'Fishing Tales' host Mike Sakamoto, 59
By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Michael Tsai
Like the great fishing tales he so lovingly chronicled, Mike Sakamoto's life was full of heroic struggles and improbable achievements.
But Sakamoto — who died yesterday at age 59 from complications of non-Hodgkins lymphoma — was never one to let a big one get away.
Sakamoto was best known for his 16-year run as host of the popular weekly TV show "Fishing Tales with Mike Sakamoto." He also authored several books on fishing, wrote articles for scores of publications and earned recognition as a skilled painter.
Sakamoto's lifelong love of fishing was fostered on the slippery banks of Nu'uanu Stream, near his boyhood home. His passion for art was cultivated at McKinley High School under the tutelage of acclaimed artist Charles Higa.
Sakamoto attended the University of Hawai'i-Manoa and the University of Hawai'i-Hilo, earning a degree in fine arts.
In the mid-1980s, Sakamoto teamed with producer Arnold Ackerman to produce "Fishing Tales with Mike Sakamoto" for KGMB. The show also ran on KHON before finding a permanent home on OC-16. Sakamoto filmed nearly 500 episodes of the program, which also aired in Japan and England as well as on the Outdoor Channel.
Stan Wright, one of the hosts of "Let's Go Fishing," first saw Sakamoto on the cover of the Hawai'i Fishing News, sitting in an inner tube holding a large-mouth bass.
"I said to myself, 'I've got to meet this guy!' " Wright said.
Sakamoto would appear several times on "Let's Go Fishing," and Wright would return the favor years later when "Fishing Tales" had its run.
Wright remembers Sakamoto as a consummate fisherman, one who excelled in every environment — often with equipment he fashioned himself.
Yet, for all of his ability, Sakamoto made sure it was his guests who shined on the show, Wright said.
"His idea was that his guest was the star of the show," Wright said. "He made sure that he brought out his guest's knowledge and expertise."
And while Sakamoto loved to have fun on the show — "He'd cut my line while I was reeling in a fish!" Wright said — he was also a perfectionist as a producer, Wright said.
Audy Kimura, musician and co-producer of "Hawai'i Goes Fishing," became close friends with Sakamoto and his family after appearing on "Fishing Tales."
"Mike was always upbeat and energetic," Kimura said. "He just had a great desire to learn — he was the first person to put scientific and educational information on a fishing show — and he had a terrific sense of humor. There was never a dull moment with him."
Sakamoto's love of fishing also prompted him to take a stand when fishermen's rights were imperiled, said Brian Kimata, owner of Brian's Fishing Supply and a longtime friend.
"He just enjoyed fishing," Kimata said. "You would think that a guy who did that amount of fishing all the time would have scratched that itch, but when you were out with him and you saw him just hooking a fish, you could see the excitement in his face and hear it in his voice."
Sakamoto also devoted much of his time to teaching. He led a fishing class for UH-Hilo's Continuing Education program, and taught art to Big Island seniors at the Kamana Senior Center in Hilo.
"As a teacher, he was very direct in his critiques, but he was also more than helpful to the students," said Calvin Enoki, who worked with Sakamoto at the senior center. "They were also anxious for him to return."
Sakamoto is survived by wife, Kathleen; son, Paul; daughter, Stefanie; mother, Peggy Murashima; sisters, Pauline Higa, Paula Igawa, Jan Kodani; and eight nieces and nephews.
Reach Michael Tsai at firstname.lastname@example.org.