05
Aug 17

Interview with Kenny Karas – Hawaii on the Fly

I tried for many years to catch a bonefish in Hawaii and for many years I failed. I failed for many reasons and I learned many lessons, but it was my trip in the summer of 2017 with Kenny Karas from Hawaii on the Fly (Kenny and Mike Hennesy are the guides there) that finally broke my oi’o (Hawaiian for bonefish) curse. Here’s an interview with the man himself.

Hawaii, as a bonefish destination, didn’t really exist a decade ago. Since then, a lot has been written about chasing bonefish in the Islands. What do you think people have the most wrong about bonefishing in Hawaii?

I think the biggest misconception is people think there are not a lot of bonefish here. Ya they are big, but I get a lot of people saying there isn’t a good population. As you saw that is completely wrong. A lot of dyi guys say that because they don’t know the tides or even where to find them!!!
Hawaii is a place where the possibility of a 20 pound bone gets mentioned. Do you think such a fish exists and if so, could he/she be in Hawaii?
Yes, I definitely think that fish is here. I know of an 18lber caught many years ago on an outer Island on spinning gear!!! I have caught bones up to 14lbs and have seen bigger!!!
What makes or breaks a day of bonefishing in Hawaii?  
Wind and rain play a huge roll!! And I think the angler is the other. You don’t need 70′ cast here. You just have to be accurate and play the fish correctly.
When you are on the water a lot you see some really weird stuff. Anything you’ve seen on the water that other folks probably just have never seen?  
Two things I’ve seen that I thought were pretty nuts. One was a small Cessna  crash land in the water about 150 yds away from the flat!! The other was I caught a mahi mahi in 3″ of water on the flats one day with my bare hands.
You have a local place you recommend for good, non-touristy eats?
Nicos!! Epic fish eats and local kind foods!!!
When you think about the future of bonefishing in Hawaii, what is encouraging? What is discouraging?
The most encouraging thing I still see big numbers and big fish on a regular basis. These fish get pounded hence why they are so psycho!! The most discouraging thing is the lack of conservation.  Gill netting is still practiced here and our local game and fish department is pretty much non existent!!! I really worry about it a lot. But I also think about what these fish have gone through in the last 50years and they are still here. These fish are survivors and find ways to flourish!!!!
Thanks Kenny. I’ll be back and hope to hit the water with you again in 2018.

02
Jul 17

Hawaiian Bonefish Exception

Hawaiian bonefish are super, super spooky. But… sometimes, they aren’t.

One fish that fell well outside the norm (the norm here defined by guide Kenny and from my own observations on the day) was a fish that I basically dabbed. (dab. verb. While fly fishing, to present the fly without casting by simply placing the fly in front of a fish)

I had just broken off a fish (something I did twice on strip-strikes) and Kenny was tying on another one of his flies I never would have selected (just totally different from what I cast at bones, not because they weren’t good looking). We were on a narrow little flat, maybe 30 feet wide and a few hundred feet long, connected to a larger flat. The fish were coming up on the flat from the deeper water on both sides and moving down the little flat towards us.

As Kenny was mid-tie, a bonefish of 3-4 pounds came towards us and about 15 feet away, it just stopped and milled around a bit. The wind was blowing pretty hard, so it wasn’t clear if it actually saw us or if it felt us more. Either way, it didn’t spook.

Fly attached, I simply put the fly in front of the fish and the darn thing promptly ate, right there in front of us.

Both Kenny and I laughed pretty hard at that as the fish sped away. What the fish lacked in predator detection it made up for in defensive maneuvering. Off the flat the fish fled and right around some coral, deeper than we could get to. The fish got off, but, it was hard to be upset about that one.

So, you need to lead Hawaiian bones by a country mile, until you find a fish that doesn’t mind at all (there aren’t many of those).


29
Jun 17

My Hawaiian Bonefish Skunk is Dead

It is a family vacation we are on, but, of course, there is a little fishing in the mix.

We are on Oahu and I managed to convince my wife to part with me one day so I could try and break my Hawaiian bonefish hex. I’ve been to Hawaii a few times and I’ve seen bonefish, but caught none, until yesterday.

I saw my first bonefish ever in Hawaii about 9 years ago. I didn’t catch any.

I spent four days on that same beach a few years later and I got 4 casts in the whole time. I didn’t catch those bonefish.

I went with a guide in Maui last year. There are bones there, but I didn’t catch any.

I had always heard the fish are big, but there are few of them and it isn’t unusual to get blanked. All that was in line with my past experiences.

This year on our family vacation I went out with Kenny from Hawaii on the Fly. He has a modern flats skiff, is from Florida originally and has been guiding out here for several years. He found, almost immediately, one of these elusive Hawaiian bones, known as o’io locally. He then found another, and another and another and… hey, wait a second… these things are all over the place!

He warned me these fish are particular. You have to lead them by 9 feet. Not 6 feet. Not 3 feet. And dear god not on their heads. I can tell you this is almost entirely true. They knew the difference between 9 and 6 feet and were out of there if a cast was anywhere near them. I made a LOT of casts too near the fish. Kenny can tell you.

I caught my first o’io and my second. I ended up hooking 7 and had maybe 40 legit shots out of the 200+ bonefish I saw on the day.

I had no idea you could see so many bones in Hawaii in a day.

While you can find them, you are not likely to catch them. Fly selection was very different from what I’d normally cast. In fact, I doubt a single fly out of my 200+ would have been appropriate. They just act differently. Presentations that would have gotten eats in Abaco or Andros freaked these fish out.

They make me think of the bonefish I saw at Crab’n Bay in Grand Bahama. An easily driven to and waded flat, the flat is full of bones, but they are epic in their toughness and that has everything to do with the same bonefish usually returning to feed on the same flats. These fish are trained. They are weary. They are wise to us all… unless you break out some top level angling.

It was windy, really windy (Hawaii is kind of known for that), but the shots were fairly close (some at redfish distances). The wind ended up being way less of an issue than I thought it would be.

Bonus was seeing about a 40 pound GT and a not-small milkfish, two fish I had not seen before (no casts made at either).

It was a great day on the water. Kenny was easy to spend time with. He’s not a yeller. He’s easy with conversation. He worked hard and he put me on fish after fish after fish (and didn’t complain when I broke off four of his flies on fish).

I have a whole new appreciation for Hawaiian bonefish. Thanks Kenny.

To book go to Hawaii on the Fly. (No promotional exchange for this post, I paid full fair, and would again.)


27
Jul 16

My next bonefishing trip… Maui?

First off, let me tell you I always heard there weren’t bonefish in Maui. There aren’t the big flats where anglers can target them and so, while they might technically be, ya know, in the area, they weren’t really something you could target.

Well, guess what? I’m (most likely) going bonefishing in Maui come September.

I’ve made most of the travel plans since I married my wife 4 years ago and there has been one pretty decent constant… fishing. We honeymooned in Belize, visited Florida and the Bahamas twice. So, she said she wanted to go to Hawaii and, with a track record of things going pretty much my way to date, I said “sure.”

My history with Hawaiian bonefish is not glamorous. I’ve pretty much had my ass kicked by the O’io (Hawaiian for bonefish). The first bone I ever saw was on Kauai and it was massive, well over 10 pounds. I didn’t catch it. I haven’t caught any of the bonefish I’ve seen in Hawaii (a number I’d put at about 20). I’ve caught bonefish in the Bahamas and Belize and Cuba and I even managed the world’s smallest Florida Bonefish, but Hawaii has been another story.

Thinking there weren’t even bonefish there and with the poor history, I was surprised to find a guide in Maui, who, it sure looks like, catches bones in Maui (Captain Jon Jon).

So, I’m booking him for a trip when we are there for Labor Day. I have no idea what to expect, but I’m game.

I think they deal with a lot of novice bonefish anglers. Captain Jon Jon’s wife handles his bookings and she told me that, if I’d like, Captain Jon Jon can do the casting. Not being a really prime bonefish location, I’d imagine he gets a lot of people who haven’t done it before, can’t cast in the wind and have no idea what a double haul is and so, in that situation, you might do the casting. These guys are probably not the same guys who go to Andros or Los Roques. These are the bait guys from Tennessee who have never picked up a fly rod before and instead of starting at the beginning, are jumping right to the top.

I let her know I’d do my own casting and that I’ve cast in the wind before and that I’d do a half-way decent job of it.

Looking forward to seeing exactly what this game is about in a place I didn’t even think it was possible.

I’ll try to get an interview with him and put it up as well.


31
Jan 15

Bonefish and Hawaii

I have said, and maybe even believed, I would not go back to chase bonefish in Hawaii. This video has me rethinking that.

I know it is tough. I’ve known very good anglers who have gone smelled of skunk, but I also know others who have smacked the fish of a lifetime.

My own Hawaiian experience is maybe colored by life experiences which have have nothing at all to do with bonefishing. I saw my first bonefish, to this day maybe the biggest bone I’ve ever seen, on a flat, on THE flat on Kauai. I had been looking for them all week and suddenly they were in front of me. My heart was in my throat. My hands were shaking as if I’d had a quadruple shot espresso. I sucked. I knew almost nothing about bonefishing, but I was casting at them (and being ignored by them). And then… then I heard the (increasingly in my memory) shrill cry from the shore from my ex-wife telling me it was time to come in and watch the baby.

This was the bonefish I caught in Hawaii.

This was the bonefish I caught in Hawaii.

Defeat… in many senses of the word.

Kauai was where we had honeymooned and it was where my parents were celebrating their 40th anniversary, bringing the whole family along.

Post separation I went back to Kauai to seek out the fish I had been called away from. I camped, cheaply and legally, a cast from the beach. I went out every day, all day, for three days. I got 4 casts. All brief. All failures. In the rain and just after the rain and just before it rained again.

Oh, and there was rain... lots of rain.

Oh, and there was rain… lots of rain.

I called it quits on Hawaii. I figured I had filled up the Island state with enough failures and I vowed not to return.

But, see… I never went to Oahu. I never fished where the fish are more consistently targeted. And videos like this one from Mike Hennessy of Hawaii On The Fly… well… maybe we could head to Hawaii. Maybe I should go out there, on those more well traveled flats to try my luck against one of the monsters.

I’d either fail or succeed and by now I’ve gotten more acquainted with failure and know it isn’t so much a life-long tag. I think I’ll put it back on the list.


30
May 12

O’io… the gamefish

From the outrage over the bonefish netting a few days ago has picked up some steam.  There’s an on-line petition to ask for bonefish to be moved from the “kill as many as you can catch” category to the “gamefish” category, meaning they would not be in markets any longer.

Hatch Magazine has a story about it…

Opponents of net harvesting of Hawaiian bonefish, known locally as o’io, are attempting to have these fish placed under gamefish status by Hawaii’s governor. Once under gamefish status, killing bonefish would not become illegal, but Hawaiian bonefish would be harvestable only when caught by rod and reel, thus ending the ability of local fisherman to harvest large catches of bonefish via netting.

Read the story here.

Of course, this has been going on for a long time.  I ran a story about the netting bonefish on Kauai a while back. Bonefish have been eaten by the locals and natives for a long, long time.  However, modern tactics (like nylon nets) have the potential to wipe the fishery out.  Seems like it is time to do something about it.

Go ahead… sign it.  Only 296 had done so when I last saw it. We can do better.


04
Mar 12

FYI – not everyone gets skunked in Hawaii

Yes… it happened to me on Kauai (which is a beautiful island in so many ways, just not exclusively for the fishing).  However, it went better for the writer of Alaska Rod and Fly.

Had the opportunity to spend two fabulous days on Oahu chasing bonefish with Mike Hennessy from Hawaii on the Fly.  Mike knows these bonefish.  If it wasn’t for his exceptionally keen eyes to see these fish, I would still be trying to catch one.  I would hear 12 o’clock 30ft and start casting.  The whole time I would be scanning the water looking for the fish.  The fly would land and I would hear, “long strip, long strip, let it drop, short strip, short strip, long, long, he’s got it strip it”, and bam fish on, never seeing the fish.  The only time I would see a fish, is if it was hovering over sand, or my cast would scare it and it bolted off.

Yeah… that sounds familiar, just in a different geographical context. Nice post there ARF.

 


21
Jan 12

Big Hawaii Bone

Coach Duff and a big Hawaii bone.  There aren’t a lot of fish there, but the fish that are there are beeg.


29
Dec 11

Godspeed Marty

Got news last night that Marty passed away.  Marty was a really, really good guy.  He loved fish and the places they are found. He was a real cornerstone of conservation down here in the South Bay. He’ll be missed.

Below is a post about Marty’s bolo from earlier in 2011.

Marty showed me his new bolo from none other than Louie the Fish in Hawaii (Louie and his son guide for bonefish as well).

Nice... carved from bone, I believe.

 

Looking good Marty!


06
Dec 11

Some notes on my trip to Kauai

OK… if I had just slayed them, I probably would be a little more elusive about where exactly I went.  However, having spent 3 & 1/2 days in pursuit of bones in Kauai, I feel comfortable revealing which island I was on.

Mainly, I feel comfortable doing so because if you head to Kauai with the sole intention of catching bonefish, you are mad… MAD, MAD, MAD!

I certainly won’t go back to Kauai JUST for the fishing.  I may very well go back there.  I love that place.  If I go back, I’ll bring a rod, for sure. However, the fishing leaves a lot to be desired… like a lot more fish that are considerably less spooky and much more easy to find… to name a few attributes that could improve things a tad.

I wrote down a list of thoughts I had from the trip… here are a few:

  • Sleeping bags in damp, warm places are not really very comfortable.
  • Of the 4 shots I had, 3 were to single fish in deeper water, 3 feet or so.  If that’s where the fish are hanging out, it makes more sense why they were hard to find.
  • I didn’t see a single bonefish predator.
  • Rain gear was essential.
  • There were some bait guys out there… the kind where you stick the rod in a holder and wait for the bell to ring. I never saw them catch anything.
  • The Redington Predator cast well for a big rod.  No complaints.
  • I didn’t see a bonefish really tail (I did see tails, but those fish, unlike the deep water fish, were in really skinny water and I think they were just so big their fins were out of the water).
  • I didn’t see a bonefish push water.
  • There were guys hitting golf balls out into the ocean.  There were hundreds of golf balls in the sand and on the flats. Those guys are tools.
  • Getting out on those big flats was easy, but walking back, when the lights went off, was challenging.
  • I have a new appreciation for fish that feed readily and are plentiful.
  • At the campground there were a LOT of hippies.  More than a few people seemed to be living there.
  • Roosters sever as the wake-up call, starting at about 5:30.

Yeah... not what you think of when you picture Hawaii.