Finding Nemo Part 371 - honoring fish species diversity


the Menehune stole my beer
Yesterday I added Species # 371 to my Lifetime Species Caught list and thought now would be a good time to share some of the tropical diversity that continues to captivate me. Many others have caught way more species than I have, but it gives me great personal satisfaction to catch as wide a variety of fish as possible. I’ve always been a bit of an aquarium junkie and Kona is a great place to tangle with some odd and bizarre specimens. I was that kid with fish tanks in my room and a pond in my backyard. I knew who Dr. Axelrod was and I spent hours prowling the fish tanks at Boyd’s Pet Shop in Portland. Shore fishing here is tough stuff. I’ve shredded flylines, suffered leg, knee, shoulder, foot and back injuries, been too close to tiger sharks for comfort and lost hundreds of fish and flies to rocks, coral and predator fish. And this has all happened in the past ten months! This place isn’t for the faint of heart, but it is fascinating to a fish freak like me. This thread isn’t about big fish or trophy specimens or even necessarily about fly fishing. This is a celebration of the funky, freaky, weird and bizarre….exactly the stuff I love to catch. A few of these pics are a bit older for illustrative purposes, but most are of fish caught in the past couple months by me. Many of the fish in these photos were caught on flies, but several were captured on damashi rigs, lures, sabiki rigs and bait.

Some may think my time in Kona is mainly focused on catching these…….

or these……

I love bluewater fishing, but in reality, I spend most of my Kona fishing hours chasing reef fish. Yes, much of that Reef Game time is devoted to “standard” species like bonefish and trevally……

A huge portion of my fishing time is spent going for species that many anglers ignore or are considered too bizarre, freaky or just plain too hard to catch on fly/lure/rod- and- reel. Here are some of the crazy species I’ve had fun with here recently on the west side of Hawaii…

Remember Gill, the leader of the Tank Gang in Finding Nemo? (don’t claim you never watched it. You know you did). Gill was a Moorish Idol. I’ve seen hundreds in tide pools and I actually caught one. I’m sure someone else has done it too, but with that mouth and their feeding habits, these are unlikely sport fishing catches. I’ve never known anyone else who has caught one...

I’ve also caught Bloat, another member of the Tank Gang…and many of his buddies. These things have a ravenous hunger for my flies. The first dozen I caught were fun, but when you’re sweating your ass off chasing bonefish, they are a pain in the ass. I present…..Bloat and his buddy Scrote….

Scrawled Filefish, also called broomtails or Loulu, are bona fide freaks of nature. They’re very hard to hook and are sneaky bait stealers of the highest order. I’ve managed only two on fly so far, and this was when I had the fish swarming in a chum slick. The rest I’ve caught using small pieces of bait. They give a strong first run and have technicolor skin with a texture like tanned leather-

they look kinda goofy and silly, but they have piranha teeth that will take your finger off if you give them a chance! -

There is another cool species of filefish called Barred Filefish, or O’oili. I’ve caught a couple dozen of these so far. These have even scarier teeth than their cousins and are even harder to hook…

Parrotfish have quickly become one of my favorite types of fish to chase. I’ve had good success on Stareye parrots using a variety of seaweed patterns and a few have hit small bonefish patterns…

Palenose parrotfish are another favorite, the colors on the super males are insane….

There are several types of triggerfish here; the one most people are familiar with is the picasso trigger, or humuhumunukunukuapua’a. And no, this is not the “state fish of Hawaii” and they are NOT protected. What they are is a lot of fun on the end of a fly rod….

There are many other types of triggers that are fun as hell to catch, like the lagoon trigger -

The Lei trigger -

I use my glass rod a lot for reef duty, it lets these strong little reef thugs give a good account of their abilities and has enough backbone to pull a bigger specimen out of the rocks when needed…..

The pinktail -

The black trigger, or hagi -

and the bridled trigger -

various wrasse will occasionally attack flies and lures. The gaudy green male bird wrasse likes tiny crustacean patterns….

Yellowtail Coris wrasse look fish-tank gaudy but are actually feisty, fierce little reef predators…they’re also called hinalea akilolo, but the colors are more enhanced with some good pakalolo….

Surge and Christmas wrasse are the bread and butter wrasse here; they’ll hit a wide variety of lures, flies and bait….

and of course there’s the menacing-looking Table Boss, the largest wrasse species in Hawaii…..

Saddle wrasse are ubiquitous, hanging in virtually every tide pool on all the islands. They seldom get bigger than 8”, so this 13” freak was quite a nice surprise….

I’ve long been a goatfish fan in all their forms. They willingly hit flies and lures and they fight damn hard for their size….

The big Pflueger’s goatfish can give a hell of a fight. Great fish!

Surgeonfish are another awesome target. I’ve had decent luck on convict tangs using small seaweed patterns, but they can be very finicky-

Whitebar surgeons are another fun opponent; small seaweed patterns do the trick…

Ringtail surgeons are considered an “impossible” on fly by Mems, renowned Big Island guide Don Memmer, and I have to agree. I got lucky with this one while bone fishing , the scrap he put up was epic. My 20 pound bonefish leader was completely shredded-

I’ve only had the good fortune of tangling with a couple orangespine unicorn fish…I hope to catch more.

Brown surgeons are small and feisty….

Hawkfish are another family that seems to have Pugnacious as part of their latin name. They eagerly attack flies and will hit a topwater popper with wild abandon. Leland Miyawaki’s popper is a great fly for them. I’ve caught most of them, from the tiny but beautiful Redbarred Hawkfish (this is a mature adult specimen!) ….

To the Blackside….

to the ubiquitous Stocky Hawkfish, or Po’opa’a. This is the aggressive fish most shore anglers confront first in Hawaii. I’ve caught them on streamers nearly as long as they are when I was fishing for trevally. They have a huge appetite and their teeth and spines can shred your hands and fingers into hamburger. Trust me, I know!

Butterflyfish are pretty much everywhere. The Threadfin is one of the largest types and the one anglers will confront most frequently. They are skilled bait stealers, but they will hit small flies under certain conditions…

The smaller Teardrop Butterflyfish has an interesting pattern…..pretty obvious how they got their name eh?



the Menehune stole my beer
My favorite is the Raccoon Butterflyfish. This species is just cool….

It is funny to watch the reactions from people when they hook their first Hawai’i reef fish, especially on a light fly rod. One of the common fish here is also one of the strongest for it’s size…the kupipi, a type of damselfish. They aren’t much to look at, but they are fun as hell to catch when they get to adult size…and they have a fondness for soft hackles like these, fished on the swing in the tidal surge….

See if you can name these other species I’ve caught recently. The winner receives a nearly empty spool of tippet and a rusty pair of pliers…

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little trip to Kona. My next goal is to hit the 400 species mark….wish me luck! Aloha.


Active Member
Interesting gallery Mingo, many of them I would hesitate to pick up not knowing if there are any poisonous spines...
Interesting gallery Mingo, many of them I would hesitate to pick up not knowing if there are any poisonous spines...
There aren’t a ton of fish with poisonous spines in Hawaii, but there are a few that will get you. I would be more worried about the razor blades on some of those fish that Mingo is holding.


Active Member
Thanks again Mingo for another amazing post. Can't wait to get back to the islands to have another shot at those reef fish. I'll probably spend half my next vacation there tying flies!

I'll pass on the rusty pliers but I've actually caught a couple on your quiz list. The Roi (peacock grouper) I got on a spin popper was cool, but I'm OK if I never catch another nuu-nuu again. Can't pin down exact species but others include a boxfish, damsel, squirrel fish, some kind of snapper, bird wrasse, (green?) jobfish, Hawaiian version of a Bermuda chub, and a surf-perch looking fishy.

BTW, the ahi pics are KILLING ME!


Active Member
I was that kid with fish tanks in my room and a pond in my backyard. I knew who Dr. Axelrod was and I spent hours prowling the fish tanks at Boyd’s Pet Shop in Portland. S
My Mom would drop me off at this awesome aquarium store in Gresham while she ran errands (I was 13-ish and it was the 70's). Probably annoyed the hell out of the owner but I didn't touch anything or ask too many questions. Occasionally I would buy stuff for my 10 gallon tank but never any fish since the Jack Dempsey I had was a total D-bag. I was also familiar with Dr. Axelrod. My fish disease was so bad my folks bought me "Fishes of the World". That book weighed like 5 pounds but I read it cover to cover several times dreaming about fishing in exotic places. What's the hell is wrong with us? ;)


Chucking a dead parrot on a piece of string!

I have never kept a list of the species I have caught, but I probably should have. Having fished in many different parts of the world, It would be into the many hundreds. I don’t have all those Hawaiian species yet!

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