Mahi Mahi Fishing

April 11, 2011 by  

By Nick Simonson

It finally sank in when I was about an hour from the lake cabin where my buddy had been watching my dog while I was on vacation. As I looked around the midway point gas station at the beige grasses, gray skies, and leafless trees, I could hardly believe that just sixteen hours earlier I was breathing in my last gasp of tropical island air before stepping into the airplane which would carry me back home. As I continued my drive, the pairs of Canada Geese swirling in the flooded road ditches confirmed the fact that I was no longer in Hawaii, and they replaced the flashy Brazilian cardinals that were one of many tropical birds I had seen just the day before.

Mahi Mahi Fishing

Mahi Mahi Fishing

For a fan of wildlife, Hawaii – even just the island of Oahu which I spent the last two weeks on – provides a vacation setting so surreal for a Midwesterner like myself not only for the temperatures, beaches and sunshine but also for the colorful and varied number of flowers, birds, fish and other creatures one can observe. It’s as if each plant and animal living on the island was required to select and don the vibrant shades from one of the Aloha State’s frequently occurring rainbows.

As we settled into our vacation home, my family became well-acquainted with a frequent visitor that would sneak a sip of our tropical drinks on the deck. The flashy green guest was a gold dust day gecko and a spitting image of the Geico Insurance Company’s mascot. Frequently, the lizard living around our deck would check in to sip drops of spilled pina colada or take a lick of a pineapple rind from a plate. Its eyes were highlighted in crescents of sky blue and its green back was decorated with slight rusty markings near its hind legs, making it one of the most colorful creatures of our trip.

Our day at sea was highlighted by the fury of three hooked mahi mahi, a tooth-slashed yellowfin tuna, and ultimately the 250 pound whitefin shark that tried to take a bite out of our party’s dinner. In the moments of transition between light morning showers that rolled down off the mountain spines of Oahu’s north shore and the bright bursts of tropical sunlight were when the colorful mahi mahi (which is native Hawaiian for “very strong”) would strike the live bait or silicone squid rigs trolled behind our charter boat. In the water, they gave off a neon glow of electric blue, green and yellow and offered up a fight that lived up to their native moniker. The blunt-headed fish were sleek and muscular, wheeling hard when on the end of the line, but it was truly their coloring which made them memorable and set them apart from any other fish I have landed thus far.

Birds of all sizes and shapes occupied the trees, shrubs and grounds of the island. Each morning would start with the cooing of a variety of doves, from the diminutive zebra doves in the middle of their courtship dances to the intricately-collared lace-necked doves bobbing around their nests. The aforementioned Brazilian cardinal, with its bright red head, was a common sight on the trips around the island from the Diamond Head crater near Waikiki to the waterfall at the apex of Waimea State Park. And it was in that park I saw one of the rarest species of all.

As we readied for our trip to the falls, there was a slight commotion in the water grasses of a small marsh near the park entrance. A black head adorned with a bright red-and-yellow beak would pop up and over the foliage and dip back down out of sight. Occasionally, two black wings would flap up; the green leaves would shake and then be still. This went on until finally the bird emerged momentarily from the water plants it was foraging in and showed itself long enough for a picture. It was a Hawaiian moorhen – or ‘alea ‘ula to the natives – and it was just one of approximately 400 remaining in the world according to a 2005 survey by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service; a colorful reminder of how big the human footprint is and how far-flung our impact can be in a day and age where we can travel around the world in a matter of hours.

From plane, to car, to cabin I thought of the previous days and was still amazed at the colorful world I had left some 4,000 miles away in the middle of the Pacific Ocean where it was always summer and there was no waiting for spring. As I loaded my truck to take my lab home and tried to think tropical thoughts while I stared at the crusty black top of the last pile of dirty snow and the tan winterkilled grasses around the driveway at the cabin, I took heart as I caught a glimpse of the warm brown eyes of my dog beaming excitedly back at me from the cab. I smiled back at Gunnar and knew, no matter what the colors were around him, he’d always be happy to be riding shotgun, cruising down the road back home to his little part…of our outdoors.


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