Posted by: 1000fish | August 22, 2022

Where there’s a will, there’s a Wade


Covid was on my last nerve. Sure, I had taken a few trips during the pandemic, but nothing where I crossed a large body of water, and for me, fishing involves crossing a large body of water. On a plane. I’ve done it on a boat, but it takes longer and the food’s worse.

Hawaii came to mind. It had been four years since I had been there. Marta and I looked at going this winter, but while travel anywhere wasn’t easy, the state of Hawaii was making a goat rodeo out of it. There were websites and downloads and apps and things to send in, like medical charts, the maintenance records from my first car, and a letter of reference from my sixth grade teacher.

But then I got talking to Wade. The fishing was good. That alone would be worth some administrative heartache. Then Jamie sold him out and told me Wade had been through a couple of health bumps over the past year. Nothing that was going to kill him – after all, we aren’t sure he’s human – but it didn’t sound like fun. And I got thinking. I had just turned 58, which means so had Wade. We aren’t young. I just started cholesterol pills. This all makes me think about mortality, which means thinking about emotions, and no, no, no. Time to go fishing. With a brother. So we could talk about anything except mortality or emotions. 

Can you spot Wade in this photo?  

So screw it. I bought a ticket, signed up on the website, got the app, and sent the other stuff. The maintenance records for my first car were easy – I never maintained it. Part of my ad when I sold it was “1978 Civic, original oil.” Sadly, I could not get a letter of reference from Mr. Lancaster, my sixth grade teacher at Churchill Elementary in Royal Oak. I always admired the man – he was a B-24 bombardier who survived the Ploesti mission – but I am sure he has been gone for years. I offered a letter from Cousin Chuck’s™ social worker, but Hawaii never responded. 

Arriving in Honolulu was just plain weird. There weren’t a lot of people, they were all wearing masks, and there was the requisite couple from Cleveland who hadn’t done any of the paperwork who were discovering that their whole vacation was going to be in quarantine. 

But none of that mattered, because I had sent in all of the required documents. Now all I had to do was rent a car. This was a lot harder than I could have imagined, because there was no inventory. Only “Sixt” claimed to have cars available. But just as “Lufthansa” is actually German for “Screw you American Flyer,” “Sixt” is German for “Maybe you get a car, when we are good and ready.” 

The rental desk wasn’t staffed. The phone wasn’t answered. The garage location people resented me for finding them and told me I had to go back to the terminal. After an hour of this, I finally cornered one of the attendants and demanded that they rent me the car I had reserved. Sullenly, they told me it was being cleaned, and that they would need EIGHT HOURS. I told them I had seen some very dirty cars in my life, including Mike Wilcox’s Chevy in college where someone barfed in the trunk and left it for us to find, but that none of these took eight hours to clean. While refusing to make eye contact, they admitted that they didn’t have the car, but that they estimated that it would be returned in seven hours and take an hour to clean. 

I spoke to Jamie, and she told me I didn’t need a rental car in the first place and she would be glad to drive. I told Sixt I was cancelling and suddenly, I became important to them. They lost their minds and told me they would have to charge me a large fee. 

I am told, by Spellman and some of my hockey teammates, that in extreme situations I am capable of producing a facial expression that clearly communicates something terrible will happen unless a certain behavior stops. I apparently made this face. They cancelled my reservation without charge, and we were off to the water. 

Our first stop was Heeia, a dock that has given me dozens of species over the years, and is home to the infamous “Pier Panther.” I didn’t get anything new, but I am always delighted by the variety at this location.

A stripebelly puffer. Not my best photo.

Milletseed butterflyfish. Great photo.

An even better photo. 

Toward dark, we moved a few miles up the coast and set up for surf fishing. (I had visited this beach with Wade years ago, and I remembered it as a much shorter walk. We still got there eventually.) Over the next couple of hours, we caught all kinds of stuff – eels, threadfin, and a yellow chub. The yellow chub is neck-and-neck with the rainbow darter for the most widespread form of life on earth. 

Seriously. The things are also in Florida. And Pacific Mexico. To the exclusion of all other Kyphosids. And even if you catch one that looks new, even Martini will just send you a paper full of scientific slap-fights and say “You’re on your own.”

We finally got to dinner, which, in light of our dietary restrictions, was a pizza with double bacon. It was good to catch up and eat as unsupervised men are meant to eat. Wade and I talked about fishing, sports, and food. You will notice that emotions and mortality are nowhere on this list.

We started very early the next morning, hunting for a snowflake eel on the north coast. Jamie reminded me constantly that she had already caught several at the same location. I failed. And we got rained on, which Wade seemed to take in stride.

He looks faintly like Han Solo frozen in carbonite.

After a few hours, we moved back to Heeia. First, the good news – I caught a new species, the ringtail surgeonfish.


The bad news is that I caught it 11 years ago, and missed the ID at the time. This happens occasionally. The actual catch occurred on June 18, 2010, and should have been included in the “Ghost of Don Ho” episode. I mixed the thing up with an eyestripe surgeonfish. (Haven’t we all.)

This made me realize how darn long I had been fishing with Wade. I met him before Jamie was born, and we fished for the first time around when she started speaking. Her first words were “I have caught that and you have not.” 

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Adorable.

The first time we hit the water together, it was a long time ago and, although we didn’t know it, everything in life was still possible. The most important thing I remember, apart from how good the fishing was, was that feeling that we would be doing this forever. Then 20-odd years passed. The fishing is still great, but somewhere in there, the idea of anything going forever has faded away. And annual physicals are a whole lot less fun. I actually made the mistake of mentioning my LDL levels and other indignities of aging, but Wade talked some sense into me. “Let’s go get some malasadas.” God bless him.

Malasadas are like doughnuts, except better.

We finished up with some surf fishing, and between small trevally and queenfish, I was fighting something most of the time. There isn’t a ton of new stuff left for me here, but standing with your feet in the water in Hawaii catching a fish every few minutes is cool no matter what.

A doublespotted queenfish – I got my first one of these 14 years ago, also with Jamie. Yes, she has caught a bigger one.

Somewhere on the North Shore. There are worse places to spend an afternoon.

Wade and I talked about all the years he had fished these spots – since childhood. Jamie reminded me of all the snowflake morays she had caught there, which I didn’t appreciate.

Sunset over the Pacific.

The next day, we started out at one of my favorite fishing spots anywhere in the world. I have no idea what the Hawaiian name is, except that there are a lot of vowels, but I call it “The Aquarium,” because it’s a ledge that looks down onto a series of coral heads and it’s like, well, an aquarium.

The first six fish I caught were Picasso triggerfish – humuhumunukunukuapua’a, to use the local term. I sought this species for years, and suffered through Jamie telling me that they were easy to catch. And now they were.

The key to catching a lot of these is to catch the first one.

I also saw a perfect-size snowflake moray, but it refused to bite. Jamie pretended to be sympathetic, but I know she secretly giggled at me. 

We moved up to Haleiwa, another beloved harbor. (Site of my world record porcupinefish.)  On the way, Wade messed up and mentioned something about a blood test he was getting. That was our signal to stop talking and get shave ice immediately.

It’s a food group.

The fishing was a bit slow, but when things are slow, good fishermen try harder and sometimes get a break.

My break came in the form of a small ray that glided through the harbor, making fun of me. I had a very light rig on – six pound all the way to the hook – but I didn’t think I had time to re-tie, so I cast. Naturally, the fish bit immediately. As it peeled line off my Stradic 1000, I figured I was in for a short and humiliating fight, like Claude Lemieux against Darren McCarty.

One of the great moments in sports history.

The ray sprinted for deeper water, ripping line out as it went, and I figured it would hit a boat keel or anchor line quickly. But it didn’t. It ran along the back edge of the dock for about 70 yards, then went across the harbor, then came back toward me along the rock wall. I had to steer it out of some pilings, but other than that, it fought in a clean box for 45 minutes. It finally got tired, and then I had to consider that it was indeterminately hooked and had a venomous stinger.

This is where Jamie came in handy. Wade said, “Jamie, go see if you can land the ray.”

I said to Wade “The shoreline is very slippery and the fish is venomous.”

He responded “It’s a new species. I’m willing to take the risk.” Jamie landed it without incident.

They have split up these species fairly recently – this one is the ocellated eagle ray, or Aetobatus ocellatus if you’re playing along at home.

Even after that, dinner was the high point of the day, because there was prime rib. Wade and I split a cow, and no, we aren’t ashamed of this. Old people still like to be able to make decisions, even if they are bad decisions. We spent dinner talking about fishing, sports, food, and fishing. I briefly mentioned cholesterol pills, but I must have been tough to understand with a mouth full of potato, bacon bits, and prime rib.

Yes, we are proud of this.

Oahu is a surprisingly big place with a surprising amount of traffic, so the drives are not short. This gave us plenty of time to talk. Jamie is doing very well – after ruining the curve for everyone else in college, she is in the financial and insurance world and will likely be CEO of Amazon soon.

Saturday the 24th was our last full day, and we had big plans. We headed out early to a beach that we call “The Preserve” because it is NEXT TO a preserve. We weren’t fishing the preserve. So stop it, weird kid who keeps making comments on my blog. And no, I didn’t discover the State of Hawaii or even this beach by myself, so I probably shouldn’t count anything I catch here. But I’m going to. 

Jamie hurtfully said that we looked like we were wearing Halloween mustard and ketchup outfits. 

The idea here is to put out a big rod and hope for some kind of monster, and then spend all day with your feet in the water casting shrimp after the reef fish. I have caught some big stuff here – like my record surge wrasse in 2016 – and you never know what the heck you’re going to get. The morning produced wrasses, triggerfish, and an assortment of other stuff. It was awesome. 

Including a flounder. I keep forgetting that there are flounder here.

Somewhere in there, I got a fight that was a little harder than the wrasses. It was a manybar goatfish, and it was a big one. I had an unexpected world record – my 214th. 

Jamie never warns us before she takes photos.

A closeup of the fish.

They prepared it for a late night snack.

Wade apparently has to wear this outfit for the cooking ritual.

Things got even more awesome right after Wade decided he wanted a Big Mac. Jamie took him to do a food run, and the moment that they were out of sight, the big rod started bouncing slightly. We always hope these rattles turn into a blazing run, but whatever this was seemed content to intermittently gnaw on the bait. Knowing the rig had a circle hook, I decided to start reeling. There was indeed a fish on it. Not a big one, and one that fought like a sock full of mayonnaise, but a fish. When I beached it, I could see the issue – it was a small moray, curled up in a ball. When I unwrapped it, sort of like fishing Christmas, it turned out to be a stout moray – a beast I had caught previously but nowhere near this size. A quick check on the Boga revealed that I had a second world record.

It was officially a good day.

Wade and Jamie returned shortly, and I should point out that Jamie messed up the food run by leaving the pickles on my quarter-pounder. The vicious psychological cruelty didn’t stop there. She spotted some small fish in a tidepool – the same tidepool I had been looking at all day – and said “Have you ever caught sharpnose mullet?” Of course I hadn’t. I didn’t even know that’s what they were. She also failed to warn me that they are ridiculously skittish, but after two hours of exasperating near-misses, I finally found the one magical aggressive fish who took the hook. 

I had a third species for the trip. Thanks to, and this hurts me to say, Jamie.

The reef got even better in late afternoon. Blue trevally started showing up, and on light tackle, these speedsters are about as much fun as you can have – unless Jamie is standing there with a picture of the 12-pounder she caught last week. 

Luckily, these kids hadn’t seen Jamie’s photos and thought this was a big fish.

Just as we were thinking about closing it down, I had one more good strike out on the reef, and hooked a stubborn fish that held the bottom for a couple of minutes. When I finally beached it, I couldn’t help but smile. It was a Lagoon Triggerfish, a special and rare local beast I had caught only one other time. This one was big – big enough to tie the record. Of course, guess who already held the record? Sigh.

It was challenging to crop Jamie out of this photo. But I managed.

One of the coolest fish ever.

Wade, who had spent some time fishing and a lot of time just watching the water and the rods, looked very pleased. “Now you two have to share.” Hopefully Jamie won’t read this far down in the article, but I am proud as I can be about sharing any record with her. 

We wrapped it up with another great local meal, which likely involved Spam, and that was it for the evening. 

The next morning, we spent about an hour not catching a snowflake eel. Then it was off to the airport and more Covid rituals. They didn’t bother me at all this time, because whatever hassle travel has become lately, it was worth it to see my friends, hit the water, catch some fish, and discuss absolutely nothing about mortality or emotions.



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