Dateline: November 13, 2012 – Honolulu, Hawaii
It’s tough to be irritated with someone who does nice things for you, but I will manage just fine, thank you. Because while Jaime Hamamoto might have all of YOU fooled into thinking she is a nice young lady who wants nothing more than to help with my species quest, I know deep in my heart she seethes with competitive rage and tries to take every chance she can to ruin my fishing day. (See https://1000fish.wordpress.com/2011/05/21/three-days-of-hawaiian-hell/)
It might be time to give a refresher course on my teenage arch-nemesis. My great friends, Wade Hamamoto and his lovely wife Alma, had a daughter some 15 years ago. Jaime, or Jamie as I claim it was misspelled on her birth certificate, immediately showed signs of both academic and angling brilliance. She and her father have spent thousands of hours on the water together, in rain and shine, wind and calm, and from an early age, she started catching things I can only dream of.
Along with all this accomplishment has come an almost eerie sense of modesty. Because she spends so much time at this, and because she is a true island insider, she has caught so many fish that I would give my sister’s left arm to catch, but she takes it all in stride and doesn’t see what the big deal is. Of course, I think this is all an act and she is obsessed with upstaging me. Because I, as you all know, am not competitive at all, so it couldn’t possibly be me, because, well, it just couldn’t.
Here I have a monster panther flounder and she has to photobomb me.
This was a quick trip to Hawaii – just a couple of days – and the primary target was that elusive bonefish. Wade and Jaime picked me up at the airport, and after I dumped my luggage, hopefully at the hotel, we drove out to the Paiko flats on the east side of the island.
It was a pleasant, 82 degree day, the water was warm, and the sand was firm enough for easy walking. We waded out a few hundred yards and began tossing shrimp baits into likely-looking pockets. Moments later, Jaime quietly announced she had hooked up – although the screaming drag pretty much made it clear anyway. I looked at her, and although I was thrilled for her, I had some passing indigestion that might have made it look like I was annoyed that she had gotten a bite before me. Then she did something awful. She said “Steve, you take it. I can get these all the time.”
Foolishly, I took the rod. Now, you may think that this was an act of kindness and generosity by Jaime, giving up her fish so that I might get one. Moments later, the line broke. You less experienced anglers may think this was my fault, but she clearly did it on purpose. The Force is strong with her, and breaking light monofilament is one of the more basic Jedi mind tricks.
Somewhere in the background, there is a bonefish, and it is laughing at me.
We cast for bones a while longer, but my broken heart wasn’t in it. I had felt the raw power of a Hawaiian bonefish, and I had failed. The tide was running out, so we decided to move to a different spot. It can take quite a while to drive from one side of Oahu to the other, but the scenery never gets old. We ended up in Haleiwa harbor, scene of the porcupinefish from hell, (see https://1000fish.wordpress.com/2010/06/19/the-countdown-to-1000-an-inconvenient-youth/) and happily fished for eels into the evening, then enjoyed some top-notch Mexican food in one of the local restaurants.
On day two, we headed back to the flats, where that bonefish was still giggling. We cast for a couple of hours before the tide changed, then headed to an old favorite of mine, the research pier on the north side of the island.
I was setting up a rod when I saw a big batch of needlefish go by, but I had already caught that species, so I kept looking. It was Jaime who pointed out, in typically tactless and vile fashion, that they were NOT needlefish, and that they were actually halfbeaks, and I likely hadn’t caught one. Sheepishly, I dropped down a sabiki, and up came a wriggling halfbeak – something akin to a ballyhoo, and definitely a new species. Jaime smiled sweetly because she knew I would always have to thank her for this particular species.
Gloat all you want, evil child, at least I got a new species.
I also got a lizardfish. These toothy creatures are generally small, but more persistent than a telemarketer. This one hit a large bait at least 5 times before it got hooked.
The November days are short but beautiful, and I wanted to take a shot at a Picasso triggerfish before it got dark, so we went to an area I call “the aquarium.” It is a beach with a coral edge that looks down into eight feet of crystal-clear tropical water which is positively dirty with fish. We had a gorgeous sunset here, and if we had only stopped at sunset, I would have remembered it as a beautiful day.
Steve and Jaime with matching humuhumunukunukuapua’as. You may think that Jaime’s is bigger, but that’s just an optical illusion caused by mine not being as large.
Jaime stubbornly fished the reefs while I groveled in the tidepools.
But we fished until about an hour after dark, with me crawling around tidepools on my hands and knees and Jaime stubbornly fishing a surf rod out past the reef. Jaime, just because she is evil, had a big hookup. It was a blacktail snapper, and while I had caught this species before, I had never seen one quite this big. As a matter of fact, the IGFA had only seen one other blacktail this size, and that one was the world record. While I had been grovelling around in tidepools, Jaime had tied a world record. Her veneer of nonchalance didn’t fool me one bit. She may have acted a bit bewildered as to why this was a big deal, but she knew, deep in her black little heart, that she had taken a world record away from me by not warning me that blacktail snapper of this size were in this area. “I’ve caught bigger ones.” she mentioned casually over pizza later in the evening. Wade sighed.
Jaime and her first world record. It was neat to be there. Or at least that’s how I am supposed to feel.
On day three, Jaime had to go to school – I guess the valedictorian doesn’t get to take a day off, even to go fishing. I too could have been valedictorian of my high school class, except for those 49 kids with better GPAs than me. (The Lick-Wilmerding class of 1981 had 50 students.) This left us to return to the flats without Jedi interference.
It’s a long walk out to the good spots on the flat. About halfway to the surf line, we started seeing likely hideouts – small potholes and grassbeds. Slowly, I moved from ideal-looking spot to ideal-looking spot. Somewhere in this process, I found myself almost out to the reef. I was perched on a narrow coral ledge, casting into simply the most perfect aqua blue sandy-bottomed pool I have ever seen. It just had to have a bonefish in it. I cast a few times to the center, letting the bait sit for 10 minutes at a stretch. I then decided to try to cast up against the back side of the reef where it dropped off into a sandy channel.
Wading out on the Paiko flats. There are worse ways to spend an afternoon.
As the bait settled to the bottom, WHAM, a big hit. Then nothing. I reeled back in and found my squid had been savaged. I put another piece on and recast. WHAM, and this time, I had something on for a few seconds before it spit the hook. With trembling hands, I rebaited and recast and got instantly rehit. The fish pulled hard toward the reef, but I managed to turn it back into the sand and began to win the fight. Moments later, I saw a long, thin, silvery shape in the water, and my heart jumped. It looked like I finally had my bonefish.
When I landed the critter, however, it had barbels and a yellow stripe – it was a positively huge yellowstripe goatfish. If I’d only had some shears and a can of silver spray paint, I could have made it a bonefish, but as it stood, it was at least the biggest yellowstripe goatfish I had seen. I checked the IGFA database online while I stood there in the water, and yes, it was an open record. Number 67. I was two thirds of the way to 100 and an IGFA Lifetime Achievement Award. (Meaning I had just caught up to Martini, when he was in fifth grade.)
The yellowstripe goatfish. These are usually bait-sized.
So the trip had a world record and a new species so far, and we still had the last day for the flats, where the tide and weather would be perfect, and Wade was all but certain we would hook a bone. I went to sleep just knowing that tomorrow would be the day. I dreamed of large bonefish, and also that one where I am in a stadium surrounded by nuns, but mostly about large bonefish.
At 6:45am, I received a phone call. Wade’s car had completely died, and we would not be able to fish. While I was bummed to miss a day on the flats, these things happen. But before you start feeling like I handled this well, I will point out a single fact which I feel will take us all to the same terrible conclusion.
Jaime had been alone near the car the night before. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what happened.
LATE-BREAKING ANNOYING NEWS
Moments before publication, I received the stomach-churning news that Jaime had captured a snowflake moray – a rather scarce eel that has eluded me all these years. Snot.
Notice the line didn’t break when she kept the fish for herself