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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Halalu running: Catch them if you can

Video: Halalu fishing at Ala Moana

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward O'ahu Writer

Anglers were out in force yesterday at Ala Moana Beach Park where they tried to hook halalu, or baby akule. Some people caught as many at 100. Fishing for halalu and 'oama, which arrive by the thousands between June and November, is an Island ritual.

BRUCE ASATO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Scores of anglers scrambled to cast lines into the water as the dark underwater cloud darted toward the shoreline at Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor yesterday morning.

The shoulder-to-shoulder shoreline fishing crowds in the harbor and around O'ahu means one thing: The halalu are running. Between June and November, thousands of halalu and the 'oama — young akule and weke, respectively— intermittently flood the shores and harbors.

"We go all over the island wherever the halalu is running," said Raynard Higa, who arrived at Ala Moana Beach Park at 3 a.m. and had caught about 40 fish by 7 a.m.

At Ala Moana Beach Park, about 100 fishermen lined the wall opposite the outrigger canoe storage area and a parking lot area. All lengths of poles were used, including ones with and without reels. The bait varied, including aku belly, squid and curly tail artificial lures.

About 100 more onlookers soaked in a picture-perfect Hawaiian summer's day while listening to the lines whistle through the breeze in search of fish.

As a school moved toward the shoreline, anglers tossed chum in the water. Some switched from lines to hand poles, swiftly jerking when they felt the bite. The fishermen laughed, congratulated one another other and commiserated about the ones that got away.

But Ralph Exzabe, 67, and an avid fisherman, said he has wanted nothing to do with the Ala Wai fish since a sewer main rupture prompted the city to dump more than 48 million gallons of raw sewage into the Ala Wai Canal in March. The rupture has been fixed and most of the pollution has dissipated, but Exzabe said he would not go into the water where people were fishing.

"If I caught the fish, I wouldn't take it home," he said. "For entertainment it's fine, but to eat? No, I don't think so."

The thought of tainted water didn't dampen the enjoyment that fishing brought to Higa and Takeo Tanaka, who hooked dozens of fish after the morning lull.

Once the fish begin to run in the summer, the word spreads throughout the Islands. And the annual ritual — people standing in hip-deep ocean waters with short poles, snagging halalu and 'oama — gets under way.

Tanaka, 84, said the fish were biting Monday in Lanikai, where people were taking 100 or more at a time.

Alice Nakamura, 79, said she prefers going after the 'oama at Wailupe, near where she lives, but she wanted to see how good the fishing was at Ala Moana.

"At Wailupe people have their own theory (about bait)," Nakamura said. "At Wailupe you only use the shrimp legs and they used to bite, but they spoiling the fish now. They come with the aku eggs and the live 'opae."

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com.