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We have published a number of articles over the years about bonefishing in Hawaii, though not about the fishing around Molokai. Subscriber Michael Lucey suggests that it may be a new bonefishing hotspot with some absolutely huge fish. We are eager to get more feedback. In the meantime, we are placing Michael Lucey on our Subscriber Honor Roll for filing this important and interesting report. His Honor Roll fishing cap is already in the mail.

This past September I had the opportunity to spend a week on Molokai with my family. As with any trip I take, I try to incorporate some fishing. In this case, I hit the jackpot, as Molokai is a sportsman’s paradise with outstanding bluewater fishing, upland bird hunting, and abundant axis deer and boar. There are also miles and miles of flats, which see virtually no fly fishing pressure. I fished the flats for a total of three days during my visit, and I saw one boat, which was trolling, not flats fishing. My guide was Rob Arita, who has a fly fishing operation on the island of Kauai (www I met Rob a few years ago while attending a meeting on Kauai. I had a free afternoon so I went out with him to look for bonefish, which they call o’io (o-ee-o) over there. We had a great afternoon casting to the occasional o’io. I even landed a nice one. The entire time, Rob kept telling me that I had to go to Molokai. He said I wouldn’t believe the fishing. He was right.

One thing or another kept me away, but I finally had the opportunity to travel to Molokai this past fall. We stayed in a beautiful home right on the beach looking toward Maui. The home could not have been nicer or more picturesque. There is only one hotel left on Molokai, by the way, and while it is OK, there are many nice vacation homes right on the water. There are many rentals available throughout the island, but the east side of the island is the prettiest. Our home had flats right in front, and we saw tailing fish at low tide, along with turtles, rays, and the usual colorful reef fish.

A word about Molokai: if you enjoy eating at restaurants, staying at four-star hotels, seeing shows, or window shopping, Molokai is not for you. Molokai is what Hawaii looked like 60 years ago. The town of Kaunakakai is the largest town on Molokai, with about 2,500 people (the entire island has about 7,500). Kaunakakai has a couple of restaurants, a small store, a bakery, and a few other shops. Curiously, there is a nice wine shop in town, no doubt for the tourists who venture over. Although shopping is somewhat limited, there is certainly enough to provision your rental home for the duration of your stay. The locals live simply and are quite friendly. They are not fond of major development, as evidenced by the fact that they successfully opposed a major development by the island’s largest developer.

As a result, the developer, who was also the island’s largest employer, angrily closed down all operations, including the largest hotel, a movie theater, restaurants, and the golf course in 2008.

Life goes on without the development. Many of the locals make their living off the land or the sea. A significant number of them fish the waters around Molokai. A few own boats and hire themselves out for the day as guides of sorts. They are not fly fishermen, but their knowledge of the local conditions is invaluable. Rob Arita is friends with these local fishermen, and he works with them to provide flats fishing. The boat we used was a flatbottom boat that one of the locals uses to fish the flats for food. It had a small deck at the bow and it served us well, but it was not a traditional flats boat by any means. Many of the flats around Molokai are so accessible that one can walk to them. The amount of area involved, however, makes a boat important and useful. A boat also provides a higher vantage point from which to spot fish. Our boat owner, Joe, got out of the boat and walked it across the coral flats as we stood on the bow spotting fish. Many times Joe spotted the fish despite being in water up to his waist.

We fished with 8- and 9-weight lines. Rob ties his own flies, which were very effective, but we also caught fish on tan Crazy Charlies left over from my trip to Belize. The fish around Molokai are quite aggressive. Most of the time, when I put my fly where they could see it, they hit it. Some followed it right to the boat. As usual, though, if you lined a fish, it ran. Our haul included bonefish and two kinds of trevally—one called papio and the other a beautiful bluefin variety known locally as omilu.

A word about size: the bonefish on Molokai are quite large. I have fished for bones in the Bahamas, Key Biscayne, Florida, and Belize, and the fish I saw around Molokai were the biggest by far. Unfortunately, I lost most of the largest because they would immediately rip off 50 yards of backing and wrap my leader around a coral outcropping, of which there were many. I broke off four or five fish for every one I landed. The trick seemed to be to keep the fish as close to the surface as possible, a difficult task with a five-pound bone and for me, at least, an impossible task with a 10-pound bone.

We occasionally spotted some truly huge bonefish. I saw some that appeared to be between three and four feet long. I guessed their weight as being upward of 20 pounds. Yes, I know those are worldrecord fish. Rest assured, these fish were absolutely enormous. Even Joe and Rob were excited to see them. I cast to a number of these behemoths, but they were not interested in what I had to offer. In truth, I never could have brought them in with the equipment I had.

As for trevally, the ones I caught were in the five-pound range. I saw larger ones, but they moved so quickly or were already so far away when I spotted them that I never had a realistic shot at them. Perhaps a better fisherman than I might have had more luck.

The fishing was all sight fishing. With a light breeze blowing at most, this was not difficult fishing. I would describe myself as an intermediate saltwater fisherman, and I could regularly reach fish and hook up, except the last afternoon when the wind picked up and my casting accuracy went to pieces. I also found it harder to spot fish under those conditions. A good bonefisherman should be able to land 10 to 15 fish in a full day here and hook twice that many. Rob hooked 15 in a half-day of scouting while I was out snorkeling with my family.

My family and I stayed on Molokai for a week, but I fished only three days. On the other days, we kayaked, snorkeled, hiked to a secluded waterfall, caught lobster, and took a boat ride to the other side of the island. During each of the activities, we were the only tourists around. We also had some choice kickback time on the beach in front of our cottage. Each night we enjoyed a gourmet meal prepared by Rob, along with some Napa wine from the local wine shop. All in all, I would go back in a heartbeat. —Michael Lucey.

Postscript: Lucey gives the cost of his one-week stay as $5,000, which he paid directly to Rob Arita, who arranged the rental of a house, cooked all of the meals, and provided guide service. The only downside to the trip was unreliable air service provided by Island Air. “They were two hours late getting us back to Honolulu on the day of our departure,” Lucey writes. “By the time we arrived in Honolulu, the agricultural check point was closed, which meant we had to claim our bags in Honolulu, go back though security, and check in again. We almost missed our flight home. Fellow subscribers should factor in more slack time on their departure day than we did.”

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