Kaunakakai Pier towards the "flat end" of
|Molokai has been labeled the most Hawaiian of
the islands for years, a moniker most likely well deserved. Niihau, the private island
which only allows visitors by invitation, has the highest population of native Hawaiians,
but since the public so seldom gets to see their way of life, Molokai assumes the role of
most Hawaiian somewhat by default. With a population of less than four thousand and a
visitor count of about 85,000 a year, Molokai is an easy place to take walks alone on
secluded beaches, drive for hours without stopping at so much as a single traffic light,
select from one of three hotel to spend a night, or find some of the best fishing this
state has to offer.
Between the two extreme differences in landscape lies a small town on the South shore,
almost dead smack in the middle, known as Kaunakakai. Theres no buildings over three
stories, no elevators, no traffic lights (and not much traffic either), no amusement
parks, night clubs, nor even a McDonalds. Even the airport at Hoolehua on the
flats just to the North of Kaunakakai is so small that jets do not regularly service the
island. And the folks that live on and visit Molokai like it that way, because it helps
breed the lifestyle of peace and quiet. The fish seem to like it, too.
|Molokai has a curious number of fishponds
still bordering much of the coastline, especially along the Southeast from Kaunakakai to
Mapulehu. While most of the islands had at one time or another a series of fishponds used
to support the ohana (families) in both trade and consumption, Molokais ponds are
the ones which are still mostly in use today. They can be easily distinguished from the
air, and even a tour from the rental car will show some of the ponds. Perhaps its
the presence of these fishponds which attract the pelagics we love to spend so much of our
time in search of.
|Fishing off of Molokai is as good as it gets.
Funny as it may seem, Molokai doesnt have but a few boats in the harbor at
Kaunakakai Wharf, and last time we were there, only one did day charters. Accordingly,
although the shores of Molokai are the ones producing the fish ranging from rainbow
runners to thousand pound Marlin, its the island origination point of the charter
boat that tends to get the credit for the production. Take the case of the Lahaina Jackpot
a couple years ago. Two fish over 1100 pounds were weighed in that tournament held in
Maui, but both were caught off the North shore of Molokai. Or think about all the Oahu
boats that fish the waters of Molokais Penguin Banks only to return their harvest to
Oahu. How about the Maui (and sometimes the Oahu ones) guys that fish the steep drop curve
between Molokai and Lanai, producing Mahimahi by the boatload, again to return to the
shores of the originating island?
A small village along the shore
|Make no mistake about it. Molokai produces as
many big fish per boat as anywhere in the world, and that is the beauty of the fishery.
Since so few boats can truly access Molokai because of its proximity to the harbors of
Oahu and Maui, and the relative lack of facilities for those boaters operating on Molokai,
the island does not receive the fishing pressure of places like Kona, Lahaina and
Honolulu. Thus the fishing is often much better. Were amazed at how many people will
get off the plane after returning home and tell their friends they caught a big fish off
Maui or Oahu, when unbeknownst to them the fish was actually caught off Molokai.
|Another contributor to the lack of boats on
the Friendly Isle is the Hawaiian weather. There isnt really a single place on the
entire North and East shores of Molokai that provides a boat with more than a night or two
of refuge at a time, and thats especially true when the weather is uncooperative.
Kaunakakai wharf, however, is a very safe anchorage and is the harbor where the barges and
ferry traffic arrives, but because of the slot created by the tall mountains to the east
of Molokai and those on West Maui, the afternoon convective winds on a mild tradewind day
blow considerably harder here than in other areas. Of course, as the afternoon wears into
evening, the winds usually die down and the harbor becomes one of the most peaceful places
on this planet to spend a night on the hook staring at the stars.
The best fishing on Molokai is along the North Shore for the entire
length (though some say the Eastern end is better), the West end out front of the beaches
from Ilio Point to Laau Point, the Penguin Banks, and the ledge curve between Kaunakakai
and Lanai. The Eastern end in the Pailolo Channel looking across to Maui can be a struggle
unless the Mahimahi open schools are around, but three of four sides to the island makes
for a pretty good day on the water.
To illustrate the point, one trip that stands out was in 1997, when a group of us
traversed the Molokai Channel and spent the night at the wharf in Kaunakakai. As we tied
up to the dock, the locals were hanging around and gathering their composure after a
strenuous day. We got the lines secured, and they asked us how the fishing was, almost as
if to say, "wed sure love to share what you have in the fishbox." We
sheepishly told them we failed to hook up that day, and when they heard of the route we
took, they asked if we had even put out the fishing lines. We said that we had, but just
seemed to not have any luck (yes it does happen once in awhile) that day. The locals then
proceeded to rub it in our faces and tell us that every single boat that had come in the
harbor that day caught something, most of which were significant fish. A 563 lb. Marlin
here, a nice Ahi there, a few more Mahimahis back over that way was all we heard. It
became the focal point of the rest of the evenings conversation, because they just
couldnt imagine us traveling through those types of grounds without hooking up.
The cliffs of the North Shore near Kalaupapa
|Kaunakakai is a great place to visit, and
many like the idea of living there, too. The Pau Hana Inn and Restaurant is a 10 minute
walk from the harbor, and this quaint little bungalow style hotel is an experience nobody
should miss. Every Friday night the locals join together for a real Pau Hana (after work)
party, and everyone sings Hawaiians songs until the night turns back into day. The view is
incredible in almost every direction, too. Lanai to the South, the rainforest to the North
and East, and the plains to the West all beckon the eye for another stare of this island
paradise. So if you are looking for an out of the way place in Hawaii to go do some
serious fishing, spend a night or two in Kaunakakai, catch a few fish, and enjoy the ride.