Hilo man has close encounter with needlefish

Local News

HILO, Hawaii (KHON2) — Chad Cabral has spent most of his life on the water. Born and raised in Hilo, he’s been paddling since he was 10-years-old.

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He says he’s seen it all: whales, tiger sharks and the like. But he wasn’t prepared for what he came across this past weekend: needlefish.

“It was an unusual day on the water to say the least,” Cabral said.

On Saturday, Cabral was about an hour-and-a-half into his paddle and about to head back into Hilo Bay when something leapt out of the depths of the ocean.

“Low and behold, a group of maybe 30 to 40 of these needlefish came jumping towards my one man canoe,” Cabral shared. “And it hit. It started to hit my canoe from behind to the middle where I was sitting and all the way up to the front of the canoe. It just sounded like bullets.”

Cabral said that one of the fish actually punctured a hole in the canoe’s hull and got wedged in there, which ultimately helped him get back to shore.

The canoe took in very little water because the force of the fish that went through the canoe sealed the hole that it made and it was stuck in the hull,” he said.

Cabral didn’t realize the bullet he dodged until he searched the Internet later that night.

“If you look at the mouth and the beak area of that fish. It’s all serrated,” he said. “After I went online and googled Hawaiian Needlefish or Aha, I saw some pretty graphic pictures of people who actually got injured by the fish.”

Injuries like the one in 2005 involving a Mililani man who was speared by a needlefish in Kahana Bay, leaving him with 45 stitches. The attack narrowly missed his heart but damaged his liver.

“You’re definitely in nature and in an environment where you’re not in control, you got to respect that. And that day for sure, you get humbled and you’re glad that everybody was safe. I was safe, didn’t get injured and I made it off the water safe that day,” Cabral said in relief.

“Paddling isn’t a contact sport, but that day it sure felt like it was,” he added.

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