Frank and I have been chasing reports of schools of white papio marauding bait in the deep channels but we’ve always been a paddle or two behind. Bolo-ing on the last mid-morning search, we decided to try the evening bite. Conditions were challenging, with gusts over 20 mph and rain threatening.
Not much was showing on my portable fish finder’s screen so we pushed through the wind to get to the spot we were told held the whites. Fish appeared to be a few feet above the bottom on the protected side of the papa but nothing wanted to take our live oama offering. As we waited for the 5pm witching hour to wake the fish, the steady wind blew me closer to shore. There were pockets of fish hovering near the bottom that I assumed were white papio waiting for the evening frenzy.
Suddenly fish began to show up on the “sidefinder” view of the fish finder, indicating fish near the surface directly in front of my kayak. My Huminbird Fishin Buddy’s display is almost toy-like but I’ve come to learn that when fish are spotted near the surface like that, they are bait fish spread out on the surface over a sandy bottom. I paddled my kayak’s bow like a hammerhead shark surveying side to side until I could also mark fish below me. Suspended fish are either bait schools thick in the water colum or white papio stacked up under the bait fish.
When I took this photo, the surface bait fish weren’t showing up in the sidefinder view on the left of the screen, but the composite view of what I had passed over indicated bait fish thick under me. Despite all this bait, nothing took the live oama I was deep trolling behind me.
Remembering I had brought a jigging rod in hopes that we’d be sitting over a school of whites, I clipped on a 3/4 oz, 2 inch compact tungsten jig and dropped it down but wasn’t surprised when nothing took it. Out of boredom, I cast it out and jigged it back as I watched the fish finder’s screen. Something was pulling back! It felt like a fish but the Shimano Type J rod and Tranx 400 easily controlled it.
Stoked that the compact little jig had worked on the school of whites, I tried to whistle Frank to get his attention but the wind blew the sound inland, not out to him.
Paddling into the headwind as efficiently as possible, the trolling rig went off! I was stunned to land a 12.75 inch omilu on the oama a few feet from where the white had bit. I left the bait out of the water this time and finally made it out to Frank. By the time we made it back in, the whites and the bait fish were gone! Nothing showed on the fish finder and nothing hit our bait. Ugh… I really had hoped Frank and I would finally experience a white papio frenzy.
We headed back to our launch spot and stopped at the spot Frank lost a screamer. The fish finder’s screen was blank so we spread out and slowly paddled in. I took a blind strike near the reef edge and had to put the rod in the holder 3 times and paddle back into the channel before landing a 14 inch white.
What was interesting about these 3 fish were their stomach contents. The 12 inch white was stuffed with small opae despite being around the bait school. The 12.75 inch omilu was full of inch and a half nehu, which looked very similar in length and profile to the tungsten jig. The 14 inch white had a small mantis shrimp and a flat, whitish piece of cartilage stretching its stomach. All were well fed and none appeared to have any oama in their bellies. No wonder our oama baits have been ignored.
Ever the team player, Frank was happy for the catches and new understanding gained but agreed we need to improve communication on the water. He suggested looking into 2-way radios like the offshore kayak guys use. Do you guys have any recommendations?