Posts Tagged ‘kaku’

Today I was determined to get into the water.


Over the past month I’d upgraded a lot of my dive equipment–something that is wise to do often–and was eager to get in and try everything out. It’s better to test out new gear in a place that will afford you the time to fiddle and adjust things, should it be required, so I decided on a place about 10 miles south, down a dirt road, that had a nice deep bay that was relatively calm. Anna wanted to come and try out her new underwater camera housing, so we piled our gear into the truck and headed out.


Driving down the road I kept an eye on the water, checking to see where the wind line ended and watching the current. About half way to our destination the conditions began to improve as we drove further away from the wind blowing in from the northeast.


As we turned off of the main highway and onto the dirt road, I could already see that there was no one at the spot, we would have it all to ourselves!


I parked the truck and we walked a short dirt trail to the water. As we went, I listened to the ocean and the sound that it made as it crashed on the rocks. The ocean sounded somewhat calm, with only a slight surge as the tide came in breaking lazily over the rounded boulders near the water’s edge. When the ocean came into view I noticed that on the outside, in the blue water where I planned on diving, a slight wind chop had started as the gust from the northeast began to change direction. The ocean wasn’t glassy but it wasn’t the worst that I had seen for this area. The water was a little shaky, but it would have to do.


Anna decided to go on her own once we came to where the dirt trail ended. She kissed me and told me to be safe. I walked down toward the water, across the black lava rock that was toasty warm from the afternoon sun. I wasted no time. I suited up and jumped in.


I swam along the shore for a while waiting for something to malfunction before I turned and went out to deeper water. It didn’t take long before I felt me new knife come loose from my arm begging me to mess around with it.  The thing about fixating on a task while in the water, that requires you to concentrate on something while trying to ignore the moving water around you, is that it will quickly lead to wanting to barf. I have never done such a thing in the water, although a friend of mine threw up in his snorkel once after he surfaced from a deep dive. But the fact that he had a lip full of chewing tobacco may have played a small part as well. No, I am not making this up.


To avoid this predicament, I do what needs to be done as quickly as possible. Taking off gear and packing it on my float takes only seconds. But putting a dying fish onto your stringer when you’re bobbing up and down in the ocean, especially in the blues, where you have no reference points because the reef is just a black and green smudge underneath you, is a good way to make yourself hurl. I take off my knife and stuff the straps into the pocket on my float. I slip the knife onto my belt and head out to the blue water. I’m in no mood to test my equilibrium.


Visibility is poor and hazy, maybe 100 feet when I reach blue water. I float above a wide patch of sand that is 75 feet below me. Because of the poor viz, which was most likely caused by the wind, the usually crystal clear blue water now lies in a column twenty feet below me. I swim in through the haze and when I look out toward the open ocean I am looking through the haze. I don’t particularly care for these conditions, although pelagic fish use the cover of the hazy water to come closer to shore, which can be a good and bad thing.


At this point I figure that I would toss out some flashers, which are just bent spoons, to see if anything decides to come in and investigate. I have three.


I toss the first one out and it hits the water and begins to tumble like a wounded fish as it heads to the bottom. I look out in the blue and see nothing. My mind begins to play tricks on me and suddenly, through the haze I’m seeing flashes of silver and quick, dark shadows. I watch the spoon nestle in the white sand below. A nosy triggerfish swims over to investigate, then swims away. Suddenly, my heartbeat quickens and I get the ‘fish feeling’.


The fish feeling is hard to describe, even to other divers. Hell, I don’t even understand it myself. All that I know is that when I get the feeling, I should prepare myself. It has never let me down, although I’m sure that at times I may have been too out of touch to recognize it. At any rate, the feeling came over me and for some reason I began to think Rainbow Runner.


I love RR, they are also called the Hawaiian Salmon because their meat is red, but they are a member of the jack family and are found off shore in schools. They can reach four or five feet in length and weigh upwards of 40 pounds but generally those size fish are rare. So, like an idiot whose mind is overcome with visions of ruby red slices of sashimi stacked high in my refrigerator, I toss out another spoon because, well, I have the fish feeling.


This spoon hits the water, and like the one before it, begins to tumble downward like a wounded fish, to the bottom of the sea. I ready myself, looking out into the haze to see if anything has noticed my cheap tactic. I see a flash of silver and another! And then something materializes out of the haze. Before I can congratulate myself for being a fish psychic, I see another shape appear and then another. They aren’t rainbow runners although they share a similar shape. In seconds I’m surrounded by a school of Great Barracuda, or as they are know in Hawaii, kaku.


Firstly, kaku are solitary fish. The most that I have ever seen together are 3, and they weren’t so much together as they were in the same vicinity. I count 8. And although they aren’t huge kaku, which would be an animal 6 feet or more in length, they aren’t small either; four footers mainly, but I see a five-footer swimming out at the edge of visibility. These fish probably weigh 20-30 pounds I would guess.


Secondly, if you dive a lot and come across these fish often you will know how they approach you once they’ve decided to investigate. If they were people, they would be considered rude, face talkers. You know the kind that don’t give a rip about personal space that like to get all up in your face when they talk to you. Kaku are like that.


They approach you slowly, head-on, making them difficult to see outright. With their head angled slightly downward like a growling dog, it’s down right creepy. Add to this the fact that kaku are amazingly stupid, devastatingly fast predatory fish, that are attracted to flashing objects and swift movements. So much for my fish feeling.


Like playground bullies they surrounded me, closing the circle ever so slowly until they were so close that I could see their missing scales and parasites. I thought about shooting one, particularly the biggest one who had come in for a closer look and didn’t seem to want to leave. I contemplated having to deal with its gnashing teeth and ‘fight-to-the-last-breath’ attitude and decided against it. Kaku, although delicious, often carry ciguatera, a nasty little protist that taints the meat causing symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea, reversal of heat/cold sensory, that is incurable once the threshold for ingested tainted fish has been reached. Besides, the last pesky kaku that I shot, tangled up my gear and almost bit my finger off and it was only 18 inches long.


So I floated, surrounded by a school of kaku. I looked back at the shore and saw the speck of Anna sitting calmly, taking pictures of something. The water churned and I with it. Calmly, the predatory fish circled looking for something interesting. I poked at one with the tip of my speargun.


After a few minutes they became bored and slowly disappeared back into the haze. I tossed my last spoon at them to see if they would some back but only one did. As it swam by it gave me a look like I was wasting its time.


I swam around for another hour, just looking at the fish. I took a half-hearted shot at a parrotfish but that was all. As the tide came in, so did the wind and swell. I saw Anna sitting on a boulder by the shore smiling at me. I decided that it was time to call it a day.


My fish sense was telling me that I needed to eat some lunch.