Old Man And The Sea - a Kayak Fishing Story E-mail
Thursday, 08 October 2009 07:25

The paddle from our launching site at Yokohama Bay to Kaena Point, where we usually turn around and start the return leg, is about two hours. On this day the waters were calm, the sun was hot, and the fish werent biting in the least. It was the kind of day that one gets lulled to the brink of sleep due to a complete lack of activity combined with the kayaks gentle roll from side to side with each stroke of the paddle.

Turning around after hours of paddling and realizing our trip was halfway done with nothing to show was disappointing. The breathtaking view of the shoreline, a rocky coast transitioning quickly to the sheer mountain range separating the islands southwest and northern shores, didnt seem to provide consolation for what was looking more and more to be a "skunk" day. As we turned our kayaks around to start heading back, I reeled in the mackerel I had been dragging just to check if it was intact. Sure enough the mackerel was still there, without even a bit of evidence that something had tried to get it. I went ahead and replaced the bait with a fresh one for no other reason than to give myself something to do. The night before, I had taken my entire reel apart to clean and grease it so as to be ready for any action wed experience that day. Perhaps it was this extra preparation and my resulting heightened state of readiness that made the lack of any action so hard to bear. Or maybe it was that this was the first really hot day out on the water having no cloud cover at all. Picking up the pace of my paddling, I tried to get out of the shallower water that surrounded this westernmost tip of Oahu. It's always irritating to have one's bait shredded by the smaller reef fish that were large enough to bite the bait but too small to take the hook.

Suddenly, my reel screamed as it emptied line faster than I had ever experienced!

I tried but was unable to lift the rod out of its holder as the fish's unrelenting run created strong pressure on the rod literally freezing it in the holder. As I tried to tighten up on the drag, I realized my spool was about two-thirds empty and line was still going out! In a bit of a panic, I tried to crank the reel while still in the holder then felt my heart sink as the crank handle spun free! In disbelief of the situation, I continued cranking the handle, yet it would only freewheel as if a gear had broken. Suddenly, before I could figure what had gone wrong, the whole spool flew off its axle and jumped around madly as line continued to fly out through the rod as it remained stuck in its holder. The fish stopped its run, seemingly to give both of us a breather, which gave me a chance to dismount the rod and grab the line directly. Knowing that the thirty-pound test line could easily sever my fingers, I removed my hat and used it as a glove while applying line pressure on the running fish. Thankfully, the kayak was now being pulled by the fish and added to the resistance to slow its run.

As the fish pulled the kayak along at a pretty decent clip, I was able to simply hold on to the line and contemplate the situation I was in. Apparently, I must have left a screw loose when reassembling the reel housing leaving the gear assembly to come out of place. Of all days to get the strike of a lifetime! As I held on to the line, wondering what was on the other end, I started laughing. I could only think of Spencer Tracy in The Old Man And The Sea. I laughed out loud as I realized here I was in the dawning of my senior years, living out scenes from one of my all time favorite movies. After about a half hour of line give-and-take, I finally could see what turned out to be the biggest barracuda Ive ever seen in my life. It measured around five feet and, when brought alongside, continued to propel the kayak as I looked on in awe. My partner who had been laughing non-stop throughout the event paddled over and asked what I was going to do with it. I replied, "this ones going back to fight another day!" We took a picture as I held my trophy as high out of the water as I could then released it to the depths from which it came. As the adrenalin wore off I realized, looking at the tangled mess of line in my lap, I had no tackle to fish with for the long paddle back! Half-heartedly, I tied a long length of line with a baited hook to my bowline and threw it over the side. Although the chances were slim that something would bite, the effort would at least give me something to anticipate during the long paddle back to our starting point! Paddling even slower, I again began to get lulled into sleepiness as I day-dreamingly watched my bowline dragging in the water alongside the kayak. And then, this time very quietly, I noticed the bowline being pulled away from the kayak like the minute hand of a clock moving from the six toward the twelve.

"Ohhh my God," I muttered to myself before yelling to my partner who looked over to me just as the bow line went tight then cracked like a cap gun!

The fish had broken the line. Suddenly, my partner yelled out my name as he laughed and pointed out a large mahi-mahi (dorado) jumping madly in the distance apparently trying to shake the hook that it's taken along with my broken line. Convinced now that anything was possible, I knew I could land a decent-sized fish if I could only allow it to take line until the kayak began moving. I then picked up the spool and snipped off the mess of tangled line.

Then, with a quarter of the original line remaining in the spool, I placed it back onto the axle and set out another baited hook. Within a half hour, I got another strike. This time, I was ready! I grabbed my hat off my head and again using it as a glove held the line in one hand while my other hand held the spool as to prevent it from over-spinning. The pressure was enough to check the fishs initial run and soon I was again in an exchange of getting and giving line, this time with another mahi-mahi! The exchange went on for about a half hour and finally ended with the successful boating of a seventeen-pounder and what will probably be the biggest fish story of my life. And like The Old Man And The Sea, I returned home tired yet victorious. then crawled into bed to take a nap.

Richard Young, creator of www.hawaiibeachcombers.com, is an avid kayak fisherman and shares on his website information about Hawaii beaches through his favorite activities like kayak fishing, shore fishing, snorkeling and diving, bodysurfing, bodyboarding, and windsurfing.

 

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