SURFIN’ MAUI

I was on the beach the next morning at 7:30.

I had no clue as to what to expect, especially since at every beach we drove past I had noticed most of the guys out there using ten to twelve foot poles with heavy sinkers cast out beyond the breaking surf.  However, soon after I arrived at the designated meeting spot, a deeply tanned gentleman with a enormous straw lifeguard hat and bright red rash shirt appeared with a well-worn canvas creel slung over his shoulder and dragging a trashcan full of five–foot, basic spinning rigs.

Soon about a dozen of us were standing in the sand with the warm water gently lapping our feet while we received basic instructions on Hawaiian style surf fishing.

Much to my delight, the basic technique was very similar to a style of fishing I was already quite familiar with: a float was tied onto the main line with a swivel and then about three feet of leader was tied to that with another swivel. A small split shot was then pinched on about a foot above a stainless steel #6 circle hook. A small chunk of shrimp was then carefully threaded onto the circle hook.

The key difference was instead of using a clear plastic bubble-float, the preferred float in Hawaii is a tangerine-size bright orange or white balsa wood version.

The final instructions were to cast out as far as possible but fish the rig all the way back to the beach since many of the reef species take small crabs right in the trough just off the beach. The other caution was to set the hook lightly as soon as the float disappeared beneath the waves or, as the instructor put it, “No Booyah hook sets here, keep arms down and set da’ hook firm but soft.”

We spread ourselves out along the beach and cast out into the swell just past the breaking surf. On my first cast, I barely had time to close the bail on the reel when I saw the orange float disappear beneath the swell.  I set the hook about like you would if you were fishing for Crappie and sure enough there was a fish on.

Now, I could say that my professionalism kicked in and I quietly fought my first Hawaiian fish all the way into the beach where I posed for pictures and then gently released it back into the clear blue waters.

I could say that but it would be a lie.

The truth of the matter is, I screamed like a little girl and whooped and hollered like I had just hooked on to a Marlin.

The instructor trotted down the beach and hovered over me as I landed a brightly colored Wrasse. He encouraged my to handle it as little as possible and to release it back into the water as gently as I could after the obligatory pictures – all things I planned on doing anyway, but I admired his conservation ethic.

Needless to say, I was hooked.

The next two hours were spent in a constant but thoroughly engaging ballet of baiting the hook, casting beyond the breakers, watching the float disappear and occasionally fighting small reef fish in to the beach. In all honesty, I lost more than I landed. In all honesty, I didn’t really care.

The two-hour class flew by. I was having a blast, as were all the other participants. With each cast, I felt as though I was getting better and better at reading the water, spotting the take and keeping the fish on.

Towards the end of the second hour, one of the participants hooked on to something fairly large but it managed to make a decent run and it ended up wrapping the line around a submerged rock. After a minute or two of trying to free the line, and after giving some very handy advice for dealing with such situations, the instructor decided to break it off and re-rig the pole.

The bright orange float remained about fifteen-feet out from the shore bouncing in the surf.

When the class officially ended, I asked the instructor if I could have the lost float if I was willing to swim out and retrieve it. He was only more than happy to let me do that and even threw in a cupful of shrimp bait to sweeten the deal.

I plunged into the water, swam out to the float and followed the line down to where it was snagged on a rock. The hook popped free with just a little twisting and lo and behold, I had myself a Hawaiian style surf rig plus bait.

Well, you can only imagine how I spent the rest of our early mornings on Kaanapali Beach.

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