How-To: Hawaiian Style E-mail
Saturday, 07 February 2015 14:05

Boogie-amberjack on opelu Aloha KFM readers and anglers! Since I took up kayak angling twelve years ago people have always been asking me “how do I catch more fish kayak fishing”. If you ever attended our free kayak fishing clinics at Windward Boats (808-263-6030) you will know my answer has always been “get better at live baiting”.

Over the next four months I am going to share with you what I have learned about live baiting and kayak fishing. Some people think this info is top secret yet there are several books written in Hawaii by Jim Rizzuto that discuss this type of fishing. There have also been many articles over the years that have appeared in the HFN which demonstrate live bait techniques. When I first began to kayak fish there was no on-line information out there on this matter so I had to rely on these books and articles for my live bait success. Now there are several on-line resources to better your live bait fishing. Much of the information I am sharing here can be found on the internet. I owe a lot of my success before the internet to the Haleiwa boat captains that showed me their styles of live baiting like the late great Cpt. Rusty Spencer, Cpt. Mark Glazier, Cpt. Dave, and anglers Kevin, and Danno. I want to thank these guys for teaching me to be a better angler.

The mighty Opelu, what great baits for catching big predator fish. Commonly known as the cigar minnow, this species exist all over the world. Mackerel scad are fun to catch and good to eat but most importantly they are one of the preferred foods for big predator fish. Opelu reside in Hawaii and to truly understand this bait it best to study them in detail. There is a great article written and you can find it on line by googling “Oahu Opelu” or by using this link:

 http://www.soest.hawaii.edu/PFRP/pdf/mcnaughton_opelu_thesis_master.pdf

 

opelu I would highly recommend reading this article. In this article you will learn that there are four species of mackerel scad in Hawaii. *Two species are much more common and one, Decapterus Macarellus, being the most dominate species. It is known that opelu like to return to and frequent certain areas. Opelu occupy the neritic zone and in Hawaii are usually found at depths between 20 to 200 meters, although they can be found further offshore, particularly around floating debris. Most of the customary opelu fishing grounds are located at koas or fish aggregation areas, which are usually associated with a bathymetric feature such as an underwater ledge, canyon, or pinnacle. Opelu are usually caught when the currents move in the right direction against these underwater features. Optimal current direction depends on the actual koa. The currents bring in the food on which the opelu feed on. These are the areas in which opelu will congregate. *Ref: Blake D McNaughton 2008

The locations of exact opelu koa’s are known through extensive indigenous knowledge by Hawaiian fishing families. These opelu koa’s are to be respected. To the Hawaiian nation the Opelu is a mighty fish and is spoken of in the Hawaiian creation chant, the Kumulipo, which traces the genealogical origins of the Hawaiian people. Opelu is an abundant food source found close to shore and was easily caught by Hawaiians from canoes. What does this all mean to the kayak opelu school fisherman? It means that the Hawaiians have been using canoes to fish for opelu for a very long time and through generations of hard work the Hawaiian nation built some of the existing opelu koa’s we enjoy today. Kayaking is a modern extension of the great Hawaiian canoe and so to be good kayak fisherman we need to think like the ancient Hawaiians and need to be respectful of their culture. The next question I often get is “Where are the opelu koa’s located?” This is information that I cannot share but I can tell you that opelu can be found in the offshore waters all around the Hawaiian Islands. The best ways to find opelu koa’s is get out there and find them yourself. Time on the water is one of the best teachers we have.

So let’s assume you don’t come from a long genealogy of Hawaiian fishing families and don’t know where there is an opelu koa. Don’t panic. In today’s world of advanced technology you can be still successful at kayak fishing. First, before venturing offshore to kayak fish, you need to be strong enough to endure the very physical demands of kayaking in open ocean. You will need a lot of safety gear and it is best to utilize the buddy system when venturing offshore to kayak fish. Kayak fishing can be very dangerous and you need to be fully prepared for anything. Personal safety is up to us and it is wise to have all those eggs in the basket before you take on offshore kayak fishing. Once you have all your safety gear in place the most important tool you will need to catch live bait and get better at kayak fishing is a fish finder. A modern fish finder is like having all of the koa’s in your pocket. With a fish finder we can locate the koas, we can find the baitfish and we can attempt to catch live bait.

donald bait mahi There are several brands and models of fish finders on the market. There are also several kayaks specifically made that incorporate a scupper hole to hold the transducer of the fish finder. I personally use a Hobie Adventure Island kayak and a Garmin 441s fish finder. This Garmin unit has a GPS and has a split screen for using both the fish finder and the GPS function at the same time. I find the Garmin brand to be perfect for my kayak fishing needs and they have handled all warranty issues with no problems. One thing I like is the man overboard feature of the GPS. When I find an Opelu bait ball I can push this button and activate this feature. By using the man overboard feature it helps me to relocate the bait ball after I drift off of it. There are several brands of fish finders that are cheaper and that will work. The main functions of a good fish finder are that it will show depth, show structure, and locate the opelu balls.

Once you buy a fish finder you will need to install it onto your kayaks. Hobie has a lot of mounting products available as well as a company I like to use called Yak Attack. This American made company is so in tune with kayak anglers it’s awesome. Yak Attach will have every available fish finder mounting product that you will ever need and if they don’t have it, they can build anything you can think of. The guys at Yak Attack are amazing. Locally, Windward Boats is the Oahu Hobie dealer and they have everything you will need to mount a fish finder as well as a selection of fish finders and kayaks to choose from. I personally use a small 1 inch ball diamond mount to a swivel platform. This allows me to position the fish finder however I need it. I will mount the diamond mount just forward of my left foot.

The next step on installing a fish finder is mounting the transducer. Like I said many of the companies including Hobie are now molding in scupper holes that will house the transducer. These new kayak models are convenient but if you have an older kayak no worries. There is a great product called duct seal you can use to mount the transducer inside of the kayak. Duct Seal is found at most hardware stores in the electrical or plumbing section and is used to seal ducting as it passes through walls. Duct seal is basically like a heavy duty Play-Doh. Though newer kayak models are convenient with built in transducer supper holes an exposed transducer has no protection from the sand or reef. I prefer to mount my transducer on the inside of the kayak using the duct seal. Keeping my transducer inside of the hull protects it when I cross the beach and reef. I like to mount the transducer as far forward as possible, on the flattest spot, just before the bow of the kayak. I will make a patty out of the Duct Seal and lay that down first. Then I will nestle in my transducer right into it. Next I will take some Duct Seal and roll it into a roll and place the roll around the transducer and patty. Duct Seal is awesome because you can easily remove it from the kayak but it will hold your transducer in place.

Now that you have your fish finder and your transducer mounted in place you will need a battery to power the unit. I use a lead sealed 12v 10 ah Power Patrol battery and for all my battery needs ono bait I go to Interstate Batteries. On Oahu, Interstate Batteries is located in Waipahu and they have been supplying my batteries for years with great customer service. The most important thing when choosing a fish finder battery is getting one strong enough to last all day without a recharge. Speaking of recharge, you will need to get a battery charger to recharge the fish finder battery. Interstate Batteries sells chargers and have several solar panel options available that can be used to keep your battery charged while on the water kayak fishing. I place my battery right under the kayak seat. To make it all work you will need to connect the traducer wires and the battery wires to the fish finder unit. There are several options for wiring. Newer kayak models are making kayaks designed with electrical wiring in mind. Older model kayaks can easily be modified by drilling the smallest hole and using a product called Marine Goop to seal the hole after passing the wires through. Marine Goop can be found at most hardware stores.

Once your kayak has a fish finder installed and powered up you can begin your pursuit of the mighty Opelu, one of the greatest fish in the sea. I personally like to look for opelu in 80 feet to 240 feet of water. I will use the fish finder to look for the drop offs along the ledges. I will look for pinnacles, walls, and anywhere I can see a dip in the ocean floor or an uprising. Most of the time opelu are associated with underwater structure other times you will just paddle across them while trolling along. Sometime opelu can be seen splashing on the surface. Opelu are easy to spot on the fish finder. They appear as a bunch of dots in a ball. The bigger and thicker the bait ball the better the chances of catching a few good baits out of it.  When I find a good ball I use the man overboard function on my GPS to help me relocate the bait after I drift off it. Sometimes you find massive balls and load up on lots of live baits. Other times there will be a lot of predator fish in the water feeding on the baits. When predators are feeding on the baits, the balls will be smaller, sporadic, and much harder to catch.

Sam mackerelscad ono In conclusion be respectful of the opelu koa’s, the Hawaiian nation, and the ocean. Know your strengths and your limits. Have all of your safety gear in place and use the buddy system. Spend time on the water to learn, there is no greater teacher. A fish finder, a battery, and a battery charger will help you to locate Opelu schools. Learn to find the bait ball and catch live bait. You are on your way to becoming a better kayak angler. In next month’s article I will discuss how to catch opelu. In the following months article I will discuss how to store live bait on a kayak. I will end with an article on how to rig these live bait to catch fish. Until then God bless and have a great holiday season. Aloha. David Elgas aka: Boogie-D

Mahalo to: Windward Boats, Hobie, Garmin, Interstate Batteries, AFTCO, Yak Attack, Kokatat, Werner, and Penn.

 

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