I’m fairly new to the world of fishing. Before about a year ago, the closest I’d come to the sport was plucking several dead goldfish out of their respective bowls as a young child… with a wooden spoon. In fact, before a year ago, the only fish I’d ever eaten was canned tuna fish.
And then, I started dating a boy with a boat. Never did I think I’d be catching, gaffing, and eating fish on a pretty regular basis, let alone waking up at four am on a Saturday to head out to a FAD (fish aggregating device) more than ten miles off shore in hopes of catching some ahi. But, that’s just what I did a few Saturdays ago, and it turned out to be one of the most memorable days I’ve ever had on the water.
The afternoon before we were set to ship out, if you will, I received some very sad news from my mother; my cousin back on the mainland had died of natural causes in his sleep at the age of only forty one. Completely shocked by the news, I started to think that maybe I didn’t really feel like fishing the next day – it no longer seemed very important.
The more I thought about it, however; I realized it might just be the best thing for me. I wouldn’t be able to travel back for my cousin’s funeral, and I decided that I would have my own ceremony of sorts at sea. So that night, as my boyfriend packed the cooler and got the lures ready, I made a lei from the Plumeria tree outside my house. I would bring it with us and let it go in the ocean as is traditional in Hawaii when someone passes away.
The next morning, we left the harbor before dawn and got to the buoy as the sun was rising. It was packed – as another fisherman joked to us, it was “like Pipeline in December!” But no one seemed to be having much luck. As we struck out along with the rest of the fleet, I felt comforted by the beautiful rays of sun lighting up the island I call home.
Boats started leaving one by one and we were about to join them when my boyfriend decided to put out his smallest rod with his smallest tackle, just for fun. It was then that we finally got a bite. He fought the fish for almost an hour, all the while hoping that the 20 pound line wouldn’t break under the weight of a fish that clearly weighed much more than 20 pounds. As the fish got closer to the boat, we were amazed to see how big it was. I grabbed the gaffe and nervously waited for my time to act; I didn’t want to be the reason we lost this fish that we shouldn’t even have.
I gaffed it in one hit and we pulled it into the boat together. It was big – the biggest fish we had ever caught. We would find out later that it was actually 42 pounds! A forty two pound shibi (small ahi)… we were amazed. After the excitement started to wear off, my eyes filled with tears. You’re not supposed to catch a 42 pound fish on 20 pound tackle. My cousin John, who had always loved to fish, was surely behind this, and it was then that I realized we were actually at the “J” buoy. Apparently, exactly where I was supposed to be.
From then on, every pass we did by the buoy, we got a bite. When we finally did head inshore, our cooler was over flowing with shibi and aku. We spent the rest of the day basking in the knowledge of this fact and the sweet sunshine of a perfect day on the North Shore. Some time before sunset, I said a few words in honor of my cousin and sent the lei out to sea; what was my original plan for honoring him had become a thank you to him for bringing us such a great trip.
In the days after, we enjoyed sashimi, seared ahi, fried aku… you name it. But the best ingredient was the love I felt from my cousin who couldn’t be there in person to share it with us.