I’ve observed some similar tactics used by fishing pier anglers along our North Carolina coastline where the actual angling takes place from high above the water. In a few instances our pier fishermen may find snags on the bottom where they’re casting their rigs, but for the most part, our pier anglers face sandy bottoms that are reasonably snag-free.
Years ago when I was visiting the Big Island of Hawaii to attend a meeting of the committee members of the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) and serve as an observer for the boats fishing in the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament, I saw anglers fishing from the extremely rocky shoreline along the coast and wondered just how they managed to keep from snagging their gear on the rocky bottom. It wasn’t until I had the opportunity to visit the island of Maui recently that I got a lesson in just how the Hawaiians solved the rocky bottom problems of their beach fishermen.
One needs to realize that all of the Hawaiian Islands were born as volcanoes rose from the floor of the Pacific Ocean. This process began many years ago and is still in the formative stages in areas such as the very active Mauna Loa volcano on the island of Hawaii. On the other islands there are extinct or dormant volcanoes remaining. Because the eruptions of these volcanoes throw out huge boulders and rocks composed of very abrasive hardened lava, for the most part all the shorelines of the islands are very rough. A few sandy beaches do exist in the Hawaiian Islands but they’re the exception rather than the rule.
The volcanic rubble on the Pacific Ocean’s bottom is somewhat like the more familiar riprapped shoreline we find along some North Carolina lakes and ocean shorelines. In the case of Hawaii though, most of their shoreline is composed of rugged and highly abrasive lava rock rather than granite.
The Hawaiian fishermen also have a problem with the fact that their shoreline drops off nearly vertically only a few feet beneath their casting positions fifty or more feet high above the water. The water just a few feet offshore may be 100 (or more) feet in depth. Within a mile or less off the island’s shore the water may be thousands of feet deep.
This rocky bottom is underwater structure that offers shelter to a huge variety of forage for larger predatory fish that are the targets of the Hawaiian fishermen.
The Hawaiian’s tackle set-up has evolved over many years. They start with a casting rod that may be from 12 or more feet in length. It’s designed to be able to cast a lead weight that may weigh several pounds. The rig does not involve having a baited hook attached at this time.
The heavy lead weight has several soft wire “legs” attached to the weight’s perimeter that are there to become lodged in the lava rock bottom and firmly hold the fishing line in place. When (and if) the fisherman tries to pull the line in, the wire legs of the weight bend and (hopefully) release the weight from the bottom. Since the main fishing line may be 50-pound test, a considerable amount of force can be placed to pull the weight free. Even then a lot of lead weights are lost on the lava bottoms. The fisherman wants the main fishing line to be held firmly in place on the rocky bottom and held there perhaps throughout the entire fishing expedition.
It might be good at this point to consider that the bait the angler may use could weigh five or more pounds. Hawaiian fishermen often use a bait-to-prey ratio weight of 10-to-1. That is to say if a 100-pound fish is the anglers target then he could use a 10-pound fish as bait. The same ratio is applied in offshore trolling rigs that (theoretically) could use a baitfish weighing up to 100 pounds to target a 1,000-pound blue marlin.
To cast a heavy weight combined with a heavy bait is nearly impossible, so the Hawaiians have devised a fishing method called “slide-baiting” to take their baited hooks down the fishing line to the spot where the angler wants the bait to be placed.
Although the deep water close by the rocky shore may hold game fish such as the well-known mahi-mahi or even a blue marlin, the primary target fish for the Hawaiian angler seems to be the highly predatory ulua (jack fish) that may weigh over 100 pounds. This is an edible fish, and the Hawaiians prize it highly. Heavy tackle and large baits now look very feasible.
The standard fishing reel that’s often a heavy trolling reel is attached to the long fishing rod. The heavy fishing line with weight attached is cast out and deliberately fouled in the rocks. The line is then pulled tight and a slider affair is easily attached to this line. This can be a split ring or a pig-tailed swivel that can hold the leader with hook attached to the main line.
The baited hook is then allowed to slide down the sharply declining tightened heavy line and onto a wire leader that’s attached to the end of the main line. At the end of this wire leader is a large ring that stops the slider rig from going down the line any further. Below this large “stopper ring” is a predetermined length of medium weight fishing line which is attached to the weight which holds the baited line in position until an ulua strikes or a smaller fish eats the bait off the hook. If the fisherman needs to send down a freshly baited leader he simply attaches another short rig and lets it slide down to just above the older rig.
When an ulua is hooked the medium weight line attached to the sinker breaks away (leaving the lead behind) and the angler has the big fish on a free line ready to put up a fight. Hopefully the fight ends when the angler gaffs the ulua with a gaff hook lowered into the surf from his perch high above the water.
Hawaiian SCUBA divers make good money by retrieving the heavy lead weights that fishermen leave behind in the rock or coral in the bottom below favored fishing spots along the coast of Hawaii.