Despite all the Hawaii big game fishing and blue water dives described in postcards and the media, some of the most popular fishing involves nothing more than a hand pole with a hook and pencil or some ultra light rods and bit of local fishing savvy. During the summer two small, but highly popular Hawaii fish, the Oama, or juvenile goatfish, and the halalu, smaller siblings of a type of mackerel known in the islands like Akule, make their appearance at beaches and waters in sea waters throughout the state. When they do appear, so do Hawaii’s local folks. The owama run about seven inches and gather in large schools in shallow water frequently right off the beach while the comparably sized halalu are usually found in deeper water like harbors or beaches with a quicker depth drop.
Appearing as schools in the thousands, these summer fishes usually stay in the same neighborhood for a couple of weeks causing something of an attraction as scores of fishers gather in the shallow waters, breakwaters, piers, or beaches where the schools could be present. When the schools are in, word goes out on the grapevine through children, moms and dads, seniors, and just about anyone who likes fishing. Prized as bait for larger fish, but even more so as tasty table fare, the oama and halalu are more than just fish, they are an island tradition. Driving around the islands, it isn’t uncommon to spot groups of unconnected individuals in circles or standing abreast in the thigh- or waist-deep water off the beach with short bamboo poles. These people are fishing for oama and stand together to hold the school in one place with the cumulative draw of their baited hooks. It is subdued excitement as in near silence the anglers alternately jerk their poles to raise a small fighting fish out from the water and into the small scoop nets that are hung conveniently at their sides. If you come across a scene with a big group of individuals using either extended hand poles or ultra light fishing tackle to cast and erratically reel in tiny feathered hooks or comparable artificial bait, they are after the halalu.