Hui Wa'a Kaukahi

Not One, But Two Second Chances

By Steve Harris

It was Saturday, September 13, 2008, and eight paddlers in Hui Wa’a Kaukahi Kayak Club were paddling from Kahana Bay to Malalaekahana Bay.  It was a gorgeous morning with very light wind.  We got off the beach about 9:30 and were on our way.  Most of us headed out the channel for deeper water.  Norman decided to go inside the reef and soon he called on his radio to say he’d scored a nice 'omilu .  That was encouraging.

Not long after that I got a solid hit on my 'opelu bait and my reel was singing my favorite song.  “All right!”  I grabbed my reel and swung my feet out of my boat.  “This is gonna be good!”  The water was pretty deep and I wasn’t too worried about him getting into the rocks.  I failed to reel in my second pole, however, and I would live to pay for that mistake.  I put the pressure on and he started towing me and actually spun my boat around at least 360 degrees.  That’s where the other line got twisted around my main line. That was a hassle, but I managed to land this beautiful 13 pound ulua aukea.  I got on my radio to tell the others that dinner was in the boat.  Great!

Steve brings home his sailfishI got untangled and resumed my course out to sea and toward Laniloa Point.  The wind was still very light and I was enjoying the Punalu’u and Haula mountains, but there was no fish action happening.  I was about 3 miles off the Polynesian Cultural Center as noon approached and I thought I should see how my 'opelu was faring.  Shortly after that, I got a tap on my rod.  “OK, now’s the time to check it.”  I grabbed my rod and swung out for easier reeling and to take a break.  I looked back for my bait and immediately noticed some kind of fin back there.  “Oh boy, a second chance, go to free spool!”  I flipped my bail open and line started peeling off my Penn 850.   Somehow I had the courage to go with it for many seconds before I decided the time was right.  I flipped the bail back on and pulled hard on the pole. 

“Good, good, there’s pressure, and the reel started singing again.  I looked back and got the surprise of my life: I saw a head with a bill come out of the water about 150 feet away.  “Holy smoke, it’s a marlin or a sailfish!!  This is gonna be exciting.  This is sizable; bigger by far than anything I’ve ever hooked before.”  He ran out some more and I settled in for a good ride.  I sat and pumped as we sized each other up.  He got his head outta the water a coupla more times with some slashing head lifts.  I couldn’t see the hooks so it looked like the free spooling had paid off; he’d swallowed the hooks and was well hooked deep in the mouth.  I had big monofilament leader and I hoped that would stand up to his raspy mouth.  He sounded and towed me back toward Kaneohe.  I got him up to the surface and right next to the boat.  I was shocked at how big he looked.  “How am I ever going to land this baby?” 

I opened my back hatch and got out a couple of pieces of 5/16ths line to somehow lasso him or something.  I didn’t have a plan, his tail looked huge and his bill looked very lethal.  He took off again and went down.  I kept the pressure on and my pole was bent over almost double.  I got him back up and grabbed the leader, but he took off again, circling off to the right and back in a head out semi-tail walk.  His big right eye was looking right into mine.  He was beautiful and blue.  I hassled around with him some more and got him back to the boat again.  It was time to go for it and I grabbed the leader, but he got his head under the boat and I couldn’t grab the bill.  I got him out, but he got feisty before I could grab him and he jumped across the back of the boat!  Now he’s behind my back, I can’t see what’s happening, and I feel my main line go snap!  “Oh no, he’s gone.  Boo!”          

I swing my feet back to the left and into the cockpit and sit there kind of stunned and very disappointed.  But then… “Oh wait, what’s this?  My other rod is going off.” (This is my smaller Penn 550 rig whose Yo-zuri crystal minnow lure was sitting on the surface of the water on the left side of the boat.  I had reeled it in during the fight to avoid the problem I had in the morning with the ulua.)  Of course I grabbed it to see what was up.  The lure is hooked to one of the lines I had earlier readied, and somehow it’s hooked to the leader in the fish’s mouth.  I still don’t know how the heck this happened, but it was my second, second chance, and I started working my way back to the fish.  He seemed really tired and he came right to me as I got to the Yo-zuri leader, then to the rope, then to the original leader. 

Yale helps Steve balance his 61# sailfish“It’s now or never!”  I got his head out of the water and I grabbed his bill with my paddle gloved hand.  He went crazy, and I hung on for dear life as he shook and shook.  I gave a mighty heave and pulled his head over my legs and across the boat.  (Remember, I’m sitting down and have very little leverage.)  His tail was in the water on the port side, and his head and that scary bill were over the starboard side.  He was still and quiet; it felt like it was over.  I tied one rope around his tail to make sure.  I then lifted up his head and put it between my pole holders, and I put another line in his gill and out his mouth.  He was still motionless.  Believe it or not, I think this whole fight only took about a half hour.  I think the kayak towing really sucks the energy out of the fish we catch.

I found I could paddle with him laying on my left leg and his tail behind my back.  I struck out for Goat Island (Mokuauia) and my buddies.  I got there in about an hour and everybody was very excited.  I measured him with my tape and he was 7 feet 3 inches long.  That’s half the length of my boat!  We took pictures and soon headed for Stan’s house where we were camping for the night.  We took him to Tamura’s in Hau’ula and the great staff there helped us weigh him – 61 pounds!

What a catch!  Extreme, blue water, big game kayak fishing at its finest.  To make it even better, I was fishing in the Aquahunters Makahiki Tournament, as well as the Hui Waa Kaukahi Progressive Tournament.  This might be the “fish of the year” in both.  I think this is also the first kayak-caught sailfish on O’ahu. 

What a day!  You always hear the famous stories about the monsta that got away.  This time, though, I caught two major lucky breaks and landed the big one.  I’m stoked…

© 2008 Hui Wa'a Kaukahi