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Next time you pack for the sunshine and beaches of Hawaii, you may want to include your travel rod with your swim trunks and suntan lotion and prepare for some rainbow trout fishing on the island of Kauai, as well as on the Big Island of Hawaii. This lush tropical rain forest backdrop set high in volcanic mountains is scenery unlike any other trout fishing locale in the world.
The first place you can find two to four-pound rainbow trout is in Kauai’s Kokee Public Fishing Area, which is about 10 miles north of the town of Kekaha and encompasses portions of Kokee and Waimea Canyon state parks. Longtime subscribers may remember our brief mention of this angling opportunity in the September 1992 issue of The Angling Report (pages 1-2). The rainbows in the Public Fishing Area primarily inhabit 13 miles of coldwater streams, including the Kauaikinana, Mohihi and Koaie. These small streams are tributaries of the Waimea River, which is stocked with trout that are imported from states in the US West.
Although few tourists fish at Kokee, Hawaiian Aquatic Resources biologist Dennis Schinno (*) says anglers shouldn’t expect to catch a lot of trout here. Seems the rainbow trout stocking program has been temporarily suspended in the streams while the state and federal governments review their policy about introducing non-native species into state waters. Even so, Schinno says holdover trout of two to four pounds were caught last year in the streams, as well as in Kokee’s 15-acre pond, called Lake Puulua, and in two miles of man-made canals. Lake Puulua’s depth varies greatly depending on agricultural needs, and it is best fished from the bank.
Both Lake Puulua and the streams fish well with attractor dry flies, but it is probably unnecessary to match hatches, since Hawaii has no mayfly, caddisfly or stonefly hatches. Most trout fishermen who fish these streams have success with small nymphs. Wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants to keep from getting sunburned and from getting torn up by the thick vegetation. Wading wet is a nice contrast to wearing the cocoon waders we normally wear to fish in cold trout waters. Be careful to stay on marked trails since the vegetation is lush and thick, so getting off the beaten path could get you lost.
This year the trout fishing season at Kokee Public Fishing Area runs from August 3 straight through August 18; then on the weekends and holidays only for the rest of August and September. The use of corn as bait is prohibited and no fishing is allowed after 6:45 p.m. Be sure to check the regulations when you go for any changes. As far as lodging goes, Kokee Lodge (*) rents cabins with kitchenettes and housekeeping services for $35 to $45 per night. They can be booked up to one year in advance, and as of this writing only a few cabins were available for this coming season. You can also contact the Hawaii Division of Parks (*) in writing to make a reservation for the primitive campsite in Kokee State Park. You must include a copy of a photo ID for each adult with your letter.
Elsewhere in this island state, anglers may catch Kamloops rainbow trout on the Big Island of Hawaii at Kuhua Ranch (*), located in the Kohala Mountains at an elevation of nearly 4,000 feet. The ranch is operated by a club called Flyfishing Hawaii, which stocks a four-acre lake there called Puu Iki Pond with an aggressive strain of mostly eight to 14-inch Kamloops that are raised on-site in holding tanks. Although I haven’t fished there, club administrator John Stubbart told me the best way to catch these abundant trout in the clear lake is with small dry flies with black bodies. Recommended patterns include beetles, black ants and dark caddis. Fishermen must use barbless hooks and release all trout. I recommend stopping by Charley’s Fishing Supply (*) for local patterns and advice.
Anglers can fish from a canoe or from the banks, Stubbart says. He made special mention of good fishing around a two-acre "floating" grass peninsula that the trout seem to hang around. It would be a lot of trouble to bring along a belly boat, but Stubbart says the pond is perfectly suited for float tubes. Only four anglers at a time are allowed on the pond but Stubbart says the club can customize trips for larger groups. Day tours cost $100 per person, which includes the services of a ghillie and transportation from the town of Kamuela. Annual memberships are also available for $300, plus daily trip fees. The folks at Flyfishing Hawaii can give you information about the numerous hotels and other lodging in the area. You can also contact the Hawaii Visitor’s Bureau (*) for general tourism information.
If you decide to fish for trout in Hawaiian waters, you shouldn’t go in with lofty expectations. Think instead of enjoying the beauty of the mountains and canyons, the jungle atmosphere and the puzzled looks on the faces of those you tell stateside that you just returned from trout fishing in Hawaii. Aloha! – Mark D. Williams.