Thursday, October 30, 2008


When I returned to Japan in the summer of '02, I started off my fishing the same as when I left in '99. A couple of surf poles at the port. I still enjoy this type (and all types) of fishing. Gradually I was introduced to target fishing of all types; Flounder, Seabream, Trout, Halibut, Sweetfish, etc. Although the target fishing is usually the most challenging and interesting. Sometimes there's nothing better than heading to the port. I usually stop in at one of the local ports and ask the fishermen about the bite, then I'll gear-up and go for it on my day off. My most recent shore experience was for the Black Rock Fish. I'll get some pictures developed and add this one later.

Scallop (Hotate) Fishing

Scallop fishing from the port is an awesome way to spend a winter day off. The scallop only come in close enough to catch in the winter months. A metal "coat hanger" looking gizmo is cast out and drug on the bottom. The scallop clamp on and don't let go. I cast out about 50 times before I landed this one. Of course I love the taste of a good scallop, but the wild scallop is special. I have never tasted a scallop as good as the one in this picture. It may be the migratory habits or difference in diet. I don't waste this flavor by cooking. These scallops get eaten raw with a little soy and wasabi.

Yari Ika (Spear Tailed Squid) Fishing

Squid fishing is another option for the winter months. Usually around mid December to mid January, the Yari Ika come close enough to port to catch by casting. This type of fishing is done at night from the tetra. This is one of my favorite types of pier fishing. A slip float is used with a special glowing squid jig. Chicken meat is tied to the jig and hangs about a meter from the surface. I use a flasher, much like a camera flash, to keep the jig illuminated. This is probably my most dangerous style of fishing. Walking around casting and catching on the awkwardly shaped ice covered tetra at night has taken a few lives in my favorite spot. If you lose your sense of awareness while fishing the Yari Ika, you'll die doing something you love. The Yari Ika also tastes great. As sweet as any squid you'll try. No need for cooking here either. Cut in thin strips and sprinkled with soy and ginger.
Deep Tetra Fishing

Most port fishermen know that a nice deep hole in the tetra is usually a good hide out for bottom fish such as Soi, Ainame and Kajika (pictured here). At a particular port about 15 minutes from my house, the tetra are arranged such that if a person had the gumption, they could climb down into the tetra and fish the holes that no one else attempts. So I do. This gets extremely dangerous. I don't take anyone with me when I go climbing for fish. I strap on a small hip pack, wear special shoes, and take a specialized tetra rod that is less than a meter in length. I rig up my own leaders for this fishing using a buller, beads, and fluorescent floater beads. I used blood worms (Isome) or tube worms (Erako) for bait. Sometimes the most difficult thing about this type of fishing is what to do if you catch a nice fish. I had an extremely difficult time getting this fish out of the tetra. The Kajika makes a delicious soup. This is a big headed, bony fish that can be cut into fillets and fried if large enough. I like to put this one in a soup, so that the entire head can be eaten, as this seems to be the most tasty meat.

Kare (Flat fish) Fishing

Kare fishing from the port is probably my most relaxing type of fishing. The Kare will usually bite at the port from mid spring to mid fall. During the hot months however, the meat gets a little too soft and this fish is not as good eating as the early and late season fish. To fish for the Kare, just rig up a couple of drop loops with a little bead flare, cast out as far as possible, and hang out. I like to introduce new folks to this type of fishing as long as they are non-drinkers (AKA my designated driver). I rarely mix drinking and fishing.......this is the exception. These fish can be prepared just about any way you can think of. Kare fishing from a boat is approached entirely different and will warrant a special posting.

Mutsu Hirame (Bastard Halibut) Fishing. The Challenge!

Although I catch a lot of Hirame on the Pacific coast side by charter boat, the really large Hirame dwell in Mutsu Bay. I have yet to catch one. I have decided to go about this challenge using my own boat by launching at different points along the Natsudomari Pennensula inside the bay. I know the fish are there. There is a small bait shop along the Penn that sells live anchovies. This is the bait of choice. The anchovy must be anchored taught about 1 ~ 2 meters from the bottom and allowed to swim freely around the line. Once this is achieved, the boat must move slowly around the area until finding a fish. These fish are timid. They bite for minutes on the anchovy until deciding to take the bait well enough to become hooked. On two separate occasions I've had the fish biting and jumped the gun. This has been an interesting challenge. So far I'm defeated............I'll be back!

Wakasagi (Pond Smelt) Fishing

Lucky for me, I have an understanding wife who lets me enjoy my hobbies. I've tried several times to get her into the outdoors, with no success. This said, I find it odd that a person who hates being outside so much enjoys ice fishing. We go ice fishing for Wakasagi on any one of several nearby lakes in the area. A large Wakasagi is 4~5 inches long. Unfortunately, we can only get on the ice when it reaches 10 or more centimeters thick. This usually happens late January to early February, but some years not at all. A very small rod and reel set is used with a line of 10 ~ 12 tiny hooks and a small bottom sinker. We use a kind of treated maggot for bait. It gets extremely cold on the lake, so we usually fish inside an ice fishing tent in the morning, then venture out come afternoon. Pictured here, Kazumi cooks up some of our catch. A little shake in some Kara-ange breading, then straight in the hot oil. No cleaning required. We eat the whole fish. It comes out about the size of a french fry and has an excellent taste.

Pacific Side Hirame (Bastard Halibut) Fishing

Every September I head to my ole standby deep sea charter port in Hashikami and book a day trip for Hirame. This is a very interesting and sometimes exhausting style of fishing. This type of target fishing requires the Nata. A Nata is a triangular/torpedo shaped gizmo that is weighted in the front, usually with lead. Some folks make their own Nata by melting and forming old lead sinkers, then whittling out the wooden body and attaching. Frozen anchovies are tied from the tail of the Nata and also about 40 cm up the line and out. The Nata is fished about 1 ~ 2 meters from the bottom and constantly raised and lowered. This makes the anchovies appear to be swimming, which attracts the Hirame. Pictured left, Yohei holds up two nice Pacific Hirame. He and I caught about 40 of these on this particular outing........Yohei always seems to bring good luck!

Tai (Red Sea Bream) Fishing

One of the most highly sought after fish by just about every fisherman I know is the Tai. The first three years of my Tai fishing left me skunked, not even a bite. After I caught my first Tai, I have caught at least one on every outing. Tai fishing requires a lot of technique and patience. We use relatively light gear and rig our own leaders. These fish are smart and have excellent vision. They dwell at different depths at different times of the year and roam around Mustu bay and the Tsugaru Kaikyou ( the strait between Aomori and Hokaido) throughout the season in search of food. There are different methods of Tai fishing dependent on the time of year, area, and what the Tai are interested in at the time. Pictured here is a Tai that I managed to catch in the Kaikyou. This fish was over 60 cm.

Sinker Dinkin = Riggin up for just about anything that will bite.
Sometimes I'll head down to the charter port in Hashikami and sign up for some sinker dinkin. I really enjoy this type of fishing (of course). The tackle/bait shop is owned and operated by Mr. and Mrs. Sakashita. These are two of the nicest folks I know. They are always willing to lend advice, and they will never stear you wrong when It comes to purchasing gear. Although there are some types of target fishing available in Hashikami (see Hirame Fishing above), mostly we rig up for 4 types of fish, Aburame (Greenling), Kare (flat fish), Soi (Black Rock Fish) and Mebaru (Red Rock Fish). I make my own leaders for this type of fishing which includes a tenbin (a long metal hanger to attach a sinker and leader), an Aburame/Kare rig which attaches to the tenbin at the end, and a Soi/Mebaru leader which sets on top of the tenbin. We drop the leader to the bottom, real up a bit, and start dinkin. Pictured above is Mitch and I after a day of sinker dinkin. Not a bad trip. There is a potential to catch some really nice fish doing this. I have landed some nice greenling up to 40 cm, and some decent Soi also.
Gyotaku = Ink Print of the Fish

Although I do know a skilled taxidermist in my area, he specializes in fresh water fish. If I ever catch a trout worthy of hanging, I most definitely will drive straight from the river to his house to cut the deal. The most popular fish trophy display in Japan is the Gyotaku. In the traditional method of Gyotaku, the fish is rolled in ink, then pressed on paper to make the print. Fortunately for me, I can stop by a local tackle shop in my area and get the job done in a hurry, as the method used here is the copy machine. This method usually presents a nice display of your trophy suitable for framing, and you still get to enjoy eating the fish. Pictured above are two of my Gyotaku ("Gyo-Copy"). One is of a Kare and the other a Tai. It is my intention to fill the house with Gyotaku, mounted trout, and eventually Sika Deer antlers. I can imagine that the only thing more difficult than harvesting these trophies will be convincing my wife to let me hang them all.

When I do catch something really nice, such as a Tai or nice thick Hirame, I'll take it to Kofokumaru (a local fish shop) to have it professionally prepared. The owner of this shop likes fishermen and time permitting will clean and cut my fish at no cost. I usually drop off the fish and come back later to find it not only professionally cut, but also packaged. Of course, this style of cleaning is used for eating the fish sashimi style, de-boned and chunked perfectly. I always bring at least a 12-pack of good beer as thanks.

This posting is in work. I have many other types of fishing to add to this category. Check back later. Please check out my separate posting on trout fishing that is finished for now.


  1. I really want to ride on your boat and catch a lot of hirame in mutsu bay,Shisho.
    And off course,let's eat them a lot and drink a lot of beer!

  2. Great blog about fishing and hunting...can your next post be about teacup chihuahuas??  From your friends in Misawa! Jennifer, Corinne, and Lizzie

  3. What a great blog! Very professional. You should be a tour guide or at least write for a magazine!
    Makes me want to go fishing.

  4. Blog looks great! Fish is like the candy bar of meats! My boss would not apprecieate the gyotaku enough for me to to use the copy machine at work. Having a deer drought on pimville road this November.

  5. The blog looks great! I AM IMPRESSED! I thoroughly enjoyed the pictures of you and Kazumi. I think that you could make a living as being a tour guide! Miss you! Your aunt in Farmington!

  6. Hi, I came here via the Fishing Japan forums.
    Looks like you have some fantastic fishing up there in the north, I greatly enjoyed reading your blog. A couple of times a year I make the trip from Tokyo to Iwate for offshore fishing. I really like the north of Japan but I have yet to fish Aomori.

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