The 20th began as a day that looked like it would live in infamy.
We started our fishing in the deepwater harbor on the southwest of Oahu. It was here Wade assured me Jaime had caught a number of tidepool blennies, which would be a new species for me. What Wade did not mention is that only Jaime knew exactly how to catch these things, and that she could not – or would not – explain this art to others.
And so we headed out to another lovely tropical location where I completely missed the scenery because I was focused on the square yard of coral reef in front of me. Except for the tropical fish, I may as well have been in Cleveland. And the blennies were not there; perhaps Jaime had wiped them out. Not much else was biting, save the normal shallow reef pests – the saddle wrasse and various damselfish.
We were wrapping things up when, from behind me, I heard those 4 words from Jaime I dread the most – “Steve, what’s this one?” Slowly I turned …
She had caught a redbarred hawkfish. I have never caught a redbarred hawkfish. This was especially humilaiting, because the redbarred hawkfish is also one of the 7 species of fish that Marta has caught which I have not. And now Jaime had caught one. “I can put him right back, Steve. Maybe you can catch him.” This might sound sweet and helpful to you, but this was clearly mockery. I fought the urge to retch, and I did not retch, because I am not competitive, especially with a 12 year-old girl.
“Let’s go.” I said to Wade. “Oh, how I hate fishing. Are the bars open yet?”
Wade smiled sympathetically. “This happens to me every week, man. Were you just retching?”
And so it was off to the north shore. And again, it was not going well for me. We fished a rocky point that tends to have a variety of tropical critters, but I burned through an entire bag of bait catching nothing but saddle wrasses and the occasional damselfish. I had actually run out of bait and was just fishing a bare tiny jig when I got another slight tug. Setting the hook and yanking the surprised fish out of the water, I had started to release what I thought was another sergeant, but I did a quick doubletake and it slowly dawned on my discouraged mind that this was no sergeant. Unbelievably, I held in my hand a Convict Tang, a beautiful and completely vegetarian fish that is almost never caught on hook and line. “Oh, how I love fishing!” I called out. Life was good. For a brief, shining moment, it was just me and the beautiful Hawaiian shoreline and a new fish and Jaime seemed far, far away. Don Ho stopped singing in my head. I released the fish after some photos and he swam away in a burst of tiny bubbles.
Our next stop was a lovely set of rocky pools further down the north shore. We put in about an hour, catching some of the usual suspects. I had worked my way out onto an awkward and slippery point and was down to my last bit of shrimp. Flicking it out, I got a hard little bite and flipped a fish up into my lap. I stared in stunned disbelief.
A REDBARRED HAWKFISH!! THE FISH GODS HAVE SMILED UPON ME!!
VICTORY OVER BOTH MY GIRLFRIEND AND A 12 YEAR-OLD GIRL! HAH!
I commenced an elaborate but entirely non-competitive celebratory dance, but slipped on the rocks and barely managed to save myself from a closed head injury, or at least a nasty bruise. Jaime looked concerned but I know she was secretly mocking me.
The Redbarred Hawkfish
Interesting if pointless note on this particular redbarred hawkfish. IF I counted the 9 species which I have caught but not photographed (but I don’t), and IF I counted the 6 hybrids I have caught (but I don’t), then this redbarred hawkfish would have been my 1000th species. But I don’t, so it wasn’t.
After a dinner at Pizza Bob’s we headed back to the harbor for another shot at an eel. They were a bit scarce – we got another small undulated moray, and just as I was getting ready to leave, Jaime spotted another good-sized porcupinefish nosing around the rocks. What the heck, I figured. Gently nudging Jaime out of the way, I cast to it. It eased over to the squid and pounced, but unlike the fish from last night, it just sort of wallowed there until I grabbed it with a Boga Grip. As I started to get the hook out, it became apparent that this was not the same species – shorter spines, different color pattern. It turned out to be a Spotted Burrfish of some 4 pounds, not a record but certainly a new species.
It was a late night, and I can’t thank an exhausted Wade and Jaime enough for staying out to get that last species. Jaime looked peaceful as she dozed in the back seat, but I knew that evil lurked not too far under that angelic visage.
Total for the day – 3 new species. 14 to go. Wow.
Also released back into the wild …