Opelu Two E-mail
Tuesday, 21 July 2015 10:23

1.  fat hawaiian ono Aloha and Happy New Year KFM readers.  Last month I submitted the first article of a four-part series on how to get better at kayak fishing. This series of articles will discuss how live bait fishing can improve your kayak fishing.  If you’re following along then you know that kayak safety is your personal choice however it is highly recommended you take your safety to the highest level.  You also learned last month how important a fishing finder is for locating live bait.  In the Decembers issue I discussed fish finder rigging options for kayak anglers and how to use these tools to find the Opelu Koa’s.  Now, I will discuss how to catch opelu. First off I would like to begin with saying that what I am sharing here is not the only way to do things.  There are many ways to fillet a fish.  Time on the water will help you discover what works for you.  If you find something that works good for you by all means roll with it.  I am sharing what works best for me.

Oh the mighty opelu.  We just love and hate them.  At times they can be the most frustrating fish to understand and catch. Knowing where they live and what they eat is important but that is only part of the battle.  Let’s assume you have a fish finder installed on your kayak and you’re out chasing bait balls.  You know how frustrating it can be to find them and catch them.  For me fishing for opelu has become somewhat of a ritual or a process of actions. This process begins with my opelu rod and reel combo.  I think it is important for kayak anglers to find their magic bait pole.  Over the years I discovered my favorite set up.  What I use and what other top kayak angler’s use is completely different so again time on the water will help you find your favorite set up.

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For me one of the most important aspects of a bait pole is the action.  I like action that is sensitive enough to hold a bend in the rod so I can feel all the sensitive nibbles from the opelu.  The rod needs to be sensitive but also strong enough to hold a 5-7 ounce lead.  I like to use a 7’ foot Shakespeare Ugly Stick, medium action, 10-25 pound line paired with a Penn Jig Master conventional real.  A conventional reel helps me to feel bites on the drop. A lot of guys like to use spinning reels for catching bait and sometimes I will use a Penn Spin Fisher too as they offer faster retrieve rates.  However the Penn Jig Master is easy to clean and maintain.  

My bait reel gets a lot of saltwater exposure, so a reel that can endure this abuse is important to me. I got to thank Roy over at Roy’s tackle in Pearl City.  He talked me into a Penn Jig Master many years ago and it is still going strong today.  Mahalo Roy. I like to use a thin braided line for the main line on the reel.  This will help to drop the rigs down fast. I use a 20 pound braided that’s a measured line.  Sometimes you won’t see your lead weight dropping down on the fish finder so a colored line helps you to drop the rigs to the proper depth

Once you find a favorite bait rod and reel now it’s time to rig it up with some opelu catching leaders.  There are many pre made Damashi and Sabiki rigs available on the market that will work for catching opelu.  Me, I don’t like to spend a lot of money on opelu rigs or spend time driving to the store.  Over the years I have learned a simple style to tie my own opelu damashi rigs. I make my bait rigs out of stiff 12-20 pound test fluorocarbon leader.  The stiffer the leader lines the better it is at keeping the leader away from and tangling in the main line.  I start the process by making a small surgeon’s loop used for connecting the rig to the small swivel on my main line.  Some anglers like to use a dropper loop for the leaders but I find this a hard knot to tie.  Instead I go with the easier surgeon’s end loop to make my leaders.  It can get complicated quickly using a lot of branches while kayak fishing so I will normally make no more than six surgeon end loops.

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I keep my loops about 4-5 inches long and about 10-12 inches apart.  At this point the loops can be used directly as branches for the hooks by placing the loop though the eye of the hook and over the shank. You can also cut the loop and use the remaining line as a single line branch.  Both methods have worked for me and the ease of the surgeons end loop makes short work of this task.   For hooks I like to use a Maruto size 8 BH hook.  I normally won’t make the entire length leader over ten feet long.  Leaders over ten feet long become harder to manage.  After I make all my leader loops, I make one more loop at the bottom for the lead. I want the last lead loop to be away from my first bait hook so I tie this about 2 feet down from the first bait.  I find that the led scares the opelu so I like to keep it further down away from the damashi hooks.  I will normally use a lead weighing between 5-7 ounces depending on the winds and currents.  You want to fish these rigs straight up and down when fishing in the bait ball.  If the line is drifting out at an angle you won’t catch as much bait so heavier weight is the best way to sink the bait straight down.

Now you’re just about ready to go, you got a favorite pole; you made your own damashi rig, and now you wondering, what’s the best opelu bait to use?  Well ask a hundred kayak anglers and you will probably get a lot of different answers to that question.  The best way to bait for opelu is to understand what they eat.  After studying UH data I have learned  that *Gut samples from opelu indicated that zooplankton species such as hyperid amphipods, crab megalops, and various fish larvae are the primary food source of adult opelu in Hawaiian waters.  Ref: Yamaguchi, 1953.

I also learned that *Prey categories for opelu included copepoda, amphipodae, euphausiidae, mysidae, gastropoda, crab megalopa, annelida, icthyoplankton and other plant material.  Hand line caught opelu primarily feed on crab megalops and euphausiid shrimp.  Net caught opelu feed on copepods and small gastropods. Crab megalops were consistently fed upon throughout the opelu’s life cycle.  Ref: Blake D McNaughton, 2008. 

In layman’s terms this means that the diet of opelu consist mostly of arrow worm, fish larvae, juvenile crab, and juvenile shrimp.  So what’s the best opelu bait to use?  I guess it depends on what the opelu are eating.  Many of the top kayak angler all us use different baits.  Time on the water will help you find your favorite bait. Don’t be afraid to experiment until you find something that works really well.  In his books, Jim Ruzzuto suggests tying your own flies with dental floss and white, yellow or red thread.  He also suggests using plastic minnow strips. These homemade flies will work and minnow strips are readily available.  I like to use the smallest curly tail grubs.  I find the clear ones with speckles inside work good.  I also like to use the obake colored grubs.  These curly tail grubs have a good action when jigged and are easy to come by.

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Ok so now you got a fish finder, you got your magic bait pole, you’re out on the water kayak fishing, and suddenly your fish finder alarm goes off; you mark a big ball of bait now what?  Scramble 911.  You go for your bait pole while desperately trying to untangle the damashi branches.   Then one of the bait branches snags on something and before you can get you rig in the water the bait ball is gone.  This is a common scenario.  You never know when you will come along and find the bait ball while paddling your kayak so it’s best to always be ready to catch them when you see them on the fish finder. 

The best way to do this is to keep the bait rod deployed in the water and ready to go at all times.  That way as soon as you hear the alarm on the fish finder you can immediately drop your rig into the ball.  Most of the time you will see your lead drop into the bait ball on the fish finder but not always.  A colored line will help you figure out the depth if you can’t see the led dropping down.  I like to send my led down past the bait ball and then start jigging the baits up.

Sometimes the opelu likes an aggressive and fast jig upward and other times a slower up and down jig will work.  The important thing is to work on your action.  Opelu like moving baits and are used to some kind of movement.  I like to jig and retrieve upwards.  If I don’t get bites jigging on the way up I will drop the line back down stopping and jigging along the way.  I often will get hits on the way back down.  Having a conventional reel and my thumb on the line helps me to feel the bites as I am dropping the line back down.

When opelu bite, expect to catch several at a time.  When retrieving the opelu to the surface you will want a gentle but steady retrieve.  Opelu have soft mouths that can tear easily.  A trick to get a few more opelu on the leader is to wait a few seconds before reeling up the line.  This will give time for other opelu to hook up.  When you bring up a leader full of opelu, it can also bring the bait ball up to the surface too.  

11. donald mahi Chum can be used to keep the bait ball in the local vicinity while you deal with removing the baits you have on your line.  Sometime it can be difficult when you bring up a full leader of live opelu’s to the side of a kayak. It can become an ugly mess quickly.  I like to put my rod back in the pole holder and hand line the fish up to the side of the kayak one at a time till I have them all removed from the hooks.  Usually catching a full load of opelu is a good feeling and you’re hoping that something in the water is going to be hungry and want to eat them.  I am usually pretty excited when I catch my first baits of the day.  I know that having live bait in the water will increase my odds of catching a fish.

In conclusion, live bait will help you catch more fish on the kayak.  You will need a fish finder to find live bait. Get a favorite bait rod and reel combo that works for you.  Rig it up with some store bought or homemade damashi rigs and go hunting for bait balls.  Always be ready to drop on the bait balls because they move around quickly.  Make sure your rigs sink straight down.  If they don’t sink straight down go to a heavier weight.  Make sure to put a little distance between the last hook and lead.  Get good at making action for your baits.

Opelu like action and it takes time to develop a style that is attractive to them. Above all, be safe and spend more time on the water kayak fishing.  Time on the water is our best teacher.  Have respect for our ocean.  In next month’s article I am going to discuss how to store your live baits after you catch them.  I will be covering different live well options and ways to keep the opelu strong and healthy.  Until then, tight lines and Happy New Year. 

Aloha, David Elgas aka: Boogie-D

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

                                                                                                                          

 

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