Oama season traditionally runs from July through September but the last 3 years have deviated a lot from tradition. This year the oama were in by June and have kept coming in. I’ve been hearing that the oama schools are still around but the oama have learned to be avoid most baits.
Halalu traditionally come in around August but came in early also, in larger numbers than recent years. Their inshore presence has been drawing mid-ranging fish like kahala, kawakawa and kamalu (rainbow runner). Some halalu spots are thinning out but there’s still some around if you know where to look, and don’t mind fishing shoulder to shoulder. My halalu ban, due to too many failed attempts, continues, so this will be about the oama.
Kelly and Frank have been doing well trolling dead oama on their SUPs and were running low on bait. I scouted a spot for them that supposedly had oama with lock jaw. As I entered the water, schools of light green colored fish moved away from the shallows but when I threw palu, most were 3 to 5 inch papio. For the first 20 mins, all I could keep near me were papio. I have never seen so many small papio this late in the season, and at least 3 species (omilu, white and some striped type) were running in mixed packs. Finally, I noticed the scattered oama on the outskirts of the papio. They wanted to eat but the papio were much quicker to the baits. I had to resort to chumming the papio off to the side and quickly dropping a bait down to the oama. Even with that, most of the baits were pulled off or eaten by papio.
The few oama I was able to reach were thick and strong for their length. Perfect baits to troll on our water craft. The bigger oama teenagers were actually hunting with the papio packs like larger goat fish do.
Kelly, my oama sensei, suggested we tag team to separate the pesky papio away from the target oama. A couple of days later, on a lower tide, I scouted the school early and found more oama and less papio than the previous outing. The oama took a while to bite but when the papio frenzied on the palu, the oama roamed around looking for scraps to reach the bottom.
Kelly joined me and was able to get the oama to feed more consistently while distracting the papio. What a true Oama whisperer!
Check out this oama-eye view of how oama take the bait. A papio investigated the bait initially but gave up pursuing it. Kelly lifted his bait and an oama followed it up, then as he dropped and lifted again he hooked a different oama.
We were able to catch enough thick oama to use live on our next outing so we dumped our baits to help the over-stressed ecosystem.
I’m surprised that all those papio can find enough to food to survive, and would guess that most will be eaten by something larger than they are. Those that survive and move on to the reef will be making an impact on the food supply there. I wonder if we are experiencing a boom in certain species and a subsequent bust in others, due to “climate change”?