Dennis “Denny” Kaneoka is perhaps the most well known person in Southern California Fishing circles to have never worked in the fishing tackle industry. He knows people from the bass fishing community to the long range community. From fishermen to tackle store owners to fishing tackle sales reps, he knows them all! The story of how he started fishing and his accomplishments are like one that would be told on a summer afternoon on a big porch sitting in a rocker while the dog sleeps at your feet. He’s experienced a lot…has come a long long way…and is here to share all of his knowledge with each of us whenever he is sharing the rail.
Denny, as his friends call him, grew up in Hilo, HI in the 40’s. He learned to fish using 8’ long bamboo poles, a long stretch of 4lb test line, a small hook, and a piece of shrimp or squid. Unlike the tackle we use today, an entire setup that would get you on the water to catch fish would have cost Denny all of 25 cents back then. You could find him at the waterfront fishing for Oama, Mullet, or a variety of reef fish. That light line, small hook and a small bait…He may have been one of the first “Finesse” fishermen!
At 15, his family relocated from the big island of Hawaii to the island of Oahu. Once settled, he found local fishing was just down the street for him. He frequented the Ala Moana Park where he would fish for 5-6 pound Bonefish in the shallows. That was all before the giant shopping mall was built. Just like him being an early adopter of finesse fishing, he was early to the game of catch and release where all of the Bonefish he took were released to be caught another day. Although it is common practice today, it is definitely odd to think that a Japanese young man during that era would not take it home for a meal. To this day, Denny heavily favors catch and release of our inshore species and works hard to ensure that people realize the fragility of our local fisheries.
As life would have it, he turned his attention to the “wahines” during his late teen years and let his gear stand in the corner collecting dust. Eventually, he chose to relocate to Los Angeles, CA. The year was 1961. He picked right back up with surf fishing being his main focus. He consistently fished the Spotfin Croaker that resided in Los Alamitos Bay. You could also find Denny at “Tin Can” Beach which is known to everyone else as Bolsa Chica State Beach. There he would fish for Barred Surf Perch and Corbina. He would also take his young cousins fishing for perch along the Los Angeles and Orange County beaches and even to the ever-costly trout farms where he paid by the pound! In all, he loved to fish and the fever was only growing with every new experience. He enlisted in the Navy and was on active duty from 1964 to 1969 with our armed forces achieving the rank of 2nd Class Petty Officer. For his service, we are all indebted to this man.
As he ran around in the So Cal fishing circles, he made friends who wanted to expand his surf fishing horizons. His good friend, Dr. Mickey Tochioka, began to take him to new locales. One of the first adventures was out of the Berkley Marina for some Striped Bass fishing. At the same time, he regularly made trips aboard the Scotia with good fishing friend, Lee Wong. Denny mentioned, “Mr. Wong has since gone to the “Happy Fishing Grounds” in the sky but the camaraderie that we shared will not be forgotten.” Dr. Tochioka also invited him to join them for a trip down to Rancho Buena Vista. This was 1971 and the big game fishing opened Denny’s eyes to how tough and challenging fishing could actually be. His attitude and passion for catching would never be the same. On this one trip down south he landed a 500lb Blue Marlin, a 52lb Amberjack, a 40lb Roosterfish, and a 40lb Ruby Pargo. Based on that roll call of trophies, it’s easy to understand how his fishing moved up one or more notches on the excitement scale.
Denny continued to fish all over Southern California beaches, travelled down to Mexico to revisit the battles waged against the giant trophy fish, and continue to expand on his fishing experiences trying every new type of fishing possible. In 1974, the freshwater bug bit him hard. Although he had been fishing for years with family up in the Eastern Sierra Mountain range around the Mammoth Lakes area, he had never focused on any one freshwater species. At that time, professional bass fishing was still relatively new. No one was truly able to make a career out of competitive bass fishing but the allure of having a fast boat, high tech tackle, and more variety of lures than you could possibly know what to do with was too tempting. He purchased his first of 6 bass boats, geared up with the latest rods and reels, and started fishing all of the Central and Southern California lakes he could back his trailer into. He was not into the competitive side of bass fishing. He was a “fun” fisherman. At every California Lake, the fish feared him whenever they saw his MonArk Bass Boat backing down the ramp.
This addiction to freshwater bass fishing lasted for years. In fact, in 1987 he purchased a home in Bullhead City, AZ where he would store his Boston Whaler or his Cajun Bass Boat to be used on the Colorado River in pursuit of trout and bass. In 1989, Denny suffered the devastating loss of his long time fishing friend Jimmy Nagaoka and chose to then start redirecting his focus back on the saltwater scene.
In 1989 Denny took his first ocean trip aboard a “Party Boat.” He quickly became a fixture on the boats “Sea Spray,” “Spitfire,” “New Del Mar,” “Monte Carlo,” “Southern Cal,” “Pierpoint,” and the “Matt Walsh.” He easily made the transition from freshwater bass fishing to saltwater due to his experiences with tackle, casting, and the rest of the technical jewels of knowledge necessary for a successful day on the water. He became an expert. Denny says, “Party Boat fishing is good in that you can learn a lot more than when you are on a private boat fishing alone. You get to learn the fundamentals of local fishing by the deckhands. You get to learn to work together with your fellow angler to stay out of tangles and trouble. Finally, and probably my favorite part of the experience is that you get to share what you’ve learned with others on the boat. You can help someone else learn the techniques it takes to choose the right bait, how to cast, and how to fight a fish. All of those things are imperative if you are going to become a great fisherman.”
Around 1995, Denny “Hooked Up” with Ken Oda who had recently purchased the long range boat the “Polaris Deluxe,” made it his private yacht, and renamed it the “Breezers.” Through that relationship, he was able to make trips to the Rivellagigedo Island Chain, Puerto Vallarta, Magdalena Bay, Alijos Rocks, Guadalupe Island, and Cedros Island with only 11 other anglers sharing the rail. These trips made it possible for him to check off even more of his angler’s wish list when he was able to catch Snook, Trophy Tuna, Marlin, Wahoo, Dorado, Roosterfish, Amberjack, Yellowtail, and many species of Bass.
Denny’s quest for yet even more species of fish continued. Beginning in 2005, he began an annual ritual of fishing up in Alaska. He has bagged Halibut up to 121lbs, Ling Cod to 60lbs, Yelloweye Rockfish to 20lbs, King Salmon to 35lbs, and probably too many different rockfish to even count. Without question, he has covered most of the Eastern Pacific fisheries!
Lately, he has taken on two new challenges. First, in 2009, he returned to Hawaii for their exceptional Bonefish fishery. Unlike what you would commonly see on television from Florida, his technique includes a ladder similar to that used at Pyramid Lake for Cutthroat fishing. He has great stories of how he wasn’t paying attention to the rising tide only to step off the ladder into water way higher than he expected! Second, he has taken to traditional long range fishing. Unlike his experience fishing aboard the “Breezers,” he is aboard our modern long range fleet with 20-30 other anglers vying for that opportunity for a fish of a lifetime. He is enjoying just like his experience on the local party boats. There, he has the opportunity to help other anglers overcome their challenges with their tackle or techniques. His top priority is to assist those anglers in subduing that fish of a lifetime. His first trip was aboard the “Intrepid” in 2010 out of Point Loma Sportfishing. He has since made a return trip aboard the “Intrepid.” He’s fished on the “Independence” down to Cedros Island, as well as the Excel in 2011. You can bet that he will be back at it in 2012 shooting for yet more personal bests in every category.
Denny Kaneoka has been a part of the Seeker family for 9 years. He has been fishing for over 50 years, and has seen and done more than most fishermen with as much energy as men and women half his age. As it relates to his life, Denny says, “Learning to be a great fisherman is not about doing or saying-it is about listening and understanding. The most rewarding thing about being a part of this family is being able to share the Seeker products with people whether at the shows, on the boats, or at the tackle shops that I visit. I am always armed with two of each of the rods that I like so that I have one to fish and one to lend. That is the best way for me to be able to teach another angler how to be successful. Every Seeker team member from the production crew, the blank and finish crew, the management team and even the owners all take a lot of pride in producing a high quality product and do everything from the heart. It is an absolute privilege to be a part of the family.”