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Ultimate Guide to Fishing in Hawaii

Hawaii became our fiftieth state in 1959 and there are four counties in Hawaii. The capital is Honolulu, which is also the largest county. There are approximately 750 miles of coastline. For hundreds of years, fishing has been a way of life in Hawaii. During your stay, there are many ways and places in which you can drop your line while vacationing in Hawaii. Just remember that Hawaii has a delicate ecosystem so we must be respectful.

You can visit the Kona Coast, which is renowned for deep-sea fishing. While there, you can rent a charter boat to deep-sea fish for ono, ahi, marlin, mahimahi, and more. If you prefer to stay on land, there is low-key shore fishing, so just bring your rod and tackle to the beaches, piers, and jetties of Hawaii. You can also fish for angelfish, snapper, and more off the reefs that flank the Kohala and Kona coasts. Just ask any of the locals and they will head you in the direction of the best local spots for fishing.

Things to Know Before Fishing in Hawaii

Weather for fishing is generally perfect year-round, which draws people who love to fish to Hawaii. One thing to note is that though the weather may be perfect, there can still be strong ocean currents and large ocean swells can appear unexpectedly. This can make some fishing areas dangerous so make sure that you always check the weather. When you keep current on the predicted ocean activity, it can help to ensure that you have a productive, safe fishing trip.

If this is your first time fishing in Hawaii, make sure that you familiarize yourself with the local areas before you even cast a line. Make sure that it is not a popular area for swimming and surfing as there will be no fish around. You also have to make sure that you know if the fish you are targeting is in season as the penalties for not following their fishing regulations can be high and they are strictly enforced.

Hawaii Fishing Regulations

  • Licenses – when fishing in Hawaii, whether it is from a boat or onshore, you do not have to have a license for ocean fishing. If you are freshwater fishing in their rivers or lakes, you will need to have a license
  • On the Waikiki-Diamond Head shoreline, fishing there is only open in even years
  • To fish for the striped mullet, the statewide season runs from April to November only
  • You are not allowed to fish in established Sanctuaries. If you do, there are heavy fines that you may have to pay

Fishing Minimum Sizes and Weight

There are certain requirements as to what weight and size the freshwater fish and ocean fish have to be to keep them. You can find out this information at the place where you get your license, which is on the Hawaii government website for fishing. Here are some of the sizes, weights, and regulations of fish you can catch in Hawaii.

  • Ahi – a minimum of 3 pounds
  • Uhu – 12 inches minimum
  • Spiny lobster or Ula – 3 ¼ inches minimum size and only from May to August and no spears used. No females can be taken.
  • Moi – from June to August only
  • Kona crab – fished from May to August and 4 inches minimum. No spear fishing or taking or killing females
  • Octopus, squid, or tako – one pound is the minimum

How to Fish in Hawaii

Best Lures and Tackle for Hawaii Fishing

There are also various lures that you should be familiar with and use when fishing in Hawaii.

  • Jigs – they have heads that are weighted with lead and sometimes dressed with bait or feathers.
  • Spinners – the spinning blade makes a certain sound that attracts the fish.
  • Plugs – they are hollow and made to look like small fish with 2-3 hooks hanging off them.
  • Poppers – they float along the surface and make a popping noise that attracts the fish.
  • Spoons – it is a spoon but the handle is removed so the curved shape will wobble back and forth to attract the fish.
  • Spinnerbaits – made from wire that is bent like a wide V with a lead head.

You also want to make sure that you get the colors right because you want the color to contrast with the tone of the water, so the lure will stand out to the fish. Also, you want to make sure that you know the color of the fish’s primary prey so you can match your lure to that color so the fish will bite. 

When fishing from the shore, you should have a fishing pole that is at least 12 feet long and a high capacity reel. To make sure that you can reel in the larger fish, you should have at least a 20-pound fishing line. A 12-pound line will be enough for smaller fish. You also need to have some fishing weights so the bait will sink under the water so the fish can see it.

Best Bait for Hawaii Fishing

The type of bait you would use for fishing in Hawaii would depend on what type of fishing you are doing and what type of fish you are fishing for. Generally speaking, you should always try to use live bait. Each fish has its own preference as to which bait they will bite, so you can ask the locals or the ones in the fishing shops where you are getting your bait. Some of the baits that you can use are sand crabs, oama (local fish species), squid, octopus, and sand turtles.

Fishing Knots

Making sure that you learn the right fishing knots can make the difference between catching a fish and not. Some of the knots you should learn include:

  • Line to Line Knot – this is when you tie one fishing line to another using a variety of different knots like the Blood Knot, Double Uni Knot, Surgeon Knot, and more.
  • Tenkara Knots – these are the knots you need to know if you are fly fishing, which includes the Level Line Knot and the Traditional Line Knot.
  • Terminal Connections – these are used to tie tackle and hooks to the fishing line
  • Saltwater Fishing Knots – these are special knots like the Bimini Twist and the Baja Knot that are used to catch the big fish like marlins.

And of course, there are various beginner fishing knots that you should learn. Learning to tie your own knots is not an essential skill but more of a courtesy to other anglers. You do not want to have to bother those around you asking for help tying knots.

Some of the Best Places to Fish in Hawaii — Deep Sea, Shore, or Spear Fishing

Big Island

  • Kailua KonaKailua Kona Fishing Pier
  • Kahaluu-KeauhouKeahou Harbor
  • Between Hawi and KonaSpencer Beach Park
  • Mahana BayPapakolea Green Sand Beach
  • HiloJames Kealoha Beach or Onekahakaha Beach Park
  • Smoking Rock

Kauai

  • WaimeaWaimea Pier
  • KapaaWailua River Beach
  • Lihue Ahukini Recreation Pier
  • HanaleiHanalei Pier
  • AnaholaPapaa Bay

Maui

  • KiheiKamaole Park, Kalama Park, Makena Landing
  • KannapaliBlack Rock
  • Kahului Kahului Harbor Pier

Oahu

  • HaleiwaWailaua Bay Pier, Haleiwa Alii Beach Park
  • Kaena Point
  • WaimanaloMakai Pier
  • Bamboo Ridge
  • Ewa BeachEwa Beach Park

Shore Fishing in Hawaii

If you are not keen on going out on a boat then you can still get your fishing thrills by shore fishing. All you have to do is drive down the coastline of any of the islands and you will see many poles set up in the rocks and sand. Shore fishing does mean smaller catches but there are many advantages for doing this type of fishing. There is easier access to fishing places, it is less expensive, and you do not have to wait on a boat to get you to the right spot. You can shore fish with friends or do it alone. There are many places where you can shore fish but there is nothing wrong with just pulling over whenever you see a group of anglers with their poles in the water.

Although there are few regulations when shore fishing you need to know where the regulated areas are because you cannot just fish anywhere. If there are anglers, then it should be okay to fish there. Check the regulations before you head out.

Deep-Sea Fishing in Hawaii

To learn more about deep-sea fishing in Hawaii, visit the Go Hawaii website. Some of the fish you can catch when deep-sea fishing using the trolling method includes:

  • Tuna — Aku (Skipjack), Ahi (Yellowfin)
  • Marlin — blue, striped 
  • Mahi Mahi
  • Wahoo or Ono

You can also do bottom fishing, where the fish will be smaller but there are better odds at catching these fish. They are just as tasty as the bigger species:

  • Ulua or Trealli
  • Barracuda or Kaku
  • Gray or Uku Snapper
  • Menpachi
  • Amberjack or Kahala

Spear Fishing in Hawaii

This type of fishing is popular due to the type and size of the fish you can catch. If you are spear fishing-diving, you will have to make your position with a dive flag and not surface more than 100 feet from the flag unless it is an emergency. When spear fishing, make sure that the fish you spear meet the size limits and the ones that you can spearfish for. If you are new to this type of fishing, make sure that you have some lessons before attempting it.

Renting a Charter Boat in Hawaii

When you rent a charter boat, you can expect to have a day that is relaxing with little or no work required. The crew will handle all the equipment and bait and tackle. Some even provide lunch. Deep-sea fishing is not non-stop action as there are times when you may go without a bite. It will give you time to relax and talk to those that are on the boat with you.

Most charter companies have options as to how long you can book them. Some offer multi-day trips where you would fish for two or more days in total for 8-12 hours each day. There are half-day trips, which are four hours. Most will start their trips at different times but many prefer to get a very early start as it can take several hours to reach some fishing destinations. There are also share options where you can share a boat with other anglers. Most boats require a minimum of four paying customers.

Make sure that you bring an extra set of clothes so you can change because being on an ocean, there is a great chance you will get wet. Your shoes should have a good grip because the deck could get slippery. You may also want to bring some snack items. Most charter boats will not provide anything alcoholic so if you want a beer you will need to bring yours in a cooler full of ice. Check with the chartering company to make sure this is allowed. 

Also, sunscreen is a must. Without it, you stand a good chance of getting terrible sunburn, which could ruin your trip. Even if you have never gotten seasick, you should bring some type of seasickness medications with you. The waters can be choppy. And bring your camera, preferably one that is waterproof, so you can get some great pictures of this experience, especially if you happen to be the one of the lucky ones to catch a big fish.

Conclusion

Fishing in Hawaii is the ultimate high and one of the most exhilarating feelings you can get when you reel in that marlin, tuna, etc from your chartered deep-sea fishing boat. It is a great and fun family vacation, so when planning your vacation to Hawaii, make sure you save some time to try fishing, whether it is via the shore or deep-sea. In Hawaii, fishing is a way of life and how many of the locals earn a living. Be courteous how you approach their waters and respect fellow anglers. Also, make sure that you understand their regulations and rules for fishing.