Imagining an opportunity to
peruse Hawaiis legendary fisheries is reason enough to take a trip, but the addition
of working along the famous North Shore somehow validates the whole idea. Situated
approximately 40 miles as the boat floats from Kewalo Basin, Haleiwa (pronounced Hal-ay
eva) is the main town on Oahus famous North Shore. Although made famous for its
namesake as a surfing mecca, fishing has been the towns staple activity ever since
humans have inhabited the area. It had to be. Because of its proximity to the rest of the
island, fishing both nearshore and offshore was the was the way to feed families, a trait
that remains true to this day. While some anglers will sell their catch as a supplemental
(and in some cases primary) income, the principal reason people fish this side of the
island is to feed their family and friends.
|Even its name reveals why the area should be
viewed as a fishing town. Hale (Hal-ay) in Hawaiian is "house" or "home
of" and Iwa (eeva) means the "frigate bird." In a nutshell, this is the
home of the frigate bird, and as most fishermen know, the frigate is a fork-tailed,
bent-wing bird with unbelievable eyesight and the uncanny ability to spot fish in the
water, making them one of the anglers favorite sights in the sky. Every morning,
squadrons of these majestic birds leave the area in search of food in the sea, helping
anglers along the way, and returning home in the evening.
Haleiwa is a town of little or no public accommodations as far as sleeping goes, but
everything from surf shops to clothing and apparel outlets to superb restaurants are all
within walking distance of the harbor. Jamesons by the Sea and Haleiwa Joes,
one on each side of "the bridge" are two such examples of restaurants with local
charm, great food, and superb views. And if for some reason a bed or a ride back to
Honolulu had to be procured, the people would find a way to help.
The famous bridge of Haleiwa
Fishing the North Shore is like going back in time and doing it like the ancient
Hawaiians, only now we use two speed reels, high-performance rods, GPS, radar, and
superpowered depthsounders to help with the quarry. But with only a few man-made landmarks
along the shores and up the slopes, the mind wanders endlessly while looking at the views
up and down the coastline. The water is very deep close to shore, with the 500 fathom line
at only eight miles out and the 1000 fathom line only two more beyond that. There are
several FADS (fish aggregation devices) along the North Shore, including X, J, and II,
with CO out of Kaena Point to the West.
|Just a few miles to the Northeast is
beautiful Waimea Bay. Though treacherous with giant waves in winter time, Waimea is a
placid, sandy bottom bight with bright sand, sharp bluffs, and lush foliage ranging far
back into the valley. Although this area does not have much protection in anything but
mild weather, under the right conditions this bay could very well be be most tropical
setting in Hawaii, and it provides a perfect launching point for anglers wishing to
circumnavigate the island on a multi-day fishing adventure. Like other places throughout
the islands, fish production is often a function of fishing pressure, and since this is
the last safe haven along the North Shore, very few boats fish much beyond this region
with any regularity.
Generally speaking, the fish on the North Shore are more abundant but not quite as large.
One of the larger fish to come in over the past few years was an 888 pound Blue Marlin in
the 1998 Hana Paa fishing Tournament. The 1999 tournament produced a 509 pound
Marlin as well, but most of the fishermen on this shore target Yellowfin (Ahi), Mahimahi,
and Ono. Many Yellowfin come in at the mid 100 range, however many fish over 200 pounds
are also caught. And the action for Ono can be downright ridiculous. Many times during the
course of the year, mostly during tournaments, the locals will throw a dollar into a hat
to bet on when the first Ono will be caught. With the fishing day starting at 6:00, the
bet seldom goes beyond 630.
1999 Hana Pa'a Fishing Tournament
|Fishing the North Shore is not for the faint
hearted, however. It is located along the Kauai Channel, a 60 mile stretch of open ocean
that can be downright miserable, especially in the winter. The fishermen here tend to be
more serious because the action tends to be better when there is a chop to the seas, which
is quite frequent. Many fishermen say the reason for this is because lighter seas tend to
correlate with warmer water on the surface so fish which are lurking in the depths are
tougher raise when its calm. In addition, North Shore anglers have to make the most
of their trips when they do go, because there are times when harbor is completely closed
and everyone is stuck at the docks.
Haleiwa Harbor entrance on a calm summer day
|But despite some of the minor drawbacks, the
North Shore is a great fishery, and many anglers return year after year because of the
fishing, the people and the camaraderie. For example, Roy Takatsuke of the 18 ft. Boston
Whaler Beverley comes from Kauai each year to fish the Hana Paa tournament. In 1999
he arrived alone because he wanted to partake in the event despite having heart surgery
only months before.
The North Shore also boasts a
lot of families who have fished these waters for generations. Some families have been
around for so many years and have passed the techniques along to their children for so
long that Haleiwa residence themselves consider most of these fishermen somewhat famous.
Names such as the Hookalas, the Gonsalves, the Marks, the Silvas, the Ibatas, the
Murakamis, the Sennetts, and the Orillos roll off the toungues of anybody who asks about
such families, because these are the people who know where the fish are and know also how
to find them, catch them, and preserve them.