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Nature: Born to Run

It's halalu season—time to catch these small, tasty fish.


If this fish looks freaked out, it’s because he’s about to be salted, dried or even fried.
photo provided by www.hawaiibeachcombers.com, a local’s perspective of Hawaii Beaches.

You’ve seen them as you’ve rounded the bend at Waimea Bay, or when passing through He‘eia. Or at other beaches where fresh water from streams mixes with salty ocean water: Families are out fishing, laughing, poles everywhere. Someone hooks a fish, then another. July is halalu season.

Halalu are young akule, the Hawaiian indigenous fish sometimes referred to as “bigeye” or “goggle-eyed” scad. Akule grow to eight to 10 inches in length and have a life span of about three years. They move to Hawai‘i’s inshore waters in February to August to spawn. The halalu, or juveniles, appear in small schools as far as 40 miles offshore, but eventually find refuge in bays and harbors.

When the halalu come in, they really come in. If you’ve ever been close to the fish as they near the shore, you might understand why the word “rumble” is next to the entry for halalu in Hawaiian dictionaries. In fact, if you ask the shoreline halalu fishers if they have photos of past family outings, there’s a quick response: “No time for photos. Gotta’ keep fishing!”

Are the halalu so ‘ono or is the fishing that much fun? Many anglers catch halalu for home consumption, others to sell them. A small handful of fishermen will catch halalu just to use as bait. Longtime residents remember coming to the same shoreline as children, and recall how they fished with a favorite uncle, auntie, grandparent or cousin.

These regulars tell of times when they’ve seen no halalu, such as last year at Waimea Bay. Some say this was due to over-fishing by those in boats, who used nets. Others shrug and note that some seasons are just better than others. The “crop” of halalu may be related to wet or dry conditions, as runoff from heavy rains brings more nutrients to nearby offshore waters.

Darryl Nakasone, a writer for the publication Hawai‘i Fishing News, notes a decline in recent years. “I’ve seen a trend of juvenile akule declining every year. Is it over-fishing? Netting? No one really knows ... but I believe some seasons are better than others (similar to ‘oama and ‘aweoweo), you just have to make the best of it when the numbers are there.”

There are some regulations to help protect the fish: It is illegal to take akule under 8.5 inches with a net in July through October, or possess or sell more than 200 pounds of akule under 8.5 inches per day from July through October.

Regardless of how this season turns out, halalu will bring the ‘ohana together for fun-filled fishing outings at popular harbors and beaches.

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Honolulu Magazine May 2020
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