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The lure of the deep is calling anglers

By: Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2007-03-22

The crystal waters wrapped around Okinawa’s islands are well known for fantastic dive opportunities, but there are also abundant schools of fish just crying out for adventure.

Well maybe it ultimately doesn’t seem like an adventure for the Tuna, Mahi Mahi, Marlin, Wahoo, Rainbow runners, Snapper, Grouper, Amber Jack and even sharks but for a fisherman, it is the ultimate high adventure! Although little known to many stationed on Okinawa, numerous opportunities abound for fishermen to wet the line and experience the thrill of "bringing in the big one".

Fishing is a livelihood for hundreds of Okinawans, but is also easily within the reach of service personnel and businessmen anxious to venture onto the ocean waters. Marine Corps Community Services Okinawa and the 18th Services Squadron at Kadena Air Base both have fishing arrangements in place, and there are a number of commercial fishing boat charter companies working from different ports not only across Okinawa’s main island, but on outlying islands as well.

The fish are active now, with good size catches taken already this year.

Joe Howell picked up a tuna weighing 35 pounds, Jason Monk a mahi at 17 pounds, another fisherman a 35-pound wahoo, and Shawn Cotton last week nailed a 350-pound shark. One local commercial fishing boat last year gave angler Ron Bohlayer a thrill as he reeled in a 480-pound marlin.

There are limited freshwater fishing spots in Okinawa, largely due to protected areas and few rivers and lakes. Shore options are many, with the Zampa area of Yomitan Village and the Okuma Joint Services Recreation Center, both on the northeast coast, being popular. Of course, just about every piece of shoreline and pier around the island are options for hundreds of fishermen.

Begin the fishing challenge with appropriate gear. While most boat charter companies offer equipment for rental, some don’t. The Oura Won Boat Center at Camp Schwab and Kadena Marina have some, but the best bet is to buy what you want and need. Local BX/PX facilities offer fishing tackle, and there are dozens of Japanese stores catering to every desire, in every price range.

Japanese fishing stores are called tsurigu, and are practically everywhere. They are easily identified by colorful fish signs adorning the storefronts, and the windows are stocked with rods, reels and more.

On base, Oura Wan Boat Center offers fishing charters. Prices start at $175 for half-day (three hours) fishing, while a full day (six hours) goes for $350. Their boat has a capacity of up to six anglers at a time. Reservations and information is available: 625-3683.

Kadena Marina has information by calling 634-6344.

Two local charter companies offer full service fishing charters. Saltwater Fishing Okinawa, with Captain Billy, runs boat charters from Ginowan. He reports weekends fill quickly, and encourages advance planning by calling 090-9788-5266. Open charters offshore run $100 per person, a special military discount price. Rods, reels, bait, ice and rigs are included. Trolling gear rental is $30, and includes a lure. A minimum of eight people must be in the reservation, with maximum of 12. Private charters are $1,200 for up to 12 people, and the boat is exclusively yours.

Trolling charters are $1,500 for up to ten people, targeting big game fish like marlin, wahoo, mahi mahi and tuna.

Saltwater Fishing Okinawa also runs Kerama Islands bottom fishing charters for $800, with maximum of eight fishermen, and a night fishing charter for $1,500 Chris Pancoast is another charter operator, operating several boats seven days a week from Awase Fishing Port on the east coast. He contracts with seven different fishing boats, so there’s usually a good chance to get the dates you want. Prices are comparable. Chris can be contacted at 090-9780-0285.

Most fishing charter companies offer a range of services, including cleaning your fish once ashore. Cleaning is by nominal fee, based upon size of fish.

All fish you catch are yours. The companies don’t provide food or beverages, so pack your coolers and take along whatever you want to eat and drink. Don’t forget to include sun block lotion.

Safety is, of course, paramount in all fishing activity. Wear sturdy shoes, and when fishing ashore be sure to wear a life vest.

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