Family fishing funBy Kimberly Fu
Special to the Star-Bulletin
Laughter, smiles and the din of chatting voices reigned over Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden's 32-acre watering hole.
Despite overcast skies and freshly muddied banks, kids ran freely through the park while adults engaged in conversations on plastic chairs, cushions, jackets or bare ground. If you had followed the path of bright red cardboard fishes leading to the waterfront you would have seen an array of picnic spreads dotting the wet lawn and children learning to bait hooks, throw out lines or reel in a catch.
There was a lot of family bonding going on, and officials and visitors alike were swept up in it. It spelled the success of the park's newest venture, "Family Fishing Days," a "catch and release" program offered one weekend a month.
"You really need a place where families can come and it's safe," said park volunteer Steve Takekawa. Frequent visitors told him how much they liked the no-pressure atmosphere where liquor is banned and people basically kept to themselves, he said. Although it isn't unusual for visitors to joke with one another or share stories and food, Takekawa said the event provides a time for families to reconnect in a place devoid of technology and other distractions.
Rick Simonson, father of two, said he and his children enjoyed the beauty of the 7- to 10-foot deep lake, as well as the majesty of the mountainside and surrounding flora. The solitude encourages the right fishing attitude, he said, as his previous trip to Ho'omaluhia yielded 35 fish.
"I spent more time taking fish off hooks than putting bread on," he said, as he quickly handed daughter Elizabeth, 11, and son Kenneth, 5, baited hooks. But, sadly, no fish chomped his bait, a hard chunk of white bread Simonson had left refrigerated too long.
"Oh well," he sighed, "we did excellent last time."
Simonson said his family took up fishing about four or five months ago as a hobby. Elizabeth already had been fishing with her school and Kenneth was excited about starting. "This place is great for beginners and kids Ken's age," he said.
It seemed every visitor agreed with that sentiment. All over the park were adults teaching children to fish, and a group of bass fishermen was said to travel from section to section offering tips and advice on the finer points of fishing.
Takekawa traveled all over, too, greeting visitors and passing out free barbless fishing hooks. "No sense to have people come here and see they have the wrong hooks," he said, adding his goal is to have everyone leave happy.
Judging by the foot traffic at the park, it looks like that goal was achieved. On a good day weather-wise, Ho'omaluhia plays host to more than 130 visitors, while on rainy days, as few as 10 lines are cast into the waters, said park attendant Tony Almeida.
Besides the everyday Joe and Josephine, the cast of "Let's Go Fishing" cut through the waters here a few months back, which caused a surge of interest, Almeida said. It's tapered off a bit since then.
Takekawa stressed public enjoyment is the main element dictating the park's hours of operation and availability. If more people are interested in making use of the fishing area, it's possible that "Family Fishing Days" could be scheduled more often than one weekend a month, he said. But that would require finding more manpower to host the events. "It's hard to find volunteers," Takekawa said.
That is beside the point. The park and its large, beautiful watering hole filled with ducks and fish are available for use now. So grab a pole (preferably bamboo), a blanket, food and a few friends, and head out to Ho'omaluhia for a few hours. It's an experience with nature you won't want to miss.
Family Fishing DaysWhen: First weekend of every month, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Next event: Feb. 6-7
Where: Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden, 45-680 Luluku Road
Follow the trail of red fishes
Cost: Free admission, ample free parking
Supplies: Don't forget to pack these ingredients for a great adventure:
small barbless hooks
Call: 233-7323 for more information or to volunteer
Click for online
calendars and events.