just don’t have Snappers or Groupers here in Hawaii - which in Florida are your more resident inshore predator and associate with structure.  According to my hawaii fish book they do have a fish called a Grey Snapper or Uku on Hawaii that looks like an awesome gamefish - it occurs in 80 - 300’ of water!  I did see the largest species of Goatfish - the one with the spot - foraging on the bottom in 10-12 feet of water much like a bonefish.  I also saw a massive slowly cruising Bonefish while snorkeling in about 4 feet of slightly milky water.  And I saw a single specimen of the introduced Snapper while snorkeling at Lawai.
Napali Coast 

Small Barracuda zipped right through 55 lb. flouro leader 8 times in about 30 minutes one morning when I left my steel leader in the room ! Rookie mistake or Florida Cuda teeth are not that sharp! dang!  In fact I only landed 1 Cuda the whole trip. But if you put on steel in that clear water you can expect less hook ups from bigger smarter leader shy fish.  A spinning strategy for the Bonefish would be to put on a Skimmer jig that matches the sand and fish it so that it kicks up some clouds of dust. (more of this next time....) Note: Bring lots of small tan jigs!
web photo of the introduced Peacock Grouper
Thats pretty much it form shore - you got those 3 choices. I did catch a Manybar Goatfish and one Peacock Grouper.
The 9” grouper hit hard and fought really hard briefly as they do ...but this non-native species of grouper does not get very big and a 16” fish would be a big one.

What Hawaii does have a lot of is what a redfisherman would call “Crust” - or plenty of surface ripple to hide your presence. Gin clear water everywhere but never glass calm.

The Dance Macabre Giant Trevally 
I have a newfound respect for Lizardfish and Cornetfish which patrol the shorebreak well and peg any rubber lure not moving fast enough. The Lizards peg it in the head - whether they could fit it in their mouth or not. Lots of rubber lures came back missing tails from small Cuda or Sergeant Majors?  The Cornetfish with its long Seahorse style tube mouth - they are stealthy and don’t miss much either. You will learn to love / hate this fish if you fish lures or flies close to shore in Hawaii. I hooked one that pushed 4 feet and took line for a minute like a real fish. I don’t strip fast enough to avoid this fish so they had no problem slamming 5” soft plastics w a buried single hook. This fish is  a challenge to dehook.  Another reason I fished the soft plastic jerk lures as you can bury the hook completely in the body of the lure and avoid snagging coral or sea turtles which were feeding on the bottom in shallow water most places I fished.
why do i like this ? 

I saw very few people fishing - ?? Hmmm... why is this. I’ll confess - It is hard to fish here from shore. Maybe because the better season for fishing is March through September.  The first mate on the sunset sail we went on out of North Shore Ohau said most of the bait balls happen in August.  On the sail in 250’ of water they were dragging a spoon on the top of the water and hooked a 15 lb. Aku or Skipjack Tuna!
Napali Coast velvet mountains plunging to sea

The last morning I was there Naomi and I hiked to a quiet beach in the pre-dawn darkness.
I was fishing my red 'n white popper in the dark and between casts - out where I was casting I saw what looked to be 2 or 3 Trevally blow by and and pop and bust the surface and create some big swirls in a few feet of water in the way that fish with big foreheads can....but before I could land a second cast it was over and they were gone.

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