Dateline: June 27, 2013 – Kona, Hawaii
By the time this gets posted, ten months will have passed since that bitter day, and yet the memory still burns like a mixup between Preparation H and Tiger Balm. Sometimes I realize I must be too naive and kind, and despite years of vile antics from Jaime Hamamoto, this was a new low. Oh, the pain of giving and giving only to be completely betrayed.
Kona has always been a wonderful stop for me. There is a seemingly inexhaustible supply of new species, there are loads of open records, and the food is great.
Hawaii has spam-flavored EVERYTHING.
Kona has all the joys of Hawaii, but Jaime Hamamoto is still an hour away and isn’t likely to show up unannounced. If any of you are unfamiliar with my teenage arch-nemesis, check http://1000fish.wordpress.com/2012/11/13/getting-my-goat/ for some history or just look up “mean spirited” in the dictionary.
This year, I decided to risk a trip to Kona with my sister’s family. (See “I Have No Nephew” for details.) We haven’t done too much travel together, because I am a dream travel companion and my sister is difficult, but the kids had always been wound up about the idea of going to Hawaii, and as we have covered, I am giving and kind person who will put up with them even thought they might not want to fish 18 hours a day. Kona is well-known for calm sea conditions, so I was hopeful that my sister would relent and allow my niece and nephew to brave the danger of going on a big game fishing boat, a terrible gamble that few have survived.
My sister and her family. No, Charlie does not have a condition – he just seems to squint for photos. This is the only photograph of Dan in this whole post, as he took most of the pictures.
I arrived a day and a half before they did, and I started catching fish immediately. I had a hint that the trip was going to be epic when, on my very first cast – my very first cast – I got a ten pound bluefin trevally.
Ten pounds is when the Hawaiians stop calling them papio and start calling them ulua. This pleases me.
I also got a record on the viper moray.
This is why we do not touch moray eels without adult supervision. And even with adult supervision, disasters happen. Read on.
The next morning, I hit the Keauhou rocks, and the species started to come. The first one was a stunning surprise, as flatfish do not generally inhabit rocky reefs, but I followed that with a couple of nice records and new critters.
Flowery flounder. I have wanted one of these since 2006, when everyone on the boat in Thailand caught one of these EXCEPT ME.
World record on the Tahitian squirrelfish. Oddly enough, there are more Tahitian squirrelfish in Hawaii than Tahiti.
The whitemouth moray. It’s called that because it has spots, or at least that’s what my cousin Chuck now believes. New species and world record.
I had a few hours the next morning before I had to interrupt fishing and go do family stuff which did not involve fishing, but I took advantage of the time with one more species and another record.
The doublebar goatfish – species #1219.
A positively beastly yellowmargin moray. Did I mention that these things bite?
As soon as my sister’s family got to the hotel, I raced the kids down to the rocks to do some fishing. We asked for a couple of hours. My sister, who has a severe case of DGI (doesn’t get it) syndrome, offered a more conservative 10 minutes. Who goes fishing for ten minutes?
The kids, about an hour later, with a stocky hawkfish.
At dinner, I raised the topic of bringing the kids on the boat. My sister worried that Charlie might barf. I have tried to explain to my sister that this is a sign of moral weakness, and that vomiting is a small price to pay for the chance to catch a big game trophy, but she would have none of this.
We are smiling because we hadn’t discussed fishing on the boat yet.
I know you 1000fish readers had put some pressure on her a couple of years ago to let the kids go out on a real fishing trip, and it may be time to do this again. My sister feels that charter boat accidents are the leading cause of disfigurement for children ages 12-14, just behind some rare disease carried in new t-shirts that haven’t been washed, and there is no convincing her otherwise. This would make it very difficult for me to have that magical “Uncle moment” when Charlie catches his first big game fish.
Ruefully, I went out on my first trip with Dale and Jack solo, but the fishing was great fun.
Dale and Jack Leverone, the captain and crew of the Sea Strike. If you get to Kona, get on the water with these guys – firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-264-4595.
I got an enormous sabre squirrelfish on the offshore reefs, a record on a pinktail trigger, and a surprise scorpionfish species back in the harbor. I have not included the pinktail photo because you all must be sick of looking at them.
Sabre squirrelfish. The largest of the squirrelfish species, these get to over six pounds.
The spotfin scorpionfish. Very poisonous. If you see one, don’t touch it or hold it in front of your face.
The next day was a family adventure, and we roamed the island, snorkeling here and there and enjoying the sights. Just to cover the bases, there was an appropriate amount of sibling bonding and family togetherness, yada yada yada. But to stay focused, we stopped at a couple of my favorite shore-fishing spots, and Elizabeth made a couple of surprising catches.
Elizabeth with her humahumanukanukaapua’a. It took me years to catch one.
Elizabeth continues her triggerfish rampage, this time with something that matched her outfit.
Charlie got in to the act later in the afternoon. This is a big yellowmargin moray. They bite. I would confirm this about six hours after this photo was taken.
Is that Thor Heyerdahl on the left?
Later that evening, my luck with eels ran out. I have been very fortunate over the years to have not lost a finger, nose, or spleen to the many morays I have handled. Sure, there is a lot of experience involved in this, but it just takes one mistake to test how good your health insurance really is. Mercifully, my mistake involved a smaller fish – about 20 inches – but in a split second I was not paying attention, he reached around and sent me to the emergency room.
Before the ER folks sewed me up. I’ve had better nights, especially after the Xylocaine wore off.
The culprit. For the record, I released him in good health – he earned it.
For those of you who think a bit of eel-driven needlepoint on my hand was going to keep me from fishing the next day, you are obviously new readers. Welcome! My sister still would not permit the children to go on the boat, and I began to worry that the “Uncle moment” was not going to happen. I still headed out with Dale as planned, and am I ever glad I did. In bumpy conditions, we headed south to try the 100-fathom reefs off Keauhou. As with any place I have fished a good deal, most catches were repeat species – snappers and triggerfish.
I had just switched up rigs to some smaller hooks. Dropping all the way to a sandy bottom, I soon felt the familiar tips and taps, and as I waited for that right moment to set the hook, a fish made the decision for me. My rod surged down and the fish sprinted line off the drag. These were not large hooks, but I knew I was in sand, so I backed off the drag and worked the fish delicately. About 15 minutes later, we could see big silver flashes under the boat – I still had no idea what it was. It was not until we netted it that I recognized I had a bonefish. A big bonefish, and whatever of the two Hawaiian species it was, it was going to be new for me. And a record. What stitches?
The sharpjaw bonefish, a new and exotic species AND a world record. Best day ever.
I immediately texted Wade. He came back with “Oh, man. Jaime has caught bigger ones than that.” I responded “Well, she hasn’t turned them in.” This was a mistake, not just because I ended a sentence with a preposition, but because this would certainly provoke Jaime, who would pretend to congratulate me but would actually seethe with competitive rage. She may have fooled all of you into thinking she is a helpful and kind person, but I know better.
Oh, and I finally caught one of these pesky snappers over a pound and could put it in for a world record.
Jack was so pumped up about the bonefish that he wanted to try for another one in the harbor after we landed. It didn’t take much to talk me in to this. This isn’t delicate, light-tackle flats fishing that you see in magazines. This is bait fishing with a 30 pound class conventional reel and a big lump of squid – no stealth involved. I had my doubts, but this kid knows what he is doing, and it didn’t take long to get a hit. Whatever it was broke me off on the rough bottom. We set up again. I got hit again, and instead of fighting it like a bonefish, I fought it like a grouper – no line given. I thought the rod was going to break, but the fish turned and I got it onto the dock after a few minutes. Yes, it was a roundjaw, and more than big enough for the record.
Two bonefish species and records in one day. Best day ever.
I was simply on top of the world. Two new species of bonefish in the same day, two world records – world records on real gamefish. These were fish people had actually heard about, not that I would ever bring such a thing up in conversation. (Note from Marta – on a slow day, Steve will approach homeless people to discuss his world records. Often, they will give him money to stop.)
We spent the next day celebrating Charlie’s 14th birthday, and I’m pretty sure we did more bonding and emerged with an even closer relationship. We had a lovely dinner at Roy’s Waikaloa, and some lessons on taking photographs with your brother.
This is the photo my sister wanted to have.
But this is the one she got.
The trip had one more marvelous day ahead. I gave it one more try to get Charlie and Elizabeth out with Dale, but my sister pointed out that someone in Molvania stubbed their toe on a charter boat in 1952. Charlie, who was by this time convinced that seasickness could be fatal, was not coming. My “Uncle moment” had disappeared.
Charlie got seasick watching the fountain in the lobby.
But Elizabeth was relentless, and well into the evening, something happened, likely extortion of some sort. I was informed that Elizabeth would be allowed to go out for half a day.
In the morning, I think I was was more excited than Elizabeth, even though her Mother gave me roughly nine pages of instructions, along the lines of “Feed often with healthy, high-fiber snacks. Hydrate every 11 minutes. Fully immerse in barrel of sunblock twice an hour. Suggest family-oriented reading. Avoid meteors.” I guess I would be a bad parent, because I pretty much gave Elizabeth a power bar and a tube of chapstick. In my defense, she survived.
On the way out to the reefs in front of Kona Town, Dale put a couple of trolling skirts in the water. As the Fish Gods would have it, the port outrigger snapped off maybe a mile out of the harbor, not 200 yards from the shore. As soon as I was absolutely sure it wasn’t a spearfish, we put Elizabeth on the reel.
Elizabeth works the Tiagra 80.
It was hard work for her cranking the handle of the coffee-can sized Tiagra 80, but she handled it on her own and dragged the fish to boatside in about ten hard minutes. Jack, just to be a jerk, yelled “Oh my God it’s a spearfish.” I knew better in my heart and my brain, but not in my underwear. Dale reached down with a gaff, and a moment later, 40 pounds of angry wahoo hit the deck.
Now that’s a fish. The Hawaiians call it “Ono,” as in “Ono, another fish Jaime hasn’t caught.”
For whatever reason, likely exposure to my behaviorally-challenged cousins when they were toddlers, I never did have children. But I always knew I would miss big moments like this – that first big fish. This is why it was so cool of my sister to provide me with a niece and a nephew. To be honest, and probably sexist, I always pictured this moment with Charlie, but this was just as cool, and no one barfed. (Barf is another reason I never had kids.)
We celebrated with a fresh-caught fish dinner that evening, and I added another record late that night down on the rocks.
A perfect ending to a perfect day – a bigger snapper – one last record for the trip.
The final score for the trip was seven new species and ten records. Species were up to 1223, but more interesting to me is that the record count went up to 84. Oh, and there was that family bonding thing and all that. But mostly, there was that big wahoo on the deck and the look of pure awe on Elizabeth’s face.
POSTSCRIPT – You knew this was coming
I have a vivid imagination – like anyone who stays faithful to the Detroit Lions – but even I could not make up the tragic events of the nine days that followed my Hawaii trip. I was still unpacking, late one evening, and I got a text from Wade. It simply said “Sit down.”
Then he texted me photos of the roundjaw bonefish Jaime had caught to break my record. By about five pounds.
Dear God, I thought – is nothing sacred? Just like that, I had gone from a world record holder on a celebrated gamefish to a former world record holder. My self-esteem plummeted like Miley Cyrus’ would if she was objective. At least I still had the sharpjaw.
Another text arrived. “Still sitting?”
She had broken the sharpjaw record as well. As all my friends will vouch if paid well, I am a kind and forgiving person. But I have my limits. Sure, Jaime would tell you she waited to set the records until I had set them first, but that would be kind and gracious, like me, not vicious and competitive, like her. So don’t believe it.
With God and Robert the Platypus as my witnesses, I will reclaim those records. As soon as I finish crying in my pillow.