2014 (will need to update this!)
I was a lure fishing purist. I even dabbled with tying flies and customizing Kastmaster lures. It seemed more sporting to fool a fish to bite something man-made, and lures were a lot easier to acquire than bait. But I got skunked way too many times and reluctantly tried dead bait, and then live bait. Lure fishing in HI has its place but bait, particularly live bait, is KING.
Bait and lures can be broken down into the following categories:
- Live bait – oama (juvenile goatfish), halalu (juvenile big eyed scad mackeral), nehu (Hawaiian anchovy), o’pae (shrimp), sand turtles (mole crabs), etc
- Dead/cut bait – oama, tako (octopus), ika (squid), “California” shrimp, aku belly, etc
- Scented lures – Berkley Gulp, Berkley Powerbait, etc
- Unscented lures – plastic grubs/strips, flies, feather jigs, metal spoons, swimming plugs, etc
There’s too much detail to cover in one post so I’ll summarize the categories and cover them in future posts.
The best live bait for the larger nearshore fish, by far, is live oama. Oama school up in the shallow, sandy areas in the late summer because the predator fish are hunting them mercilessly. Halalu season overlaps with oama season, so the summer and early fall is the best period to nearshore fish. If you can catch nehu, `opae and sand turtles and fish them near where you caught them you’ll have much better odds than using dead bait or lures.
Click here to read about keeping your oama alive as long as possible.
Click here to read about catching sand turtles.
Click here to read about catching regular `opae.
Click here to read about catching the larger `opae lolo.
Animals release chemicals when they die and thus, smell differently than alive. Freezing bait changes their chemical makeup further. So a defrosted bait definitely smells different to a fish than a live bait. If properly handled and frozen, oama and tako are effective defrosted bait but are much better used freshly dead. Aku belly is much better used fresh. Ika and shrimp should be cut up in their proper presentation size, salted and then frozen to prevent them from getting too mushy.
There are a number of lures that are impregnated with scent to smell like the bait they are imitating. Berkley’s Gulp lures are the best known and come in many shapes. I’ve tried them with moderate results. Fish in HI that are attracted by smell, like humus, hinaleas, rock fish seem to like these lures. Others may have had better results but the best fish I’ve caught with them were moana. Because they are actually made from a fish food substance, the lure action isn’t as pliable as the better soft plastics.
Bait fish and crustaceans in Hawaii are very quick moving because the warm water keeps their metabolism up. Fast moving, jerky lures often do well imitating these creatures. The very popular plastic bubble pulling a plastic strip/grub or fly is very effective when popped erratically because the popping makes the predators think they’re missing out on a feeding frenzy. Metal spoons like Kastmasters and Krocadiles, cast well and can be jigged deep. Swimming plugs imitate bait fish and are great trolling lures.
Click here to read about modifying Kastmasters.