It had taken me 10 months to get my first awa awa of 2017. Once I got it, and fish cake was made, I set my sights on my favorite fish to make poke with: uku. I’ve caught a couple by boat on the Big Island and at The Banks, but never from a kayak. We hadn’t ventured out deep enough to target uku before, because our watercraft and the predominate weather conditions prohibited it.
But I heard of a spot not far from shore where kayak divers get small uku and figured if they could reach them we could too. Normally the trades were too strong there, and even medium surf would make it dicey to return through the reef passage, but a forecast promised small waves and winds under 10 mph. Frank would try out my second, ancient kayak, a flatter bottomed, more stable Aquaterra Swing on his kayak maiden voyage.
We had 5 live oama each, of the big 5 to 7 inch size, along with cut opelu. The beach launch looked doable. The wind began to pick up so we hurried out. My portable fish finder wasn’t marking much fish on the bottom but was instrumental in telling me the depth we were in. At 30 ft we put out the live oama and tried to keep ’em near the bottom despite the current and wind drift. We slowly paddled deeper and suddenly my ratchet gave a sustained squeal. Since it was so shallow, and the strike was strong, I assumed I was fighting a good sized omilu. I felt head shakes, and the fish pulled towards the bottom, but its strength waned quickly after that initially run back towards shore. I couldn’t believe my eyes – UKU! Just a few mins out, in such shallow water and the target mid-water fish had been hooked. No way.
I really wanted to keep my first uku but it was small for a fish whose state record is 39lbs and I thought was not that abundant. At least I got it on video and Frank witnessed the catch. I put on the 2nd live oama and in a few minutes the ratchet went off again. I still assumed it was a papio and wasn’t seeing much structure or fish on the fish finder. My second kayak uku ever came up! This one looked a little bigger than the first, and surprisingly took the big Gamakatsu 2/0 Live Bait hook in its throat so I decided to keep it. It later taped out at 14.33 inches (FL).
The trade winds were blowing 12 – 15 mph at this point and Frank had paddled up wind so he could ride the wind back down to our launch site. I tried to radio him but the walkie talkie was very staticy. When I reached Frank, he had an aha jumping around his kayak, not a good thing! See what they can do. The aha had been mauling his live oama.
My Scupper Pro felt more and more unsteady in the cross swells so I told Frank I was gonna carefully paddle back in the following seas. He is a much better waterman than I am, and wasn’t too concerned considering this was his first outing on a kayak. I warned him that the Swing feels stable, but had no “secondary” stability due to its flat bottom. He was probably thinking, worst case, he could rough water swim back, towing his kayak! I paddled with my feet up on the rails to add some stability, and tacked back and forth to keep the Pro perpendicular to the wind swell. Along the way I missed 3 strikes on 2 baits that cut off my oama but was focused on the safety of the inner reef.
In my hurry to get in, I misjudged where the “channel” really was but we got lucky that no wave broke during that time.
I was stoked to get 2 uku the first time out but we realize that this spot is rarely fishable by kayak. We’ll be watching for a day when the winds are supposed to be under 5 miles an hr, since the winds often increase quickly.