Families gathered along the banks of Pu‘u Lua Reservoir at Kōkeʻe to participate in the opening weekend of the annual rainbow trout fishing season.
A Father’s Day weekend tradition, dating back an estimated 70 years, brings families of fishers out for the only regular rainbow trout fishing opportunity in Hawai‘i.
For the second year in a row, DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) conducted a lottery for the chance to fish one of the first two days of the season. Close to 1,000 people drove up to the lake Saturday, June 19, and Sunday for four different scheduled four-hour-long fishing sessions. DAR staff checked them in and out, ensured they have fresh-water fishing licenses, and provide information and education about fishing opportunities in general.
Mark Sueyashu of the DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) has been involved in trout fishing seasons for the better part of a quarter of a century…first as a volunteer and now as the primary organizer of the annual affair.
“We try to time opening weekend, two weeks after school’s let out, so it typically coincides with Father’s Day,” Sueyashu explained. “Rainbow trout are not a native species and Pu‘u Lua is the only place where you can fish for them.”
Eggs are brought in each year from a hatchery in California and then hatched at the Anuenue Fisheries Research Center on O‘ahu. Once the reservoir water is cold enough, they’re shipped to Kaua‘i, where they’re held in enclosures in the middle of the lake before being released.
David Banquel brought his two children and a nephew to the Sunday afternoon session. He said he’s been coming to Pu‘u Lua for so long, he has no idea how many years.
“It’s a chance to disconnect from all our digital devices, to enjoy the serene surroundings, and to bond with the family,” Banquel said.
There are no size limits on caught trout and each fisher is allowed to catch seven per day. Approximately 26,000 hatchery-grown trout were released into the reservoir this year.
Unlike, many western states where trout are often coated in cornmeal and fried, the preferred method in Hawai‘i is to smoke them. Banquel doesn’t really care for the taste of trout, but his elderly neighbors do, so his family typically gives their bounty to them.
The special nature of fathers, sons, daughters and entire families enjoying the annual outing is not lost on Sueyashu.
“While many families have been coming for many years, a lot of people are still surprised that you can fish for trout in Hawai‘i, but only here,” Sueyashu said.
Only the first two days of this season required lottery sign-up. The season is now open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through Sept. 30.