By Diane Ako
My high school classmates organized a fishing excursion at an old Hawaiian fishpond in Haleiwa, Loko Ea. It's owned by our high school, so we received permission to throw nets there one Sunday.
It's currently undergoing some restoration and volunteers are needed to help clean it up. I don't know much about this, but as it impacted my weekend, I understand that we were catching only the invasive tilapia fish, and throwing back the other fish that live in the pond.
Therefore, it counts as community service because the owners want to remove invasive species, and we wanted to eat fish from clean waters.
I brought my family out one morning to help do this. The plan was to catch 100 tilapia, clean them right there, and then freeze it for later use for our high school reunion in June. (We had 365 in our graduating class.)
My best girlfriend Jen - who graduated with me - came out as well. I had been looking forward to jumping in the water, but I changed my mind on that cold, rainy morning. Lame, I know. Olivia and I watched from shore as people waded in the mud in the knee-high water throwing nets.
After a couple hours, we had enough to start cleaning the fish. I did not really remember how to clean a fish. It has been years.
I learned from a fireman I once dated (you know the firemen are so nature-y) but cleaning the occasional fish that he'd catch for dinner did not imprint the skills on my brain. I am now an urban softie who buys pre-gutted fish from the store.
However, I saw this as a chance to learn, so I willingly joined the lineup where Jen taught me.
My surprising revelations of the day: You need a very sharp knife to gut it, and gloves are handy because the fins are sharp and the fish is slippery.
The scaling part, I remember how. Pulling out the guts did not bother me, but here is a fascinating discovery. Tilapia are mouth brooders!
I looked in one fish's cavity and saw little babies left in there! It was really interesting for everyone that day!
I must have cleaned 30 fish. I certainly hope I'll remember how, after this.