By all accounts, this summer season has been the best in recent memory for oama and halalu. Both species came in early and are still around in big numbers. Theories for their respective abundance are: 1) previous oama seasons have been very good and the increase in adult weke led to another good spawn 2) akule grow faster and spawn better during rainy years and the last few years have been rainier than those previous.
Whatever the reason for such a great bait season, it’s actually been hard to catch papio lately because they’ve had so much bait to choose from. Kelly had been scouting some grounds on his SUP and invited Frank and me for a dawn patrol outing at one of his productive spots recommended by Erik, our nearshore boat friend. It’s been great to share knowledge in our little fishing hui.
I don’t think I’ve ever arrived at a fishing spot while it was still dark. Early mornings are not my thing but Kelly had a mid morning appointment so dawn it was. The water was sheet glass calm and stayed that way until about 10:30.
In the too-early morning stumble I forgot to take my pack of frozen oama, so I bummed 3 frozen halalu and 5 frozen oama off Kelly and Frank. The guys paddled off on their SUPs and I kept in touch with Frank via waterproof walkie talkie. They were trolling with a small weight on their line and I was using a floater. Kelly hooked up first, followed by Frank. I followed their trolling paths inside the break yet nothing hit my oama. Kelly missed another fish while retrieving his line and suggested I whip instead of trolling high up in the water column on such a clear visibility day. The guys went out through a large deep channel to fish outside the break but I opted to fish the edge of the channel itself, carefully eyeing the small surf wash over the reef shelf.
Frank reported via walkie talkie that he landed his second papio so I knew they were hooking up. I left the floating oama out and rigged the second rod with a sliding weight to drag an oama near the bottom. Something pulled it off and on the next cast I hooked a poopa’a. Well at least that was more action than I got with the floated oama. Frank called in his 3rd papio and I asked what he was using. Halalu! I dug around and pulled out a 6 inch halalu. It was big for the size of Gamakatsu Live Bait hook I was using but I was too lazy to re-rig. I cast it out and as it was settling to the bottom the line moved. Finally, a real fish. Started cranking it in and remembered to turn on the GoPro cap cam. Drifted into my trolling line so I kept the fish on a short leash as I reached for the net. You can see the trolling line in the video. Cardinal mistake, keeping its head out of the water so it could shake the poorly placed hook. Well, at least I had video proof I *caught* a decent fish. I figured I solved the bait secret and looked for another halalu. The last two were pretty beat up with their stomachs oozing stuff but I tried ’em anyway.
Next cast, still in the channel, I hooked something… arrggh, turned out to be a roi. But the halalu bait was on the outside of the fish so I tried to net it before the halalu fell off. Kept it too high in the water again and you can see the halalu sink to the bottom. I stabbed the roi deeply with a knife and sent it back to join the halalu.
I only had one more beat up halalu left so I changed to a larger Gamakatsu Live Bait hook. I like them when just using one hook behind a bullet sinker because their shank is short so the bait fish is butted close to the sinker. I put on a nice looking oama and some kind of shiny papio followed it back to the boat. It kind of looked like a small kagami, but it didn’t commit. Some other fish hit the oama and jumped out of the water but didn’t hook up either. Tired of missing fish, I rigged the last halalu and something, roi I’m sure, pulled it into the rocks. Just then Kelly was making his way in. He said he and Frank found a hot spot past the waves and the bite was really good on the trolled halalu.
I could see Frank paddling in towards me, then start fighting a fish just outside the break. He called me via walkie talkie to report his largest SUP caught fish. The 19 inch omilu was still alive with really dark coloration like it had swum out of a cave. Frank had used his last halalu, a pretty large one that was missing its tail. Man, the fish really wanted halalu at this spot.
Frank was trolling a small lai and I followed behind casting a 1 oz sinking swimming lure. With all the action the boys had I braced to have the rod wrenched from my hands. The lure cast well, swam pretty well, but nothing hit it. Hmm… I swapped it out with a sinking lipped lure that worked on big white papio in the past. Nada. Frank’s lai got pulled off and he put on an oama. I switched to a small tungsten jig. Maybe the dawn witching hour was over, it was past 10am at this point and nothing was interested in our baits. As we paddled in, Frank got bit on his trolled oama near the side of the channel I had fished in the morning. He landed an omilu and missed another 2 before we called it a day.
Maybe it was due to the extremely clear visibility and proximity to a halalu school nearby that caused the predators to strongly prefer halalu baits over oama and show no interest in my lures. Frank had his best day SUP fishing, ending with 6 omilu from 13 to 19 inches, and one lai. I took a mercy papio from him, and he dropped fish off with his daughter on the way home. After proving to be a halalu prodigy, he’s now dominating the SUP trolling scene. Kelly did very well also in the short time he was there and was an excellent host.