Honolulu, Hawaii, June 22-25, 2012
It was reconnaissance fly fishing, checking out a new area for bonefish while also killing some time while the family was at a shopping mall nearby. It was super windy, people were swimming nearby, wind surfers were carving up the flats and the tide was peaking out over two feet. Not exactly the best of conditions but it was fishing.
I often complain to the two Steves and my brother that we always fish the same-old-same-old every time and we never bother looking for other grounds to fish. They always point out that it’s tough to fish other areas, you’ll be a relative novice since you don’t know “the spots” to hit and getting into fish might be a problem, when the place you ARE fishing has fish and you know where to go to get them. So it was time to check out another area. I fished here before, but it was a very long time ago and I didn’t know if the area was still viable. I took a long walk down the beach then fished back in what was hellacious conditions. High tide, dirty water and strong winds while making sure I didn’t hook a swimmer or come out on the wrong end of a collision with a wind surfer or kite boarder.
I washed down the gear then waited at a park bench for my ride. As I sat there an elderly gentleman, who I noticed had some heavy duty spinning gear tucked away in the trunk of his car, came up to me puffing away on an electronic cigarette and began a conversation with the usual, “Got anything?”
I told him I hadn’t seen a fish much less get a bite and was just on my way home. I asked him if he had any luck and he told me he blanked out also. Then he began talking about fishing in general and I just sat back on the bench and listened. It was a good thing I was sitting down and midway through the conversation I also decided to also keep my mouth shut.
He talked about fishing in the area and how it used to be pretty good in the “old days” with “plenty of big ones” and so many fish that even though there were “lots of guys dunking” (bait fishing) they would fill several coolers every weekend.
“We would get big o’io (bonefish) big papio (jacks) all the time. But after a while fishing not that good,” he said as he shook his head. “No ‘mo big fish. This area not that good anymore.” He took a long drag from his cigarette and blew the smoke into the air.
“Too many guys fishing. And too much lay netters. Lay netters, they take everything,” he sighed as he continued to puff away. “They need to outlaw nets.”
“I used to catch moi (Pacific Threadfin) here. I didn’t catch for long time, but one time I caught but was small,” he said as he held his fingers about 5 inches apart. “It was small and not in season...but I kept it. I figure if I don’t keep it somebody else is going to keep it so I might as well keep ‘em.”
At this point I was wishing my ride would arrive before I said something I would probably regret. The old man continued to puff away, his smoker making a light buzzing sound as he inhaled. The fumes smelled like cheap perfume.
“Get oama (baby goatfish) here too, further down the beach. They been coming in late--maybe around September,” he said. He reloaded the cigarette and added that his friend “like to catch oama for use for bait but has no patience to catch them with pole so we come down at night and throw net the school. Illegal, but game wardens no work at night so nobody knows.”
At this point I was thinking that this guy has balls of steel to complain about the gill netters taking everything and also not an ounce of brains to consider that all his illegal acts, and even his legal fishing acts like keeping all the fish they hook and filling the coolers, has contributed to the lack of marine life in this area.
There was a long moment of silence. He stared at the ground nodding his head, the cigarette dangled from his left hand. I looked at the ocean, a dirty steel blue wind-blown mess, and watched as a wind surfer sent spray flying into the air as he jumped a wave.
“Yeh...no more big fish like used to have anymore,” he stated. “You fly fisherman, eh? I seen you guys. Looks like that hard to cast. You catch anything? Where you guys go?”
“I haven’t caught anything yet,” I told him, which was the truth because I haven’t caught anything. Today.
“One fly fisherman said get big o’io down the beach but I no like walk there with all my gear--too heavy for me. But he said get big ones, maybe thirteen pounds plus.”
Who’s the idiot fly person who’s telling this guy anything I wondered. I told him I haven’t caught anything that big around here. I kept scanning the parking lot for my ride.
He continued to subtly pump me for information about where I fish and what kind of fish I usually catch but I wasn’t playing his game. Dang. Where was my ride? I needed an escape vehicle.
The man was loading another cartridge into his smoker when I heard the blast of a car horn. My ride had arrived. I grabbed my stuff and hurried off. As we pulled out of the parking lot I watched him unload his heavy surf rods. He was gunning for big game. I hoped his stories were true. I hoped there were no fish in the area.