Before we get into my FIRST Opelu fishing trip, let me ask you a quick question.
Have you ever been oama fishing before?
If you grew up in Hawaii, then your answer is probably yes, or at least you’ve seen people fishing for oama(goatfish).
Usually in a sandy area, with a handpole in the water, a fannypack on and a bucket nearby, oama fishing is an island hit for all ages to participate in Hawaii’s highly acclaimed fishing scene.
Well if you’ve never been opelu fishing off a boat, it’s pretty much oama fishing on steroids.
And although that might be hard to believe, it’s true. YES, IT’S THAT MUCH FUN!
My Opelu trip was spontaneous. I was fishing for halalu one morning and left after realizing that all the old-timers weren’t catching any either(not a good sign).
I was headed to another spot when I ran into my friend on the way out of the harbor. We both rolled down our windows to chat and he invited me out on his shark tour boat since they had a small group.
Not having gone on a boat for awhile I was stoked on the opportunity. Especially since it was a nice day with variable winds and flat-water conditions.
After jumping on the boat I realized he was right, the group was very small. Just two families totaling about 9 people on the boat including him and his deckhand. When we got out to the spot he gave his little speech about “keeping your hands and feet in the cage,” and all the other common sense stuff when you’re getting in the water with sharks. As soon as the last guest went in the cage IT WAS ON!
They both b-lined it toward the back of the boat where they had a little platform to stand and busted out a bucket of bait(I think it was tohei), and started playing with the sharks and trying to get the opelu to come up from beneath the surface.
From what they told me the opelu hang out with the sharks, and they usually give the opelu to other fishermen since they’re around the sharks all day, in exchange for some bigger game fish if they catch some with the opelu. As I watched them chum the water a little bit the opelu started coming up whacking the small pieces of bait that were floating down.
I notice bubble popping up to the surface and my buddy informed me that they were Kawakawa eating the opelu on the bottom. The bubble was the air coming out of the fish as they regulated the pressure from traveling up and down the depths.
I thought that was super cool; just the thought of all the crazy things going on right under the safety of the boat.
After the opelu were getting more and more comfortable coming to the surface, he grabbed their handy dandy fishing rod.
It was a 6 ft trolling pole with a 12 lb leader tied on the second eye from the top. The leader was probably about 8 ft long with a small hook tied at the end.
WOW I thought…
I was convinced that opelu fishing was going to be more complicated than this… But boy I was wrong.
My friend smiled after he realized what I just had an epiphany of. He laughed, baited the hook, and handed me the pole.
“Just drop it in”
I watched the bait and hook float down in the crystal clear water, and immediately a shark swam right to it. I pulled the pole up right away and my bait disappeared. He told me to just watch the sharks as they swim by, and that they’re usually deeper than the bait is so I had to use some depth perception.
After a few tries and me pulling my pole out frantically to not snag a shark, finally an opelu came up to my hook. He grabbed my bait swam a little bit and spit out my hook. I just stood there and watched thinking “what the heck just happened”.
My friend laughed again saying “you have to set the hook as soon as you see them eat it!”
“you have to set the hook as soon as you see them eat it!”
It was pretty clear that I didn’t know what I was doing, so I handed the pole over to him so he can show me how it’s done. Withing not even a minute he hooked one up and pulled it out.
It was pretty frickin big. I’d say at least a half pound. And keep in mind these are “bait fish” were catching. The opelu was shaped like a bullet, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to me knowing that most pellagic fish have that sort of body shape.
He caught one more and handed the pole over to me to try again. I dropped my bait in to test out my new knowledge. Right away an opelu came and grabbed my bait and this time I didn’t hesitate. That rhymed.
I pulled that sucker out and tossed it in the bucket.
I was soooo stoked. My first ever opelu!
I quickly baited my hook again and dropped my pole back in. Boom! One more Opelu down!
After a few coming off the hook, and throwing a few more in the bucket it was time for the shark tour to conclude. I think altogether the trip was about 45 min. And the guests on the boat were excited to see that we caught some fish right where they were in the cage. They probably seen all the fish I failed to catch too. Maybe that sound I heard earlier was them laughing through their snorkel.
Altogether we caught about 7 of them, which I fried up with my grandpa the very next day. They tasted amazing with some shoyu, vinegar, chili pepper sauce. My grandma’s specialty.
It just goes to show that their is always new things to learn and be had by fishing. In 45 min, I picked up a new skill, and created a life long memory on a spontaneous trip thanks to the ocean and trying out something different.
Mahalos for reading! And try and catch some opelu! So much fun!