Melissa Van Der Merwe
How old are you?
Where are you currently?
Ulua flag and then of course the Cocktail flag
Shimano Head Dip Stick Bait- PINK/Chrome
Bluefin Trevally (Omilu). It is such a fun fish to catch and the electric blues and yellows are striking.
Catch of the day, Moloka’i
Tell us about your most amazing fishing adventure.
My most amazing fishing adventure was when I went steelhead fishing for the first time on the Salmon River in Washington with my boyfriend Nate Tsao. It was a pretty crisp morning and we woke up early to get to the river before sunrise. I slipped into my waders (which I am not use to here in Hawaii) and began our journey through the evergreen trees in search of the Salmon River. When we arrived at the river it was very peaceful surrounded by greenery and soaring bald eagles. It was immediately clear to me that it would be a very different fishing experience than the exhilarating saltwater I am use to. Here on the Big Island we fish off of lava rocks with a jaw dropping coastline, rugged landscape, turquoise water, and often times high surf.
I cast my rod out to do something known as a drift. A float takes your line down the river with a little egg bead suspended beneath it. Unlike the aggressive visual fishing I do in Hawaii; you would only see a bite when the float dipped gently under the surface.
Seven grueling hours went by and I had not landed a fish. Finally, a hook UP! I was so excited that I caught my first steelhead!! To my surprise I looked over at Nate and he smiled bright, “dropped knee” and opened his fly/tackle box. Inside was a ring he had custom made with his family heirloom diamonds. He asked me to marry him. I was so shocked with surprise that I held on so tight to the steelhead during the whole proposal and said YES. By far one of the most memorable fishing trips of a lifetime. Caught my first steelhead and fiancé. Best catch yet!
Who is your biggest fishing influence?
Besides my Fiance Nate Tsao who has taught me (almost) everything I know about fishing. (If you know him then you know how talented he is when it comes to fishing). He always makes fishing look effortless and look like an art. Nate is also a very diverse fisherman and can be seen popping for Ulua (Trevally) and even fly fishing for them.
Melissa’s Fiancé Nate Tsao
I would have to say Samantha Seini and Angela Nicholas. These two ladies are remarkable fishing women.
Samantha Seini is one of the best fly fishers here on the Islands and I have seen her spot a bonefish on the flats from yards away, cast and land the bone fish.
Angela Nicholas is a spectacular angler and her expertise is in top water. She just landed a world record for the largest Ulua 53-54kg . How inspiring is that?!
Tell us about your job? Do you fish full time or do you have other money making specialties?
I have a dream job! I have a degree in Marine Biology and work for the Four Seasons Resort at Hualalai under the Natural Resource Department as the Marine Programs Specialist. My day consists of taking care of fish ponds, educating both guests and locals about our marine environment, developing marine programs, fishing out invasive tilapia from our pond, aquaculture (growing oysters and shrimp) and assisting with the 10 year Marine Reserve at Ka’upulehu.
My other money making specialty is my business Natural Aquatic Care. Natural Aquatic Care is a unique eco-friendly pond (fish)/aquarium maintenance business. I believe in maintaining a biologically healthy pond/aquarium. I don’t use any harsh chemicals and instead use beneficial bacteria to help keep the ecosystem and fish healthy and happy. I guess my life revolves around fish LOL!
Melissa at work, Four Seasons Hualalai
What is your dream fishing destination?
Gosh this a tough one!
Fiji, Seychelles, Oman and I would love to hike in the mountains of Patagonia and fish.
Quote or saying you live by?
Never turn your back to the Ocean.
What are the fishing regulations like where you live (if any?) What needs to change?
I have been lucky enough to travel to a few places around the world and fish and see successful fisheries. I believe our fishing regulations are too lenient and I have personally seen people taking entire schools of fish.
Unfortunately, this comes at a cost of a declining fishery. I think it would be great to have community based management, with some sort of permitting or licensing to ensure that we have fish for generations to come.
Relaxing, Four Seasons Bora
Why do you love fishing?
I love fishing because it brings you to unexpected places. It’s like hiking with a possible reward at the end. Fishing also puts you out in nature and you really observe what’s going on with the ocean. Everything is connected with the moon, tides, fish spawning cycles, water temp, time of year etc. Oh and nothing beats the anticipation and the rewards of a hook up and a screaming reel!! Let’s not forget fresh fish for dinner!
What does Kailua-Kona mean to you?
Kailua-Kona, means to me fishing, fun surf, great weather and bright blue water.