Activities in Kauai Hawaii in on Water

Though some purists might argue that there is no place for alarms when on vacation, we’re not really cut from the same vacationing cloth as most. In fact, when we told people that we were going to Kauai for our honeymoon, most responded with some comment about how nice and relaxing it would be to rest a few days, taking it easy on the beach. Which is not really what we had in mind.

Instead, we had activities planned, and even booked for pretty much every day we’d be on the island. To further put things in perspective, most of our honeymoon details were booked even before we knew where we’d be having our wedding ceremony. You’ve got to have priorities, right?

So, it was counter to many people’s idea of relaxation that we woke up at 5:00 to start off our fourth day. Surprisingly, traffic can be pretty heavy on the main island, so we wanted to make sure that we’d have plenty of time to make it up to Kapa’a, where our fishing charter was leaving from. Not too surprisingly, though, we were up well before most, and didn’t encounter any traffic on the way up.

Which meant that we had time to pick up two important drugs: Dramamine and caffeine. We found a Safeway, which happened to be open, and even carried Dramamine, on the south side of Kapa’a. And, as luck (or maybe of their pervasive expansion strategy) would have it, there was a Starbucks just across in the same shopping center. A few well-caffeinated baristas served us our drinks (a caramel macchiato for Julie, and a regular coffee for me), and we used them to wash down a dose of Dramamine, hoping to preempt any seasickness.

Hawaiian Style Fishing was the name of the charter company, and we’d been excited to see a flyer in our condo just the night before. We were also, therefore, excited when we pulled into the harbor to see the same boat featured on the flyer being put into the water. It was probably a 28-foot fiberglass boat, with a couple of outboard engines on the back. Nothing extravagant, but it looked like it was well-equipped to catch some fish.

As we stepped on, we met our fellow fishermen. Peter and ___ were from Phoenix, and hadn’t spent much time fishing before. But they were avid hunters, preferring turkeys, elk, and deer. So early talk focused on hunting, indeed returning to wild pig hunting on Kauai.

Terry was our trusty guide. Actually, there are a lot of other adjectives that could be used in the place of trusty’. Excitable’, seasoned’, and care-free’ might be a few that I’d pick. He did have a strategy, though, which he explained in depth after we asked him what the plan was going to be for the day: “We’re going to catch some fish.”

After we’d given him our shoes, and been told where the driest seat on the boat was, we pulled out of the mouth of the harbor (no small feat on its own, due to the shifting sands that had recently clogged it) onto the open Pacific.

The sun was just coming up over the horizon. So, like the previous day, we were treated to great views, but this time with the added benefit that we could look back on the island and see how the newly-risen sun was striking the deep-green mountains.

As we began to put out lines, we were rolling on 2-3 foot swells. It seemed fairly rough to us, but Terry assured us that it was a beautifully calm day. He gave us a few tips on avoiding seasickness (keep your eyes on the land), as well as a few animated retellings of various seasickness episodes in the past. He also showed us a picture of a 10 foot shark that he’d landed a few years back. We trolled northwest, hoping to come across some Ahi, Ono, or Mahi Mahi as we skirted along the dropoff of the seafloor from 50 fathoms to 1200 fathoms.

It was about then that I realized we’d received no safety information of any kind. In contrast to the helicopter tour earlier, and the usual safe-boating practices I’ve become accustomed to, this was a very gung ho trip. Hawaiian-style, indeed.

About 20 minutes into the ride toward a navigation buoy that had recently been a hot spot for a few other guides, one of the reels started squealing. There was a fish on. Somehow I was appointed to land the first fish, and after a short fight, I pulled up an 18 inch Kava Kava (a type of small tuna). It had a striking blue dorsal side, and an intricate pattern along its lateral surfaces. “Very bloody”, Terry told us, but edible. Well, at least we had some kind of dinner.

Our two copassengers soon fell ill, claimed by the steadily rolling swells, and apparently the Burger King breakfasts that they’d eaten before coming on board. Meanwhile, we were focused on catching some fish.

It was not meant to be, though. As we caught sight of the buoy, there were no marks on our sonar, nor birds circling to suggest that there were many feeding fish around. A few passes around the buoy, even tying on the kava kava as bait for a while, led to nothing, so we turned about to a heading leading us back to the continental shelf. We’d have to try our luck with some bottom fishing, which Terry warned us could be trouble, because it meant much more rolling with the swells (more seasickness) and an increased likelihood that sharks would steal our catches.

In Florida, a couple years back, Julie and I had great success (and a lot of fun) drift trolling off the bottom in the Gulf of Mexico. The strategy was the same here, let your bait sink to the bottom, then pull it up just a couple of feet, wait for a bite, set the hook, and bring in dinner.

No sooner had we found the shelf, than the sonar lit up with fish in the water. Terry gave us one last set of instructions, and dropped a line in for Julie. Immediately, she had a fish on. It gave a pretty good fight, but was no match for an accomplished fisher like Julie. After a couple minutes, she pulled up a beautiful Amberjack. It was also a very pretty fish, with a sleek yellowish body, probably weighing in around 15 pounds. We were relieved when Terry told us that it would make good eating, since he’d cut up cut up our previous dinner as bait for the bottom fishing.

Julie had landed her fish before I’d even gotten my line in the water, so I was ready for action when my line reached the bottom. All at once, nearly everyone on the boat had a fish on their line, and then within seconds, we all felt the steady fighting pull of a fish turn into an uncontrolled tug of something much bigger. The sharks were moving in. My line was soon snapped, another was pulled all the way out to the end of the reel and broken. The action was fast and furious, and within a couple of minutes, we’d all lost a fish to a hungry, circling shark.

We were losing the tackle awfully fast, and Terry was getting a little frustrated when I got something big on the end of the line. After fighting it for a few minutes, my forearms were tired, and I hadn’t made any progress bringing it it. Julie, not one for slow progress, grabbed the line, and started pulling it in hand over hand.

Now this was 120 lb. test line, with 300 lb. leader, so we were dealing with something big. It was to my relief, then, that Terry told her to stop, for fear of losing her hands to the next big pull from the shark. To help her out, he gave her a pair of gripping gloves that would help pull the line, as well as protect her hands.

But, after another 15 minutes of this, we’d still pulled in only about 50 yards of line (out of probably 200 that had been spooled off). My arms were dead, and even after everyone else on the boat took a turn reeling, we’d only made a bit more progress. Terry started pulling in the line, and soon he looked down and said that he could actually see the beast. A few more minutes, and it was actually in sight!

As it came up to the surface, we saw it’s huge white body. It was a huge (at least in our eyes) tiger shark! After seeing the size of it, guessing that it was about eight feet, and realizing that we might actually have to land the thing, Terry ran up to the front of the boat to get the shark gun. No kidding. Things were starting to get more than a little scary. One more run, Terry figured, and then we’d bring it up to ths surface again, where Terry would fire a couple of shots into it, and we’d likely have to battle it again after it ran out, startled.

But, fortunately for those who didn’t want to see the blood of such a huge creature spilled on our behalf, before it made it up to the surface again, it snapped the line. At the joint between the leader and the spool line, there was now just a frayed mess. Phew.

We spent a couple minutes recovering from the excitement, and then began to make our way back to the harbor. On the return trip, we got a few more good fish and surf stories from Terry, and caught sight of a swimming sea turtle!

When we pulled back into the harbor, Terry made quick work of filleting Julie’s amberjack. But even quicker work was made by our two other boatmates, who eagerly jumped back on solid ground, happy to not be rocking any more. We didn’t even have time to offer them one of the filets! I guess we’d be having a big dinner.

Our dinner was made even bigger by the kind donation of two crabs by another local who was hanging out in the harbor. We got directions to season it with some authentic Hawaiian sea salt, donated by another friend of Terry’s, and we were on our way.