Jun 1, 2001

To Be or Not To Be - Sometimes It's Not To Be.

     Loosing a big fish is probably one of the most frustrating events that can befall a fisherman.  Loosing several consecutively can be downright maddening.  Unfortunately, I have had my share of lost fish and lost species.  Without a doubt, the most painful of which occurred on the island of Kauai in June of 2001.

     I won't spend much time on the non-fishing portion of the trip but I will say that (on the risk of sounding cliché) Hawaii was by far the most beautiful place I've ever seen. There was snorkeling, body surfing, sugar cane and pineapple fields, mountains to explore, and of course endless species of fish to count. 
Snorkeling was my favorite. However, this trip definitely falls into the "I-wish-I-had-a-better-camera-at-the-time" category.
A sunny evening from our room.
I had never even heard of spinner dolphins before these acrobatic little critters showed up beside our boat jumping up in the air and spinning like tops! Here's a token nature video to check out if you've never seen spinner dolphins before.
We took a drive up Waimea Canyon which is also known as the Grand Canyon of Hawaii. Don't ask me why...
"Woa dude, Mr. Turtle is my father. The name's Crush."
This little beauty is known as the Humuhumunukunukuapua'a.  You could also call it the reef triggerfish if that's easier to wrap your tongue around.
      My best friend Justin, my dad, and I went on two fishing trips while we were there. On the first, our quarry was peacock bass in a jungle lake high in the mountains. This was where the frustration began. Peacock bass were and still are very high on the list of fish that I would give my right arm to catch. Our guide was pretty good about finding the fish, but we unfortunately weren't too good about sealing the deal. The peacocks were spawning in the shallows and he could see them clearly since he was smart enough to bring polarized sunglasses, we weren't that smart, and that is not a mistake that I make anymore.
      Justin, being the best bass fisherman out of the three of us managed to catch a couple largemouths on a spinner bait, but we just couldn't get any peacocks. Finally, right before we had to leave to catch a flight to another island, our guide found a very promising bed with two peacocks sitting patiently on it just waiting to be caught. Unfortunately our guide was the only one who could see them with his sunglasses, so he tried to coach us where to cast and when to set the hook. This went over like a lead balloon. Justin and I both made multiple casts into the nest and we both apparently got bites, not that I could tell. Finally the guide yelled "Set!" and Justin jerked back his rod and the water exploded in a flash of gold and red as the peacock was hooked! We were all ecstatic for the 5 or 6 seconds that this lasted, then we all cried a little when the fish threw the hook. That was as close as any of us came to catching one that day, and that made the peacock bass the first species that I almost caught on that ill-fated trip.
      We tried to nurse our pride and lick our wounds by going body surfing and snorkeling over the next day or two. I got an extra kick out of this (no pun intended) because the month before this trip Justin had badly broken his ankle in a misplaced slide into home plate during one of our high school baseball games. As a result, he could only wear one flipper while snorkeling and it took great effort to keep from swimming in circles!
     The snorkeling and surfing was fun, and we even went on a night snorkeling trip complete with sightings of an octopus and several large moray eels. But we hoped to regain some of our fishing prowess by going on a deep-sea fishing trip. So we booked the trip and soon thereafter, the three of us set out again with high hopes of huge fish. We trolled with four or five big marlin lures that looked like huge squid skipping along the surface behind the boat. I was shocked when one of the reels started screaming as a fish pulled out line! At that time, I happened to be sitting in the fighting chair, so I was elected to catch the fish (this was completely innocent I swear).  I don't remember much about the fight, but since we were using broomstick rods and line that seemed as thick as a pencil, the 20 pound fish at the end of the line never really had a chance. Soon the gaff-man pulled over the rail a long skinny blue fish with beautiful silver stripes on the sides. "Ono!" called out the deckhand. "Oh yes!" I yelled in reply. He laughed and explained that the fish was called an ono in Hawaiian, and a wahoo in English. Whatever it was called, it looked huge to me, and it was certainly beautiful! 
     Justin was next in the hot seat, and he also soon brought in an almost identical wahoo. Then it was my dad's turn and he also caught another one just like the first two. Sooo... then it was my turn again, legitimately, without any funny business on my part at all. I was pretty pleased with how much action we had already had and didn't really expect any more bites for the day but I patiently waited in the fighting chair again.  Soon, sure enough the scream of one of the reels filled the stern of the boat and I wondered if it would be another wahoo or something new. This fish seemed to be different. The three wahoos before had made pretty short runs as soon as they were hooked, then they stopped and we reeled them in; this fish on the other hand, just kept on going and never stopped. When the deck hand finally got the rod to me, the reel was already a couple hundred yards of line lighter. A buzzing in my ears began and things started to go blurry when all of a sudden the deck hand yelled "Marlin! It's a marlin!". This had to be a joke right? There was no way I could catch a marlin. You had to put in some serious time on the water or get REALLY lucky to get one of those monsters that sometimes reached weights of well over 1,000 pounds.  I couldn't get that lucky could I?? No. These thoughts all flew through my head in a split second, just before the line stopped screaming out of the reel and the rod was no longer hard to hold on to. I reeled frantically, hoping the fish had just turned and started swimming towards me. But it hadn't. There was no fish there. It was over as abruptly as it had begun. The deck hand who had seen it jump guessed that it was around 400 pounds. The buzzing in my ears continued. That was not how I hoped that would end. 
     I'm not sure how much longer we trolled after that before the next bite came, but it did come. The captain called out "Mahi mahi!" which certainly got my attention. This fish (a dolphin in English, or sometimes called by it's Spanish name - dorado) was just as high up on my "most wanted species list" as the peacock bass! Maybe there would be hope for redemption after all! Maybe not. This fish wasn't even hooked as long as the marlin. After a short run, the hook pulled out, and we just kept on trolling. 
     I considered giving up and letting somebody else have a chance, the fish gods were after all, clearly mad at me. But I wanted to try just one more time. So I sat there in the fighting chair, and sure enough a few minutes later, a reel screamed and I got ready. This one never jumped but just kept on going, and going, and going. Then it stopped, and so did my heart. I had lost another fish! This was just not my day! I hung my head in shame and hopped out of the fighting chair to give Justin a much deserved turn.  After they reeled the lure back in, they could tell by the teeth marks on it and by how strong the fish seemed by his powerful run, that it was a big yellowfin tuna. It was certainly not my day.
     Of course, by that time I had successfully sucked all of the good fishing luck out of our boat and we never got another bite for the rest of the day, so we trolled back to the marina. I realize that it's called "fishing", not "catching", and sometimes you loose a fish or two, but dang! I had come so close to catching four species that I never expected to get a chance at catching. That was almost more than I could take. I was, and still am really happy about landing the wahoo, but 1 for 5 is not the kind of batting average that I'm used to while fishing!
     I'm not complaining. It was still an awesome trip that I'll always remember. And I've made peace with the fact that I'll just have to go back and try again to catch my marlin... and my peacock bass... and the dorado... and a yellowfin tuna. I'm well aware that it wouldn't be near as exciting if you always caught the fish, and that it's "the one that got away" or in this case "the four that got away" that keeps me coming back for more.
The spoils of our day of trolling in the Pacific. Note the cast on Justin's leg that didn't slow him down in the least!

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