Hanapa’a! Local fishers know halalu are biting. But what about oama?

Published: Aug. 16, 2021 at 10:23 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Crowds of local fishers are once again getting up at the break of dawn for a favorite Hawaii pastime.

Young and old with fishing pole in hand, they come to Ala Moana Beach as early as 5 in the morning — when the fish are hungry.

”We are trying to catch the halalu. They are biting now. It’s baby akule in Hawaii or big-eyed scad,” said Kaneohe resident Ernie Wong.

Wong has been fishing for 50 years and says anyone can learn to fish for halalu. He says all you need is a bamboo pole and a two or three-pound fishing line with no lead.

“When the halalu bite, they just go crazy. They bite any kind of bait. Everything from cuttlefish, shrimp and blood meat which is from the ahi,” said Wong.

He admits, beyond just the tools, it takes a hint of skill to become a successful fisher. Others have a special chum that they call “palu” to lure the fish in.

Halalu are also very easy to spot. Just look for a “bait ball” or silver flashes in the water to see the schools, or watch for hungry papio to create a feeding frenzy.

”I fry it, dry it and some people also eat halalu raw. They filet it and put it in sushi,” said Dixon Sasaki from Waipahu.

“Sometimes we use it for bait and sometimes we eat them,” said Rhys Nakakura of Kailua.

Fishers have left with buckets full of halalu, but no oama. So where are they?

”It’s late. It’s supposed to be already. Oama season is late this year, they’re not biting,” said Wong.

Oama are baby weke or goatfish. They usually show up along with the halalu near the shores during the summer months.

”This year is not as much as last year. The pile was much bigger last year,” said Stanley Agunoy of Waipahu.

Fishers and divers on the neighbor islands also say while there are small pockets of oama, it is overall a late season. If you ask why, fishers have their theories.

”They’ve been netting a lot. So, the fish, they don’t have chance to spawn,” said Sasaki.

Some blame the crowded beaches. Others say it’s the cooler waters as we approach a La Niña winter. They say oama stayed longer when the waters were warmer in previous El Niño years.

Another reason some fishers may be in the dark over the whereabouts of oama may have to do with the fact that most seasoned fishermen don’t let others know when and where the fish are.

NOAA’s fisheries division says experts are currently looking into what’s causing the late oama season.

Until the oama get here, fishers say it’s all about the halalu.

”It’s a good eating fish. Fry it up salt and pepper. Hanapa’a!” said Wong.

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