||121 lbs 8 oz
||North Shore, Oahu
It was a rainy start to an epic weekend of fishing. April 14, 2018, was the day after O'ahu got hit with its first nasty storm of the year. Many people will remember this time because of a flash flood warning, road closures, power outages, high surf, a brown-water advisory and images of Kalaniana'ole Highway under water. I will remember April 13 to 15 as one of the best fishing weekends I will ever experience in my lifetime. It was a weekend my fishing crew planned months in advance, and nothing was going to stop us from our fun--not even a storm.
Owen and I arrived at our campsite first on Friday the 13th. We set up shop and just cruised while the storm passed over the island. I think I only slid baits down once on each of my poles that night. The rest of that night we spent seeking shelter from the rain and lightning and talking about our previous trip, the trip on which I'd caught my first ulua, biggest ulua (80 lbs) and a total of four ulua in less than 20 hours. It was the most memorable fishing trip ever, and I couldn't imagine it being topped, especially not on this, our very next trip.
The next morning (Saturday), we got up early and started working our bait-casting poles. The weather was not bad--"small kind" rainy and windy. It was nothing like the night before. Owen landed a 2-lb omilu right off the bat, and I landed a 9-lb white ulua by 8 a.m.
I told Owen, "Two in da cooler already. Might as well go celebrate!" Soon after I said that, Roy and Hongo, two of our fishing crew members, showed up. Hongo was about to ask if we had caught anything, then he noticed the green bottle in my hand and knew I was in celebration mode.
He said,"Chee! I like see!" I showed him the two papio in the cooler.
"No moa presha already!" he said.
I showed them the tide pool where I'd stashed about 15 live tako and told them to help themselves. I said to them, "Bettah start working 'em."
The last crew member, Kaleo, a.k.a. "Da Godfaddah," showed up. Some of us were fishing and some of us were just cruising, but the main thing was we were all having a good old time!
The sky started to clear at around 11 a.m., and it was turning into a nice day. Everyone was excited to get their baits in the water, and that's what we all did. I slid down a live 4-lb tako and hoped for some big action as the tide rose. I decided to take a power nap on my cot at around 2 p.m. I knew I had a lot of eyes and ears to look after my poles. At around 3 p.m., I was awakened by a violent bell ring. As I got to my feet, Hongo and Owen were yelling at me, "Your pole, G.! Your pole!"
As soon as I turned the corner of my tent, I started sprinting toward my pole. It looked as if the pole, a 13-foot Penn Carnage Surf, was going to bust in half. After I unclipped my tie down, it felt like it took me minutes to get my pole out of my rock spike.
All this time, my ratchet was just screaming! I spent a helpless three or four minutes just watching my line spit out. I knew that whatever took this 4-lb tako in the high surf wasn't planning on returning anywhere close to shore. This buggah was big!
About five minutes into the battle, the pull eased a bit. I was down to only a quarter-spool on my reel (a Penn US Senator 4/0 reel filled with 80-lb test Berkley line). I decided to finally set my hook. Bam!
Once I set the hook, the "beast" got angry and off it went again! This time it made some vicious head throbs. Knowing that I had less than 50 yards of line left, I started walking my pole down the coast (to the right) to gain some line. Thanks to Hongo, I was able to successfully maneuver over and under 10 poles and the fight continued. I was about 10 minutes into the fight when I saw Kaleo walking out with two of our gaffs.
"Showtime!" one of the boys yelled. I was in full boost action mode and my line started to go back left, which meant this beast was trying to head back out to the Pacific. I wasn't going to let that happen. My line started to rub on coral, so I started walking my pole to the left. The rubbing stopped after a few minutes, and I was finally able to reel in line, very slowly. I would bring in 5 yards, and the beast would take 10 yards right back out. I was about 15 minutes into the battle with this beast, and I knew it was the biggest fish I'd ever hooked from shore. There was no way I was going to go down without a fight. I started to take control over the beast at this point.
"Coming in," Owen said. The surf was still pounding, and the beast was about 50 yards out. My two gaffmen, Hongo and Kaleo, tossed their shirts and walked down the sharp cliffside.
"Heavy white wash!" I yelled to them. "I going bring 'im up to you guys over there." I pointed to the flattest part of the reef where the waves were pounding the hardest.
Twenty minutes in, and the beast was about 10 yards out, swimming left to right, but we still couldn't see any color because of all the white wash. Suddenly Owen yelled, "Ulua, brah! Ulua! White!"
In a split second, I saw a dorsal fin come out of the water. "Holy crackers!" I thought to myself. This beast, which we just confirmed as a monster ulua, was 5 yards out, rolling in with the waves.
"Right! Right! Right!" Owen and I yelled to Hongo and Kaleo. As my two gaffmen tippy-toed through the sharp rocks to the right, a huge wave crashed on them. Kaleo went down with the wave but bounced back up. Hongo was following my line with his hand. It guided him to where the ulua was, right where I wanted it, right in gaffing range.
I yelled, "Next wave! Next wave!" notifying them I was going to boost the ulua up on the next incoming wave. The next wave was a monster wave that summersaulted the beast into midair, out of the water. Both Kaleo and Hongo tried to gaff the beast, but the surge of the wave caused them both to miss. The whitewash took down Hongo, but Kaleo was able to brace himself on a nearby rock. Hongo bounced right back up like a champ, and I yelled to them again, "Next wave!" I tightened my line and watched the beast flop down the reef and back into the ocean with the back surge.
Next came two very long seconds of my life. I couldn't imagine the nightmares I would have if my line cut right then and there. Right as the beast was about to reach the bottom of the reef and tumble back down into the ocean, another wave crashed in. This time, my two gaffmen were ready! The next wave came, and both gaffmen simultaneously gaffed the beast.
"Dis is hundo, brah!" Kaleo yelled out as he and Hongo walked the fish up the cliff. Kaleo was calling the weight at 100-plus lbs.
After a lot of "chee hoos" and high fives, we walked the beast up to our campsite. We weighed the fish on my digital scale, and it read a whopping 121 lbs 8 oz! We again celebrated island-style.
It was an epic fishing trip that we will all remember for the rest of our lives. Mahalo to Roy and Sandy at Roy's Fishing Supply in Pearl City for officially weighing my fish so I could be a part of the 100-Plus Club and for supplying me with my fishing and diving equipment. Also, mahalo to Desmond Thain for my beautiful gyotaku prints. I highly recommend contacting Desmond if you have a trophy/prized catch that you would like to have printed.
Lastly, I send a major mahalo shoutout to my fishing crew that weekend: Kaleo and Hongo for taking cracks on the reef to gaff my trophy fish; Owen for videoing my fight with the beast; and Roy for making me a believer that there are always big fish out there. There's no way I could have done it without all of you guys.
Until our next fishing story, keep the lines tight! Aloha! . . . Grant