I am not quite sure how the term “bolo” came about, but what it basically boils down to is going fishing and not catching a thing. When I was a youngster growing up on the Big Island of Hawaii we used a similar term “whitewash” to describe a fishless day. The reason these two terms have been at the forefront of my mind is because of the challenging fishing I have experienced over the past few months. I am not sure if everyone is else is having similar experiences, but I have noticed less bonefish on the flats I have been fishing. I don’t think there a single reason for this phenomena but in the past, I have noticed whenever there was cold (for me low 70s is cold) and shifting weather patterns, I have experienced challenging fishing. I have never been one to fish only when the conditions were ideal. What I usually do is go out and see what happens. Some days I get pleasantly surprised with a trophy fish, some days I get a bolo, and some days I just catch a “bolo saver". What I call a bolo saver is that one non-target fish I catch that saves me from having a fishless day. Some of the most common bolo savers are:
Ulae or Lizard Fish: These fish can be found in various areas on the flats and are usually small in size. Although small in size, they make up by aggressively attack flies. This is especially true when fishing surface flies.
Mongoose Fish: These fish are not as abundant as the lizard fish, but I have mainly caught these fish over flats with weedy bottoms. Catching Mongoose fish is a good indication that one is fishing in the appropriate water level.
Nunu or Trumpetfish: This is one of the most common by-catch that one will encounter while fishing the flats on Oahu. Trumpets can sometime get in the way of catching bonefish, especially if there is a big school of them. They are very persistent and will many times follow the fly all the way back to fisher. Unless you hook a big one, most trumpets basically feel like one is pulling in dead weight. One thing to note when catching these fish is when grabbing them, they rotate their body like an airplane propeller. To avoid having them slip out of your hands make sure you get a good hold on them. Another thing to note is they are really slimy and it can be difficult to get the slime off your hands. What I usually try to do is lip the fish when removing the hook.
Needlefish: These fish are not as abundant as trumpets, and are usually found more often near the edge of the reef. These fish are a cousin to the trumpetfish but on steroids. Needles can grow to lengths exceeding 5 ft and have a bony jaw filled with sharp teeth that make it challenging to hook. Once hooked they make crazy runs and jumps and are nicknamed the poor man’s marlin.
Weke or White goatfish: Besides the trumpetfish; white goatfish are another one of the by-catch species that one commonly encounters while fishing the flats. Like the trumpets, if one hooks a goatfish it is a good indication that you are fishing in the right zone. For their size, goatfish put up an excellent fight but not nearly as good as the bones. There are two species: bandtail goatfish and yellow stripe goatfish that one will most likely come across, with the bandtail being the more common. Another name for the bandtail goatfish is the “obake weke”. Obake is the Japanese word for ghost and it is common knowledge that people eating the head of this fish sometimes have nightmares.
Moano or Manybar Goatfish: This beautiful goatfish is frequently caught near reef areas. They especially they like to hold in cuts and sandy pockets. When hooked, Moanos like to dive into the rocks so one needs to be on their toes to land them.
Wrasse or Hinalea: There are a variety of wrasse species one can catch fishing in areas with reef. They can be trick to hook but sometimes one can get lucky.
Peacock Grouper or Roi: Peacock Groupers is a non-native species that was introduced to Hawaii in the 1950s. This fish has been a topic of much controversy in the islands due to the fact they prey on many of the native fish. These fish can be encountered occasionally while fishing the reef edge. When hooked, one needs to keep them from going into the rocks to land them. Be careful when you grab this fish as the gill plates can be sharp.
Sea Robin or Flying Gurnard: This is one of the weirdest looking fish I have ever encountered. I have seen several of them while snorkeling but I have never caught one on the fly. I have heard many friends catching them on the fly, and on a recent outing my friend Craig was lucky enough to catch one.
Hopefully if you have been having hard fishing this blog will give you hope. Warmer weather is just around the corner and with it will come the bones. In the meantime, maybe one of these fishes will save some of you from getting a bolo. Dean-O