The traveling angler: Lesmeister’s Maui fishing program
Each year I get to slip away from the frozen tundra and spend a few weeks on Maui, Hawaii. I’ve had this good fortune going since 1993, so I’ve perfected my fishing program.
In the past I have gone out in big boats to troll for billfish and dolphin (Mahi-Mahi). I still hit the big boats to bottom fish the deep reefs. I have access to a kayak and fish the reefs in shallower regions, but the bulk of my fishing is from shore. I am the only one there who uses these techniques to catch the fish on the shallow reefs.
The fish I am chasing are the same ones the snorkelers are viewing. I’m fishing the bays: Napili Bay, Kapalua Bay and some flats like the wide expanse of coral down around Mile Marker 14. These wrasse, mamos, triggerfish, parrotfish, unicorns, puffers and groupers I catch run from a quarter pound up to 8 pounds but every one fights hard on light tackle.
It took me many years to figure out the right presentation. These shallow reef fish are feeding on plant matter they pick off the coral and rocks. So I’ve incorporated a very unique approach.
I start by visiting the local grocery store and buying a couple of bags of frozen peas and a loaf of white bread. I cut the crusts off the bread and pummel the peas – while they’re frozen – into a powder in a food processor. Combining these two ingredients by kneading the pea powder into the white bread slices creates a dough ball just like I used for carp as an Iowa kid.
My fishing rod is a medium action Ugly Stik. I spool the spinning reel with a 4-pound diameter Power Pro line and my leader is an 8-pound-test fluorocarbon. I use a slip bobber to position the bait at the proper depth with a split shot or two just above the barrel-swivel between the line from the reel and the fluorocarbon line. To the end of the fluorocarbon line I tie on a No. 12 trout treble hook. The tiny treble hook is necessary because these fish on the reef have tiny mouths that require a tiny hook. Set the drag perfectly to land the fish. Too tight and they bend out the hook. Too loose and they drag you into coral and cut the line.
This scribe surrounds the hook with a pea-sized gob of dough ball and tosses it out to the reef. Sometimes the bait doesn’t even sink to the bobber stop and … fish on! They love those pea dough balls. I also have a bait slingshot for some chumming with whole peas if the fish are not feeding.
It’s an amazing technique for shore fishing on Maui that I have developed over many years of trial and error, and the reason I share this is just in case you find yourself on this beautiful tropical island and want to have some fun fishing from shore. I have just shortened your learning curve by years. Crankbaits, plastic worms, jigs, or spoons will not work on these reef fish.
One final piece of advice. You won’t find tiny treble hooks on Maui, but the sport shops rent rods. If you think you might fish while on vacation, toss about 10 hooks in your check-in bag.