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Pole & Line Fishing

After World War II and up to the early 1980s, the pole & line fishery for aku (skipjack tuna) was the main supply of fresh tuna for sashimi and canning raw material in Hawaii.

This fishery involves two different types of fishing: the first to capture live bait and the second to catch skipjack tuna. Chumming aku schools with live bait keeps them near the boat. Fishermen then use feathered lures with barbless hooks attached to bamboo poles to catch the fish.

This fleet supplied the local tuna cannery until it closed in 1984. With the cannery gone, the “aku boat” fleet steadily declined as the old wooden sampans deteriorated.

Now only one of the old sampans, plus a modern boat make up the pole & line fishery. The modern vessel stores aku in refrigerated seawater. This rapid chilling method is superior to using ice for aku, and has added several days of shelf life and opened new markets for this specialty sashimi product. Eating fresh aku is one of the many unique pleasures of life in Hawaii.

Hawaii Pole & Line Fishing
Hawaii Pole & Line Fishing – Illustration by Les Hata