'Fishing Tales' brought joy of sport to far-flung places


POSTED: Friday, January 16, 2009

Widely admired for his technical savvy and dogged persistence, Mike Sakamoto parlayed a popular TV show about fishing in the Pacific into an educational forum supporting environmental stewardship.

“;Mike was a real firm believer in the educational content in the show,”; said family spokesman Audy Kimura. “;He raised the bar in that he was very meticulous and thorough in his research. I was amazed that he knew so much about different fish and marine life. He could also rig any tackle, troll for any fresh and saltwater fish, and do spear-diving. He could do it all.”;

Sakamoto died Wednesday from complications of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He was 59.

The Hilo resident was in Honolulu receiving treatment at the time of his death.

“;Fishing Tales with Mike Sakamoto”; ran for close to 20 years, starting in 1986, first on broadcast stations KGMB and KHON, then on Oceanic Time Warner Cable's OC16. In January 2003 the show was syndicated to the national Outdoor Channel, and was also shown in such faraway places as Japan and England.

“;(One British viewer) told me it was raining sleet and freezing cold outside,”; Sakamoto said in an interview with the Star-Bulletin in 2003. “;He was sitting on the couch with a dog in his lap to keep him warm. The weather was miserable all around him, and there we were on the TV, walking in the sand in our shorts and fishing around Midway and Bikini Atoll.”;

Like “;Let's Go Fishing,”; the show it eventually succeeded, “;Fishing Tales with Mike Sakamoto”; focused on fishing trips in and around the state and the Pacific Basin area. It took viewers to such exotic locations as Micronesia, Pohnpei, Kwajalein, Tahiti, Christmas Island, Costa Rica, Canada, Alaska and Mexico.

But what distinguished it from the earlier show was its emphasis on education and sustainable fishing with a catch-and-release philosophy.

“;Mike's show brought storytelling and higher production values to the fishing TV show format,”; said friend and former Star-Bulletin photographer Dean Sensui, now co-executive producer of OC16's “;Hawaii Goes Fishing.”;

“;It was unlike anything that was done previously, so for that he was quite a pioneer,”; said Sensui. “;Mike made use of new technology at the time, like wireless microphones, to give viewers the sense of being there with him and the other fishermen.”;

According to Kimura, Sakamoto, born and raised in Honolulu, “;became interested in fishing while growing up near Nuuanu Stream as a boy.”;

Stan Wright, a friend for more than 30 years, first worked with Sakamoto when Wright was doing in-field segments for “;Let's Go Fishing.”;

“;What amazed me about Mike was his knowledge and skill at fishing,”; Wright added. “;He was at home with either a little bamboo pole or an ulua pole lodged in the rocks, or on a charter boat. He also made his own bamboo rods and lures from scratch.”;

Two of Sakamoto's books, “;101 Fishing Tips”; (Bess Press) and “;Pacific Shore Fishing”; (University of Hawaii Press), are still in print.

“;Fishing Tales”; co-producer A.D. Ackerman met Sakamoto in 1984, when Sakamoto was working as a grip and news cameraman at the now-defunct KOHA television station, and Ackerman was doing commercial work.

“;Mike was one of the hardest-working guys I've ever known,”; Ackerman said by phone from Kona. “;He was persistent and just a bulldog. Once he set something in motion, he saw it to the very end.”;

After the run of “;Fishing Tales”; was pau, Sakamoto would appear occasionally as a guest on “;Hawaii Goes Fishing.”;

Sensui said an earlier episode featuring him will be aired this Sunday at 5 p.m. on OC16, and that he still has footage with Sakamoto that will be put together for a future episode.

Sakamoto is survived by mother Peggy Murashima, wife Kathleen, son Paul and daughter Stefanie, all from Hilo; sisters Pauline Higa of Kapolei, Paula Igawa of Pearl City and Jan Kodani of Las Vegas; as well as eight nieces and nephews.

Funeral arrangements are pending.