Reel Stories

Waianela Boiser is part of a growing number of women who are taking up ocean fishing, and she even won a recent tournament sponsored by Garden Island Trollers fishing club

Fishing isn’t just for men. It’s a sport that also reels in women — like Waianela Boiser.

The Kapaa High School teacher enjoys catching fish primarily because it’s tradition and part of her Hawaiian lineage. She wants to make her family proud, and she’s accomplishing that as an active member of Garden Island Trollers fishing club. She encourages others, especially wahine, to join.

It was only recently that Boiser rediscovered her fondness for fishing. Though she grew up around boats, and her father, Mark, taught her how to fish, she hadn’t jumped on board in years. But when her brother Sonny Sakahara invited her to participate in the Garden Island Trollers’ women’s tournament last year, she couldn’t resist. They had a practice run first, and while she caught some mahimahi, she suffered from terrible sea-sickness. But that didn’t deter her, and now she makes sure to take something to counteract the wobbles before she goes out. And it must work, because Boiser ended up winning first place in the ono division (each category is judged by weight) by catching a 39.9-pound ono.

“It wasn’t very intimidating because you don’t have to know everything, you just have to be on a boat and press the reel,” she says. “Still, it’s hard to convince women to get on a boat.”

Nonetheless, make no mistake: Reeling in a fish is not an easy task.

“I thought the lock was on,” jokes Boiser, as she explains the moment she reeled in the winning ono.

She recalls the day vividly — leaving the dock a little late, and for the first several minutes, fiddling with her iPod. Her brother interrupted her shortly thereafter, however, shouting that they had a double strike and to drop whatever she was doing. The fish was feisty, and Boiser found it difficult to fight. She recalls concentrating too much on details, like making sure the line was even in the spool, while Sakahara instructed her to just bring it in quickly.

“It’s all intense excitement,” she says.

Fishing is based largely on luck, but it does require technique. Navigating the narrow Kapaa Boat Harbor, for example, demands skill. But practice makes perfect, and beginners always are invited to join the club and journey out in a noncompetitive environment with someone who is already well-versed in the sport.

“And we just give them tips and help them along,” explains Boiser, a Kapaa High School graduate. “This is a nice place to start.”

Garden Island Trollers began unofficially in the 1960s as an all-male group. It had a resurgence in the 1990s, and now women have become more involved — next year will mark the fourth annual wahine tournament. The first year, only five or six boats participated in the event, but some 25 entered its third tourney last month.

The fishing club’s open tournament also is growing. This summer was the fourth for the tourney, with about 50 boats participating.

“Which is a lot because it’s been growing,” says Boiser, who adds that the first year’s tournament attracted only about 15 boats. “I want it to grow because it’s fun and it’s beautiful being out on the ocean, and for people like my brother that’s his serenity, his peace.”

The nonprofit’s goal is to create a kinship among fishermen and women, offer more fun family affairs on a regular basis and even extend the tournaments to include one for keiki.

“They are our future fishermen,” explains Jolene Spence, Garden Island Trollers’ sea captain.

Garden Island Trollers’ members also are working to be more active in the community by voicing their concerns about new fishing regulations, such as acquiring a captain’s license online. They are uniting as a team and are working with government officials, including state Rep. Derek Kawakami (also a member of the club), to advocate certain issues, such as getting the harbor in Kapaa dredged so that fishermen don’t have so much trouble getting out.

Boiser is involved with this kind of advocacy within the club but, for her, the best part of fishing is being on the ocean and looking back at Kauai’s natural beauty, especially places such as Kipu Kai that are only accessible by boat.

“When you’re on the island, it’s so grand, but when you see it from the ocean, it’s so small,” she explains.

The avid bike rider is still on a mission to catch a “big ahi,” and touts her famous ahi katsu dish. And though she didn’t achieve her objective at this year’s tournament, she’s already making plans for the next one.

For more information about the club, call Spence at 635-3675. Send donations for upcoming tournaments to Garden Island Trollers at P.O. Box 129, Kapaa, 96746.