Island Bass FishTale

It’s the time of year that the bonefish action slows down considerably and I begin seeing a plethora of winter steelhead and trout photos on internet, something I grew up doing in the Great Lakes. While I won’t be breaking out the two hander any time soon in Hawaii, there’s still plenty of opportunities to rig up my 4 weight and scratch that trout itch.

Before moving to Hawaii I had no idea they had populations of smallmouth bass. In fact, I didn’t know until I caught one by mistake one day while targeting carp and koi in a stream my girlfriend wanted to show me.

Close-up of a small-mouth bass

Oahu is full of small streams that run cold year round with rain runoff from the mountains, and many of them have smallmouth. Although the fish aren’t big, and you won’t catch high numbers, they are quite scenic. If it weren’t for the tropical vegetation and warm temperatures you’d think you were fishing a trout stream in the mountains.

Much of them are shallow and rocky with overhanging brush making you’re casting a bit claustrophobic, but if you wander far enough you’ll eventually come to a waterfall and a deep pool, and you can bet there are bronzebacks lurking in there.

Woman fly fishing on a stream in Hawaii

By the end of my seasons in Alaska, I am pretty much burned out on trout fishing. But after a couple months of chasing the same fish, it’s a nice change of pace to see fish break the surface to inhale your dry fly or to see your indicator plunge underwater. Plus, a 12″ smallmouth puts a hell of a bend on a 3 or 4wt rod. Did I mention that you’ll never run into another person fishing for them? (Who goes to Hawaii to catch bass?)

As expected, streamers produce the most fish, but these bass are troutier than the ones I grew up chasing. Twitching and skating stimulators and other big dry flies will entice strikes from smaller fish, and most of my biggest fish have been taken on large nymphs drifted through deeper pools under an indicator believe it or not. Small poppers and mouse patterns work well in the mornings and evening, too.

Woman tying a fly onto her line

It may not be a world class fishery, but catching a smallmouth on a tropical island in the middle of the pacific is cool in my book.

Small-mouth bass