NO MARLIN BUT AT LEAST ONO SASHIMI!

PYGOYA, JULY 16, 2002

 

     The week before our scheduled Sunday fishing trip was a bit apprehensive. The radio warned of strong northern trade winds whipping up the ocean surface on the northern side of our Hawaiian island of O'ahu.  Haleiwa Harbor, from which we would depart on the Foxy Lady charter fishing boat, was the northern point of the island.  Would the trip be cancelled and the children disappointed? 

     We were told to be there earlier than our previous trips - 5:30 a.m. sharp. We also needed to make a pit stop along the way and fetch our invited guest, Jeremy Young, cousin of the kids.  Amazingly, the children woke up "without alarms" at 3:30 a.m.  Bronson ordered me to wake up as I was the only one still sleeping at 3:45 a.m.  I had ordered them all to sleep early the previous night but fell victim to insomnia myself.  I finally dosed off at 2:30 a.m., not a very good way to start a long voyage out to sea!  Anyway, cups of coffee kicked in, along with the sugary pastries.  Then almost surreal, we all sat up in the dark station wagon, going over 25 miles to our destination, with nonstop techno disco music on the radio, on this Hawaiian Sunday early morn!  The energy captured our excitement, kept us awake, and probably was a factor in us getting there "too early" at 5:15 a.m.  We almost beat the Captain to the boat!

     It was then that we discovered that our regular captain, the owner, decidedly to take the day off and we were greeted by strangers who would be in control of our trip, our destiny, our lives.  Luckily they were acknowledgeable, experienced, and in fact wonderful as far as public relations went.  Captain Eric memorized everybody's names from the start and deck crew Greg was a real friendly guy.  We even got to chat about the upcoming American football season including the University of Hawaii and the Denver Broncos, smart enough to draft last year's U.H. quarterback and receiver duo that set some college records.  Greg himself played sports at the local Kahuku High School (defensive linebacker) and U.H. (baseball pitcher).

     This year we had grown in expectations, no longer afraid of the "deep blue sea" or monster sized fish.  We, as a family, craved for big time action. We talked about the possibility of catching a hundrds of pounds yellow fin tuna (Ahi) or even the gigantic marlin.  We were inspired by a photo in the local newspaper showing a 1,100 pound monster caught in these very waters and photographed at Haleiwa Harbor.  The fish were around! 

     It turned out that the waters were accommodating to our plans.  It was the smoothest of all 3 voyages on the Foxy Lady.   We all did take our Dramamine sea sickness pills as usual.  Erlinda, my wife, was afraid she might get sea sick again like the previous 2 trips.  This time she had special wrist bands (one on each wrist) to receive a steady dose to see if this might be a more successful method of delivering the drug.  Turns out she didn't really get sea sick but remained on the verge of it throughout the trip. Therefore she lied down for the total 9 hours as standing made her feel worse. Plus she know thinks the dose was too strong for her system, making her sleep most of the time, totally out of the action.  Oh well, maybe she'll stay home next time.

     Houston caught the first fish, an 8 lb. Aku tuna.  Two struck early on, right after leaving the harbor, but Bronson's got away.  I'll not speak more about the catches as I'm sure the kids will write about this.  But I ended up with the lousy memory of losing the "big one."  It was my turn and the reel screamed bloody murder, with endless 100 lb line being dragged out.  I could do nothing but watch the reel give up line.  The crew said this was the one we were waiting for, something over a 100 lbs, maybe a big Ahi or even a marlin.  Suddenly the line stopped, the tension on the line slackened, - the sickening feeling that the fish was gone, and I'd never know what it was. Leave it to a beginner to screw it up.  Still feel the guilt, still try to think what else I should have done to have won that battle. Another first experience in life occurred as I watched on the deck the crew gaff, fling from the water to the deck, and bludgeon a tuna to subdue the frantic jumping about on ship. Guess I was amazed with my mouth open as suddenly some splashed on my face and I tasted blood!  Guess what?  Tuna's blood taste like my own!

     Those radio weather news turned out to be accurate.  Greg, the deckhand, told me that the boat had been taking a different journey for the whole week.  Instead of going due north, straight out to the open seas and along the Kahuku coastline, they have been taking alternate trips around the bend to the Waianae coast, sheltered from the northerly winds.  But, however, there were days when they caught nothing.  This day, this Sunday, Greg said suddenly the winds died down and so we could take the usual route to potentially more bountiful game.  Lucky us!

     Some of the visual experience along the way included lots of birds, including frigates and terns, sometimes resting by floating on the ocean surfaces, miles from shore.  We spotted small flying fish and even a dolphin which at first Greg said was a pilot whale, very close to our boat.  Kids loved it.  "Look a whale!"  Then there were other fishing boats also following the birds.  Birds feed on small fish and scraps left by larger fish feeding on smaller fish. So where there's birds there's under there.  We fished pretty much with land in sight but about 10 miles from the coastline.  We spent much time along the "ledge" where the water suddenly gets deeper, like hundreds of fathoms deeper.  Here is where many predators lurk.

     I managed to find time and ask Eric whether or not the boat and its noise scared the fish we where trying to be among.  He said there is no solid research on the matter.  However, the common way of thinking about this among fishermen is that the boat is itself a school of fish in the minds of larger predators.  And the trailing lures that we troll are the weaker fish of the school, trying to catch up with the main school of fish.  "Easy pickings."  Sounds logical I guess.  But what about the loud propeller noise and the major disruption of water flow and current they produce behind the boat as it trolls at 8 miles per hour?  Eric said the commotion is "activity of life" and attracts fish.  For sure, he also stated, the boat doesn't scare the predators.  He has seen a marlin come right up to the boat to check it out!  

     I also asked about commercial boat tuna fishing. He explained that when a school was sighted, the crew would throw buckets of small sardines or Nehu overboard.  In such deep water, the Nehu would quickly all dart under the boat for cover against the large tuna.  Then with hand poles equipped with barbless hooks, many lines would enter the water with bright material on it. In such a frenzy of catching the swarms of Nehu, many tuna will inadvertently bite the bright colored hooks. This way loads of tuna can be caught quickly and efficiently.

     Greg spoke of night fishing.  He said boats never leave port at night if there's any moonlight at all.  It has to be totally dark to catch "Menapachi" and other night active fish.  By turning on a light onboard, such fish are attracted to the boat.  Another fact:  North Shore waters are among the roughest waters of these Hawaiian Islands.  In fact, many foreign sports fishing enthusiasts think twice before bringing their expensive boats into these local tournaments.  Kona on the Big Island has much calmer waters and thereby is the fishing capital of this state.  Luckily, North Shore waters are most calm during the summer months, when the kids are out of school, and a trip like this makes family sense.  

     A fun moment was when I was standing with Erlinda at the edge of the stern, facing the front of the boat, right next to the central fishing pole.  Suddenly there was this loud snap with a sudden movement of the pole, pushing Erlinda fowards.  She screamed; I thought the boat had hit something. Turns out the noise was the rubber band breaking when a fish hits the line and starts the line running out along with the fish.  Turns out it was Rochelle's big ono experience commencing.  She jumped into the fighting chair and landed our last fish of the day.  Erlinda, startled, went back into the Cabin where it seemed safer.

     We ended this year's trip with an invitation by cell phone to join the Young family for dinner at their beautiful big house in Mililani Mauka.  Sandra, Jeremy's mother and my sister, made a big pot of chicken curry, very yummy with rice for a crew returning from a day at sea.  Jon, her husband, fired up the outdoor barbecue grill and we all enjoyed our Ono steaks caught only hours ago by little Rochelle.  She beamed with pride in providing the fish for dinner. Fitting for a makeshift sumptuous meal, their neighbor knocked and we suddenly had fresh, still warm, chocolate cake for dessert.  We all finally got back home and went straight to bed.  Except poor Erlinda, stuck having to find refrigerator space for 50 pounds of sliced , fish.