Everyone wins at this tournament
If you have trouble pronouncing the name of Hawaii's state fish, humuhumunukunukuapua'a, you ought to try weighing a live one on a postage scale.
That was just one of the challenges facing the officials at last Sunday's junior fishing tournament, an annual event that has been co-sponsored by the Ala Wai Harbor's Hawaii and Waikiki yacht clubs for the past 25 years.
In fact, just about all of the logistics of this long-running event are a bit mind-boggling. This year the clubs' volunteers managed to safely maneuver about 80 keiki -- age 15 and younger -- through a registration process, into life jackets, onto boats, off of boats, through a fish weigh-in and then onto a shuttle boat that took them across the harbor for a barbecue and a swim.
It all began at 7:30 a.m. when the first eager anglers began arriving at the HYC. Some were club members' children, but many were disadvantaged kids from Palama Settlement.
There was even one 6-year-old who was visiting Waikiki with his grandmother from Buffalo, N.Y. They just happened to see all the activity while walking around the marina and asked if he could join in. Naturally, in an event like this, there is always room for one more.
Once the kids were registered, they were fitted with personal flotation devices and were provided with fishing gear if they hadn't brought their own.
Then, following a brief lecture on boating and fishing safety, they boarded one of the 17 boats on hand to take them out to fish the reefs near the harbor entrance. Once fishing, they were told that whatever fish were caught had to be quickly immersed in a bucket of water to keep them alive.
All of the boats returned to the dock by 11 a.m. It was then we spectators had the pleasure of watching these proud anglers presenting their catch to judges, who in turn had to somehow identify, measure and weigh dozens and dozens of flip-flopping fish before they were returned to the sea. Even fish that appeared somewhat worse for wear were quickly resuscitated with a saltwater pump.
After the fish weigh-in and release, everyone involved in the tourney was ferried across the Ala Wai, where its swimming pool and barbecue became the focus of activities before the official awards presentation.
There were prizes, as always, for those who caught the longest fish, the heaviest fish, the smallest fish, the most colorful fish and the most unusual fish. There was also a prize for the angler who caught the most fish, and better yet, there were prizes awarded to those who caught no fish.
Judging by all of the tired, but happy faces at the WYC at the end of the day, there was no question that everyone involved in this marvelous event, whether adults or kids, had had a day to remember.
And I'm quite sure there was one 6-year-old who will be going back home to Buffalo with fishing stories beyond his friends' wildest imaginations.