VIDEO: Extreme Kayak Fishing Operator Highlights Safety

December 2, 2013, 4:16 PM HST · Updated December 2, 4:16 PM
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By Wendy Osher

Jon Jon Tabon, the owner of Local Fishing Knowledge on Maui, spoke with Maui Now about kayak fishing safety and the growing popularity of the extreme sport following reports today of the fatal shark attack in waters off of Maui.

The incident was reported in the waters between Maui and Molokini at around 9 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 2, 2013.  According to county officials, the victim was fishing in his kayak when he was bitten, and died before reaching shore.

“The community of kayak fishermen that we have here–they’re pretty tight knit, so they know each other very well,” said Tabon.  “I’ve heard several different stories of what happened, but as far as the ocean, it’s paradise, but the sharks are just a part of the ocean like anything else.  I really would hate to see what the repercussions will be because of it (the fatal shark bite incident), like anything else, but it does happen,” said Tabon.

Shark attack response, Makena Landing. Photo by Wendy Osher.

Shark attack response, Makena Landing. Photo by Wendy Osher.

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According to Tabon, the sport of kayak fishing has grown tremendously in the past five years due in part to social media marketing.  “On a typical day you could have–more so on the weekends–you’ll have three or four guys out there.  There’s a lot of new people, a lot of guys that are very experienced,” said Tabon who has been fishing in Maui waters since the age of five.

“It’s really very important to understand where the currents are, what the forecast winds are, and last but not least, to make sure to know what to do if anything happens.  You have to be prepared.  There’s multiple things that you need to have in a kayak,” he said.

According to Tabon, “Fishing is a way of life for a lot of people here–some for sport, some to provide for their family.”

As far as venturing out, Tabon said he certainly wouldn’t recommend it, unless you know the water very well.  “Basically, don’t just jump in the ocean right away thinking that you’re going to get hooked up into a mahi.  Do your homework.  Take some classes.  Find someone that’s very knowledgeable of the ocean.  Those are things that will absolutely keep you a little bit safer for one, and last but not least to know exactly what to do if anything happens,” he said.

“It’s very important to know the creatures that we do have–whether it’s going to be a shark, a mahi, an ono, or a bill fish.  There’s fish in this ocean that need to be handled in a particular way.  A two pound fish could certainly give you a bad day,” said Tabon.

“I would highly recommend that before you jump into the sport of kayak fishing, definitely increase your chances of being safe by being taught by somebody who knows the ocean really well,” he said.

As far as the shark attacks that’s here on Maui, Tabon used an analogy to explain his take saying,

“Let’s say there’s two fishermen with the same bait: one guy with one pole that tosses it out with the same bait; and one guy with five poles that tosses it out with the same bait.  Who’s going to have better chances of getting hooked up?  The guy with five poles.  What I’m trying to say is there’s more people in the water than we used to have, so of course there’s going to be increasing chances of having an incident such as this happening.  It’s due to the fact that there’s more people that are in the water.”

“The sharks have always been here.  This is their home.  This is their ocean.  I’ve had sharks try to climb my kayak, but they’re just doing what they do,” he said.

“As far as precautions,” Tabon said, “definitely have a VHF radio.  Some guys take it to the extreme of having a bang stick.  Of course, kayaks–they don’t necessarily come with outriggers, but I highly recommend it being that it’s easy to capsize a kayak without the proper gear.”

Another precaution Tabon said is, “just knowing where you’re at.”

“I take out hundreds and hundreds of people every single year in extreme kayak fishing tours, and by all means, you definitely need to know where you’re going to be at.”

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