THERE are scores of fishing contests in Hawaii each year, but I would challenge anyone to show me a more heartwarming event than the Junior Fishing Tournament hosted by the Hawaii and Waikiki yacht clubs.
take to the seas
Last Sunday, for the 18th year in a row, the two clubs invited all keiki anglers under the age of 17 to participate in a free, day-long event that included fishing, swimming and a barbecue.
As in past years, over 100 children from the Honolulu area -- including many disadvantaged youths from Palama Settlement -- accepted the invitation.
The day began at 7 a.m. with the anglers registering and receiving their official tournament T-shirts. Before long, the Hawaii Yacht Club was crowded with keiki who, together with their adult supervisors, were chatting excitedly about the long-anticipated event.
Prior to the anglers boarding the 18 boats provided by club volunteers, they were told that, above everything, safety came first. They were also advised to try to keep their catch alive because there would be a special prize for the most fish released after the weigh-in.
Soon, all of the boats were over their fishing spots, their rails lined with smiling anglers trying to entice anything onto their hooks. In a flash, the boats were surrounded by various types of reef fish, as loaves of stale bread were tossed into the water to attract them.
As the junior anglers began reeling in fish, their smiles quickly burst into laughter. They looked so at home, it was surprising to learn that several of them had never been out on the ocean.
After three hours, the "stop fishing" order came, and although some were not ready, most of the anglers were looking forward to weighing in their catch.
Watching one child after another proudly present their flip-flopping fish to the weigh-in judge has always been my favorite part of the contest.
Under the watchful eye of the angler, the judge must somehow measure its length, identify its species and weigh it on a postage scale, all while the slippery fish makes every effort to escape.
This year, 164 squirming fish suffered through the ordeal, and the judges think the total weight was 1,947.2 ounces.
As a grand finale to the weigh-in, the fish were enthusiastically returned to their ocean environment, hopefully with only injured pride.
FOLLOWING the weigh-in, all the participants were shuttled across the harbor to the WYC for lunch, swimming and the awards ceremony.
The tournament organizers somehow managed to award prizes to every angler, but, along with the prizes, they also presented special awards to those who caught fish in various categories. Those categories included: longest fish, smallest fish, most colorful fish and most unusual fish.
A trophy for the heaviest fish overall went to Chris Quiocho, who weighed a 62-ounce puffer. The trophy for the heaviest fish for anyone under 8 years old went to Anthony Isala, for his 50.5-ounce broomfish.
The trophy for the most total weight of fish caught (256.4 ounces) went to Jeremy Bento, while another went to Channon Agor for catching the most fish (15).
As promised, the final trophy was presented to the angler who had released the most fish. It went to Bullet Boyles for returning his nine-fish catch back to the sea alive.
Ray Pendleton is a free-lance writer based in Honolulu.
His column runs Saturdays in the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.