Entrepreneur Isaac Brumaghim first started fishing in his 20s. A “self-taught lawai‘a,” he was lured to the sport by the fun of it but knew he wasn’t interested in getting a boat. Instead a friend encouraged him to try fishing from a canoe as “our Hawaiian ancestors did.”
Intrigued, Brumaghim did some research and what he learned about Hawaiian canoe fishermen “lit a fire under me,” he says. For Brumaghim, canoe fishing morphed into kayak fishing which, he says, offered “a lot more freedom” as far as hull capacity, workspace and vessel durability because it’s made of plastic.
Brumaghim launched Aqua Hunters Collection LLC, a fishing gear and lifestyle brand in 2016. “I sell the gear that will make you look like (a fisherman), but I also sell the gear that makes you one, ” he says. Aqua Hunters Collection sells hooks and wire, including packets of nickel titanium fishing wire “made with nitinol” and “easy to crimp or tie” – as well as clothing, hats, mugs and photography on his website, aquahunters.com. His fishing tackle are also sold in five shops on three islands: Līhu‘e Fishing Supply on Kaua‘i; New Maui Fishing Supply on Maui; and J. Hara Store, POP Fishing & Marine (formerly Pacific Ocean Producers) and ‘Ewa Beach Buy & Sell on O‘ahu.
Brumaghim says his products benefit from social media endorsements when fishermen post pictures of their catch using his gear. Additionally, interest in his hooks has grown beyond kayak fishermen to include boaters “catching big tunas,” he says. “So slowly but surely I’m expanding into the hands of anyone who wants to fish open ocean out here.”
His own experience with his fishing tackle also tells a tale of their quality, resulting in days when he can’t miss. “I’m talking seven for seven, eight for eight, nine for nine. … Every time I’m getting a strike, that fish is hooked. I have abilities at this point in my life, but my products are part of that too.”
His biggest catch from a kayak came in 2012 – a 103-pound yellowfin tuna. But Brumaghim considers his greatest accomplishment watching his three sons, Blaise, 11; AJ, 9; and Pancho, 5, “become fishermen right in front of my eyes.” That includes teaching them not only how to fish, but also cleaning and cooking the fish and thus self-reliance in feeding themselves. “That was the greatest gift I could pass on to them,” Brumaghim, 43, says. “It gives me that happiness and joy that I’m fulfilling a great goal of mine – to be a teacher to my sons.”
Another legacy of his has been working to unify the kayak fishing community in Hawai‘i through a forum in 2004 to share stories, tips and to “grow the sport together,” to starting a highly competitive statewide kayak fishing tournament in 2008 that stretched for eight months and brought attention to the skills of local enthusiasts. He didn’t continue the tournament because of family and business responsibilities, but Brumaghim says: “Truly the main goal was just to show the world how great Hawai‘i fishermen were, and we did that. And that will always make us proud forever.”
OHA Mālama Loan Program
Isaac Brumaghim credits an OHA Mālama Loan with providing the capital for research and development and then field-testing on hooks and lines. It also helped him to purchase sample products of designs for his line of hats, sweatshirts, T-shirts and coffee mugs. “The main thing was that my OHA loan gave me the freedom and the money to go and take that step forward in bringing my ideas to light and basically purchasing products and building an inventory as well as the packaging,” he says. “Without any of those things it would have just been an idea. I would have been fumbling around for it forever. Sometimes you just need a helping hand from somebody who can believe in your ideas and your visions. I was granted that. I’m very thankful for them for giving me their support and their trust.”