Chasing Ghosts in Paradise: Bonefishing on Oahu with Tim Carter

Guest Post by Tim Carter —

sport fishing Oahu

Tim showing off his catch – Source: Tim Carter

Editor’s Note:

Like many other blogs out there, we get a lot of requests for guest posts. I get the reasons for the requests and, while I don’t get annoyed by the almost daily deluge, I also don’t accept most of them. They’re often sent by marketers and people whose passion for fishing is secondary, at best, to other motives.

When I received Tim’s offer to write a post I felt right away that his was different. He came across in his pitch as someone who truly loves every aspect of this sport. That was further reinforced when did a quick online research of his rod building and wrapping business. Amazing stuff! This guy is a true craftsman who loves taking fishing rods and making them look like a piece of art. Below, at the end of his bio, you’ll find a sample of his work.

In addition to the post you are about to read, Tim has agreed to come back from time to time with fishing content inspired by the exciting locations and unique fish species that Hawaii has to offer. I’m also hoping he’ll write about the art of rod wrapping and share more photos of his beautiful work with us.

Now, onto Tim’s post…


Vacationing in Hawaii can turn into an exhilarating fishing experience without breaking the bank with charter services or guides for a fun time on the water. Here on the island of Oahu, bonefish are a great target species that don’t require a bunch of gear and, in this article, you will be slaying some of the biggest ghosts the island has to offer.

Test your luck during the low tide and early morning sunrise to increase hook sets. Try and beat the crowds and go early to prevent spooking a prized fish eating away in the shallow. This will greatly reward your time and experience on the water as you try and hunt down a fish so skittish a small sinker splash or shadow scares it away.

Hawaii Bonefish Tackle and Techniques

Bonefish have large bursts of energy capable of stripping a 100ft of drag 3 to 4 times in any given battle. This is one awesome fighting fish for any skill level taken on light tackle, fly, and various bonefish lures! Now, this sounds like a complicated catch but a simple Carolina rig and a cut piece of squid, shrimp or sardine will make do every time if you have the patience.

This is probably one of my favorite saltwater fish to take the little ones out and test our luck on the water. Bonefish don’t have any spikey fins or chompers that can inflict any harm, which makes it great for the little ones to hold and snap a quick picture before releasing it back to the ocean.    

The bait rig and gear for bonefish are simple as mentioned. A Carolina rig is your best friend when tackling these fish. Your main line can be anywhere from 8 to 15lb mono or braid. I like to attach everything with a heavy barrel swivel and keep my leader line in the 20lb-plus class or better to prevent the reefs and rocks cutting it so fast. My favorite weight of choice is a 3/4oz egg sinker paired with a Gamakatsu #4 Live bait saltwater hook.

If you don’t want to bring a travel rod or spend a fortune on tackle and gear head to Walmart and snag a 25-dollar combo rod for the little ones. This is where you can grab a small spool of leader line and the rest of your terminal tackle and bait. Typically, in the frozen food section, they have blocks of frozen squid, shrimp, or little sardines.

 More than likely with your first initial cast the sinker splash will spook them so sit back and play in the sand while you wait. Just make sure to have that drag loose and secured or your new rod combo is gonna go swimming. You can either use a sand spike for additional security but that’s just extra gear to get when Mother Nature provides all the logs and rocks to shove that rod butt in.

If you are more skilled and want to sight cast with bait as you wade out in the water forget the sinker and use what I call a double leader line rig. The first leader line is about 2ft of wire terminated at the end with two-barrel swivels. One end goes to your mainline while the other attaches to your 20lb leader line and hook. This acts as the weight but it slaps the water softly on entry and doesn’t make a thud on the surface of the ocean floor like your egg sinker creating a quieter presentation.  

Finding a good spot to dunk your bait is another important topic item when targeting bonefish. I find the easiest way to go about doing this is by utilizing Google maps and looking at areas that have “bay” at the end of their name. Example: Kaneohe Bay, Pearl Harbor Bay, Waimea Bay, Maunalua Bay, etc. The nice things about bays, especially if you have little fishers with, you have the shelter they provide from the big crashing waves and large wind gusts. Also, it makes a great spot to target bonefish!

I have found the most productive time to be early morning paired with a low tide and lots of sun. So, make sure you bring the polarized glasses and sunscreen.

The shallow flats provide food and protection as they frequently feed in areas that present itself with such an environment. After their exhausting fight, they can grow quite tired so a quick revival and release are always recommended.

Catch and Release these Unique Fish for the Next Generation

bonefish fishing - Oahu, Hawaii

Tim’s little fisherman with his catch – Source: Tim Carter

Some of the locals like to make fishcakes out the white fleshy meat, but this requires a lot of preparation as you scrape the meat away with a spoon and pick out any of the bones that remain. I always practice catch and release since I’ve started to target this species and haven’t had one go belly up if you get them back in the water right away.

We have only had one close casualty encounter fishing as a family, and that was during the recovery of one near a large pile of rocks in about a foot of water. This happened shortly after my wife had just finished reeling one up on an ultra-light rod and cut squid.

We snapped a few pictures and she rushed it back down to the water’s edge. Holding it mid-body she was rocking it back and forth trying to revive it. Whatever she was doing enticed another fish lurking in the rocks. A huge Moray Eel saw the opportunity and snatched it out of her hands during this process.

Following that was a deafening screech and a mouth full of foul language as she danced around freaking out. I came rushing over to try and calm her down and free the fish. I was successful in one of those, and the bonefish was free to swim another day!

Mahalo,
Tim Carter
Shakarods
shakarods@yahoo.com


About the Author:

Born and raised in Trout Creek, MT where I first started out fishing the Blackfoot and Clark Fork reservoir and many creeks Montana had to offer for trout, bass, and northern pike. Entering the Navy shortly after turning 18 I had the opportunity to fish Florida where I had my first encounter with the salt life aquatics and loved every bit of it. My first duty station was Washington State and that gave me the chance to fish Salmon in the Puget Sound and Skagit River.

After getting out after a 4year enlistment I joined the reserves and, soon to follow, my lovely wife who is also my high school sweetheart decided to enlist. This provided us with another change of pace as we moved across the country to Virginia. Tackling flounder, reds, seatrout, and stripers was an awesome adventure that provided some great fun on the coastal Atlantic. Right now, we are stationed in Hawaii where my new favorite species of finned creatures are peacock bass, bonefish, barracuda, and trevally.

I have two little ones that are continuing down the same path of kayaking, fishing and all things aquatic. When I’m not on the water I am wrapping custom fishing rods for other avid fishermen to include saltwater, freshwater, and fly applications. If you’re looking for a custom rod please send me an email as my website will be up shortly at www.shakarods.com or check out my Facebook and Instagram feed.

custom rod wrap in Oahu

Custom rod wrap by Tim/Shakarods


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2 thoughts on “Chasing Ghosts in Paradise: Bonefishing on Oahu with Tim Carter

  1. Jim P. Carson

    I have had a longtime interest in bonefish but I had never actually been able to get out to the area they populate to fish for them. I loved reading through this and felt as if I was able to go on the adventure with you, Tim. I do plan on retiring and moving down to Florida within the next 5 years so I will finally be able to experience it for my self. Sooner if permitting but definitely by then.

    Reply
    1. Tim Carter

      Jim,
      I am glad you enjoyed reading the article, Bonefish are definitely an exciting fish to catch. I wish you the best on targeting these fish down in Florida. They put up a tremendous fight and are extremely rewarding once you land one for yourself. Good Luck, and Thanks for reading!
      Mahalo,
      Tim Carter
      Shakarods

      Reply

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