Start Me Up Sportfishing

Waking up at 2:00 in the morning is not something I generally look forward to, but this morning I was up a full half hour before my alarm went off. I was having a hard time even getting to sleep ever since I found out I would be going out with Start Me Up for their nine hour fishing trip. The reason for leaving so early in the morning is that the fish don’t feed until the sun comes up, and we wanted to be where the fish were as soon as the sun pushed past the horizon. So in order to catch the most fish possible, I headed for the Lahaina Harbor before 3:00 am.

As I drove down the Honoapiilani Highway towards Lahaina, I was very excited, and a little nervous about this brand new experience. With the West Maui Mountains barely visible because of the pre-sunrise darkness, we cruised along the nearly empty highway towards what would prove to be an adventure of a lifetime. My wife was hoping to be able to go with me on this trip, but unfortunately we had no one else to watch the kids. As a result, she would have to wait for another trip, and was going to fish this trip solo.

When we arrived at the harbor around 3:10 in the morning, I thought for sure we would be the first ones there. I was wrong. Apparently there were other fisherman more excited and anxious than I. Still, it was strangely quiet at Lahaina Harbor. After parking the car and grabbing my backpack, we walked towards slip #12 and the start of my incredible adventure.

There was already another couple waiting to go on the same Start Me Up fishing trip when we arrived, and to my surprise, my wife already knew them. The other night, they visited Tropical Artware Maui, the toe ring shop where my wife works. The young couple it turned out were on they honeymoon from Alaska and the groom had bought his new bride a set of toe rings. I introduced myself to David Needham and his wife Melinda and marveled at how small world seems to be when you’re on Maui.

While we were talking story and waiting for the trip to get started, a man who went by the name of “Coach” came by and informed us that the early morning Start Me Up fishing adventure actually leaves from the main dock not from slip #12, like the other Start Me Up trips. We gathered our backpacks and other items and walked over to the boat. It was called The Action, and the captain, Steve “Skillet” Lambert, was in the process of loading ice into the storage containers on the boat. He let us know that this morning, he was adding an extra hundred pounds of ice — he was anticipating a very good day of fishing. We met the other members of our trip, Sherri and David Duarte, and Joe Hollingsworth. Everyone of us eager to catch some fish.

Earlier this morning (How can you be earlier than 3:00 am?), Skillet and his co-captain Patrick Dorn went fishing for live bait. From midnight until 2:45 in the morning, they fished a secret spot and loaded the live bait tank with 75 Opelu. We would be using these magical fish to catch the bigger fish that would make this particular fishing trip so much fun.

We boarded the boat and listened to the mandated safety briefing as we headed out from Lahaina Harbor into the the ‘Au’Au Channel that would take us to our fishing destination. After the briefing, the six of us passengers, and would be fisherman, got comfortable while our captains piloted The Action through whale-infested waters. Now that I was finally on the boat and comfortable, my nearly sleepless night caught up with me and the rocking of the boat paired with the darkness of the pre-dawn hour caused me to fall into a dreamless sleep.

I was sleeping peacefully in the aft section of the boat and, every now and again, little waves would break over the bow and cause little drops of salt water to drip onto my shoes. As the boat took us closer to the far side of Kaho’olawe, the waves grew larger and the ride grew rougher. By the time we arrived at our fishing destination, I was well rested, but my shoes were soaked.

The sun was just starting to peak over the horizon when we felt The Action start to slow down. The engines grew quieter and we could feel the surge of the ocean as it raised and then lowered the boat in succession. We were finally here! The spot was marked by a buoy on the surface of the water just north of where we were positioned.

Each of the six of us was assigned a number, one through six, by the captain so we would be able to take turns catching fish. I was lucky enough to be given number one. Before I had time to reflect on how lucky I was, our first fish of the day was ready for me to real it in. I already had my belt on, so when I was handed the fishing pole it was easy to handle.

The fish was stronger than I had anticipated. Remembering what I had been taught in the briefing earlier, I turned the handle of the fishing reel as fast as I could as I pointed the tip of the fishing pole down towards the surface of the water. I pulled the fish to point the tip back up and reeled in as fast as I could while I pointed the tip again towards the surface of the water. This was a lot harder than I thought it would be; it was also a lot more exciting than I could have possibly imagined. The Mahi on the other end of the line was huge and fighting pretty well. Continuing the reeling in process, I was able to bring him all the way to the boat. Unfortunately, as we were bringing him closer to the boat, somehow, the line severed and the fish escaped. I would have to wait a little longer to get my first fish.

Fortunately, this wouldn’t take too long. As luck (or, as I prefer to think of it, the skill of the crew) would have it, it only took about two minutes until there was another fish on the line. Everyone insisted I go again since what should have been my catch got away. Who am I to disagree with a boatful of fisherman. This time, I was determined to bring that fish aboard. This one was stronger than the first fish, or maybe the adrenaline was wearing off, and I again reeled in as I was taught. Within minutes, we could see the Ahi on the other end of the line. By the time I reeled him to the end of my line, there was a call for the number two line. David grabbed that line and started bringing his fish in while Steve grabbed the line of my fish and swung it into the boat and directly into the fish bag. I JUST CAUGHT MY FIRST FISH! and it was huge.

Before I had a chance to find my seat, the next fish was being brought over the side of the boat and into the fish bag. Out captains assured us that this was not the norm, no one can even guarantee we would catch a single fish. But here we were, just a few minutes into it and we already had two. This was going to be a day to remember. Everyone had the chance to catch plenty of fish and before the day was over, many of us were too tired to reel in any more fish. Both David Needham and David Duarte were the heros of the group. Neither of them sat out for too long and before the day was done, our boat had caught six Mahi Mahi and sixteen Ahi. A fantastic day’s work.

It was nearly 9:00 when we finished up all the Opelu we had been using for live bait, and we were all pretty tired by this time. With two fish bags full of Ahi and Mahi Mahi, our captains let us know it was time to head back. The majority of fishing poles were put away for the return trip. Only two were set up with lures just in case we came across any more fish. We headed back towards the backside of Kahoolawe into the Kealaikahiki Channel in between the islands of Kahoolowe and Lanai. The water is not as calm as it is in the ‘Au’Au Channel and as the boat sped its way back home, we were bounced around quite a bit, and were getting more than a little wet from the waves splashing over the sides.

On either side of us, whales were splashing in the relatively shallow waters. We could see them off in the distance. Playing. Splashing their tales. I love whale season on Maui. As a quick side note, whale season runs from December 15 through May 15 of each year. During that time, while the whales are making their home in the waters between Maui, Molokai, Lanai, and Kaho’olawe, certain activities are not permitted. Among these activities are jet skiing and parasailing. Be sure to make a note of this when you plan your next trip to the Valley Isle of Maui. If you want to see whales, you won’t be able to jet ski or parasail. And if you want to jet ski or parasail, you’ll need to book your trip when the whales are not in town.

As we crossed back into the calmer waters of the ‘AuAu Channel, we were all smiles when we heard that our trip caught more fish than any other fish from Lahaina Harbor. We would be flying two flags today. Bragging rights really, to show all the other boats, as well as people nearby, that we had hauled in plenty of fish.

The harbor was crowded as our captain guided The Action into the slip. It felt great to be on land and even greater when people started asking about our excursion. It took several trips back to the boat in order to bring all the fish onto the dock.

Skillet and Patrick were still hanging the fish up at the Start Me Up booth as the crowd began to grow. As we started taking pictures with our catch, the crowd was filled with envious fisherman who didn’t fare as well. I found it amazing that we all knew which fish we caught and which fish were caught by the other members of our group. I couldn’t believe how many people took pictures of our fish.

After all the pictures were taken, it was time to filet our catch. There is nothing like really fresh Ahi and Mahi Mahi; there is no fresher fish than the fish caught the same day it is eaten.

With my Ahi filet in one hand and my backpack over my shoulder I headed home. I couldn’t wait to share the stories of my fishing trip with my wife and kids. And even more importantly, I couldn’t wait till dinner. I was 100% certain it was going to be fish.

Start Me Up Sportfishing
Lahaina Harbor Slip #12
Lahaina, HI 96761

Tiny Bubbles Scuba
About Maury Hoffman |Things to Do on Maui | Restaurant and Activity Reviews

Senior Editor of 808 Reviews and freelance travel writer, Maury Hoffman lives on Maui with his familiy, iPad, iPhone, and other gadgets. His writing proficiency is directly related to the quality of his morning coffee. He prefers Peet's Coffee, but also enjoys Living Java.

Tiny Bubbles Scuba