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INCIDENTAL LIVES


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Perseverance pays off nicely for Waipahu fisherman

For Tuesday, July 12, 2011

By Michael Tsai

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 11:51 a.m. HST, Jul 12, 2011

Henry Okahara, a lifelong fisherman and collector of great fishing stories, thought he might have yet another contribution to the annals of The Ones That Got Away.

But thanks to a good friend, a strong line and a dozen or so enthusiastic bystanders at the Waianae Boat Harbor, the 74-year-old Waipahu native instead walked away with an indelible memory and a cool 200 smackers in his pocket.

Okahara, 74, was throwing from his 15-foot boat, The Blue Bird, about 21 miles off Makaha on June 30 when he felt a double strike.

The son of a career fisherman, Okahara quickly geared for battle.

It took just an hour to reel in the first fish, an impressive 138-pound ahi. The second, a 140-pounder, proved a far more tenacious opponent.

Okahara battled the ahi alone for three hours before finally concluding that there was no way he could get the dang thing close enough to the boat.

“So I decided to pull it all the way back to the harbor,” Okahara says, chuckling.

It was slow going. Okahara ran the boat at just 5 mph to make sure he didn’t put too much stress on the line. Still, as anyone who agonized through the ending of “The Old Man and the Sea” knows, nothing good ever comes from slowly dragging a fish back to shore.

“I sped up to 11 mph at the end,” Okahara says. “That put mean pressure on the line, but it didn’t break. It was a miracle.”

Okahara arrived back at the dock around midnight and found his close pal Allan Shigeyasu still waiting for him. He’d been there since 2 p.m.

Shigeyasu jumped in the boat and started fighting the still-feisty fish right there on the boat ramp.

When the fish swam beneath the loading dock and under the first pier, two other fishermen joined in the fray, eventually subduing the ahi with a fishing gaff. (Okahara had the first ahi smoked and sold the second for $200.)

It was only after the battle was won that Okahara realized the cheering crowd of fellow anglers who had gathered along the ramp to celebrate his triumph.

For a humble guy who spent 40-plus years painting automobiles for a living, it was a rare and not unappreciated moment of glory.

“It was unbelievable,” Okahara says. “The way they reacted, it was like I had caught a $100 million gold fish or something. It’s something I’ll always remember.”

Reach Michael Tsai at mtsai@staradvertiser.com.






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