The giant trevally, or ulua as it is called in the islands, is without doubt the most sought after shoreline game fish in Hawaii. Pound for pound, it is one of the toughest fighters in the ocean and a large specimen can weigh as much as the angler trying to catch it. Although the average size is around twenty-five pounds, most Hawaii fishermen are after trophy sized ulua over fifty pounds. There is even a group here in the islands called 'The 100plus Club' whose members have all caught ulua weighing one hundred pounds or more from shore.
Shorecasting has always been a popular way to fish in Hawaii and the fisherman here have developed a unique way of going after these brutes called 'slide-baiting'. Armed with beefy rods up to 14 feet long and equipped with conventional, open-faced reels like the Penn Senator 6/0, local shorecasters head for their favorite spots and fish for ulua mainly at night. The moon phase plays a significant role in deciding where to fish and most seasoned anglers have the Hawaiian Moon Calendar down to a science. Although these fish will bite at any time, overnight fishing during the right moon phase for your particular spot is the most productive. Reels are filled with #60-80 test line as a standard but terminal tackle has as many variations as there are fishermen. There are many different factors to consider when selecting the proper terminal set-up, and deciding where you will be fishing will almost always dictate how you will fish. Casting baits from a nice, sandy beach requires a totally different set-up than slide-baiting off a jagged lava cliff, as once one of these fish are hooked, and depending on its size, a fight can last anywhere from a few minutes to an hour or more. Sandy bottomed spots where there are no underwater obstructions are especially nice because you can just let the fish go until he tires himself out. A rocky shoreline, on the other hand, can present a wide range of problems for the angler with a 'fish on'. These fish like to run into caves and cracks in the lava bottom trying to free themselves and more fish are lost to cut lines than anything else.
The basic slide bait rig consists of a 4-6' leader made with #18 stainless steel wire(#420 test) with a 3/0 barrel swivel on one end and a 'stopper' on the other. Most stoppers are made out of a heavy gauge ring of brass or stainless steel about 3/4" in diameter. The main line is tied to the barrel swivel and a lead sinker is tied to the stopper. The length of your sinker leader will depend on your casting style. Basically, shorter leaders are easier to cast than longer ones. For most shorecasters in Hawaii, one's ability to cast these pole and reel combinations with proficiency has always been held in high regard. It takes the average angler about a year to really get his technique down, and those who are able to break the 100-yard barrier are looked upon with great esteem, and much envy. For the most part, more casting distance equals more strikes. Some of the best casters in the islands are able to hurl a 10-ounce sinker nearly 175 yards.
Sinkers vary in weight and shape and everyone has their preference. Ten ounces is the size most widely used although most fishermen keep weights between nine and fourteen ounces handy for different conditions. The one thing common to all slide bait sinkers, or 'grabbers' as the are called here, is that they all have wire 'grapling hooks' on them. The weights are cast out with no hook or bait and the sinker is purposely snagged on the bottom. Once the line is set, a baited hook leader with a special ‘pig-tail' swivel is attached to the line and the bait is then slid down the line, continuing to sink until it reaches the stopper. The big advantage to this style of fishing is that you are able to use large baits, like whole octopus and live fish, in the one to two pound range. Baits which, for all practical purposes, are uncastable. Most guys will run more than one pole at a time, with three being the average. Sometimes a spot can get crowded and making sure that lines are not crossed is critical, as a ‘slide' will get tangled whenever one line is over another. Another plus with this system is that you are able to slide multiple baits without recasting and most guys will slide three or four baits on the same pole over the course of the night.
The action while fishing for ulua can be very slow and even the most persistent and knowlegeable anglers may catch only a dozen of these fish in a year. However, strikes are extremely exciting and once you've experienced a good 'barrage' night, it's hard not to keep coming back. This style of fishing has changed very little over the years except for the introduction of stronger monofilament and multi-filament lines as well as lighter, more durable materials used in today's rods. Some of my gear once belonged to my grandfather, who taught me everything I know.
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