Early Mornings on the Coast: Spearfishing in Hawaii

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Gearing up for Spearfishing

Article Contributed by Field Staff Writer J. Lee. Photography by Chris Hirata.

Whether I’m waking up early to head to the hills or go sub sea level, early mornings are my favorite.  I woke up well before sunrise this particular morning and got to one of my favorite places to do some free dive spearfishing.  I’ve been to this spot probably hundreds of times. Yet, as I sit on the rocks putting my gear on and readying myself for the plunge into the cold blue, I can’t help myself but to get a little giddy like a young kid who was just told, “let’s go to Toys’R’Us”! It’s the promise of adventure, challenge, the feeling of flying, danger, and if I’m lucky enough; the reward of a great fresh seafood dinner that gets me feeling this way and brings me back time and time again.

As I started my dive, I swam to areas that have been good to me before.  I always looks for structure like a big pile of rocks or a drop off.  There, I usually find schools of bait fish, which in turn bring in bigger fish that I like to target, like the uku (Hawaiian for gray snapper), mu (big eye emperor), omilu (bluefin trevally) or the ulua (giant trevally).  Any of which, if given the opportunity, would make for a great dinner.  

Spearfishing in Hawaii

On a finger of reef that led me out to a drop off I could see a school of bait fish clinging close to the reef, an indication that there’s a predator around.  I took a few slow, deep breaths before I started my descent to the bottom.  Once getting to the bottom, 84 feet down, I laid next to a big rock where I “dusted”. A technique I use to lure curious fish into shooting range, by tapping the bottom with my hand to disrupt the sediment, making it look like dust is in the air. The technique worked, it brought in a nice school of omilu, and the last one in the line of four was the nicest. In preparation of it coming into range, I slowly pointed my speargun into the direction of where I thought the omilu was headed.  As the omilu got closer and closer I started to straightened my arm, aimed, and slowly squeezed my trigger.  A good hit!

Omilu or Bluefin TravellyNow that’s when the fun really started, the tug a war battle with this fish to get it to the surface.  He pulled hard, pulling line out of my reel attached to my speargun, but when he got close to tangling in the rocks I tightened my drag and pulled him away.  I finally got to the surface, took a deep breath, and pulled in my dinner, stoked!

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With the omilu secured, it was time to head back in the water.  I decided to take the route back that would take me to some deep sand pockets in the reef.  Once there I noticed a big fish swimming across one of the sand pockets and I got excited.  From the surface it looked to be a whopper of an ulua.  I calmed myself and took a few deep and slow breaths.  As I descended, I tried to pick a route that would let me cut him off.  I chose the route perfectly and at 91 feet down, I found myself face to face with this big boy.  I aimed for the instant kill shot or stone shot (right behind the eye), and once again I slowly squeezed my trigger.  My shot was about an inch too far back from being the stone shot and he took off, dragging me behind.  Ulua or Giant TrevallyI let line out of the reel, allowing me to get to the surface so I could breathe, because I knew this was going to be a long battle.  He pulled hard, taking me under a few times and pulled me down the coast about 150 yards before he started to tire and I was able to gain some ground on him.  Hand over hand I pulled him from the depths until he was finally in my hands and where I dispatched him with my knife.  As excitement took over, I yelled out with the beast in my hands.

It was time to head back in, a few moments later I found myself on the rocks with two big fish in my hands, my mouth started to water as I mentally prepped the fish for the smoker!A Successful Spearfishing Adventure


A.J. Fick

Born and raised in northeast Pennsylvania, I’ve lived in southern California, central Texas, and currently reside in western Idaho. I consider myself a western hunter at heart, enjoying being part of vast landscapes and the thrill of the stalk. One of my hunting mottos is “stretch the stalk, not the shot”. My motivations as an outdoorsman are rooted in the sustenance, independence, and challenging physical aspects. In fact, my largest driving factor for physical fitness is preparing for upcoming hunts and ensuring I’m well-prepared to climb mountains and cover ground with a heavy pack. I also recognize and respect the importance of conservation efforts for our wild animals and wild places and the close connection to hunting and fishing. If we want future generations to experience the wonder and adventure of the outdoors, and gain the countless benefits, we must continue to make wildlife conservation today’s priority to ensure continued opportunity.

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