It probably comes as no surprise that Hawaii is a paradise for fishing enthusiasts. The clean, clear and warm waters and countless miles of coastline offer almost limitless opportunity for anglers throughout the year. It is true that Hawaii waters are abundant with reef and game fish, but years of overfishing and questionable fisheries management have left some fisheries throughout Hawaii severely depleted. Indeed, it’s not unusual for visiting anglers to charter a boat for some big game fishing, only to spend hours at sea to come back empty handed. It’s possible to get skunked.
What makes Hawaii such a desirable fishing destination is the wide variety of edible fish species that inhabit Hawaii’s waters. There are quite a few different ways to go fishing in Hawaii, and visitors will have no shortage of outfitters to choose from, regardless of the type of fishing you’re after.
Certainly the most glamorous kind of fishing in Hawaii is sport and big game fishing. Hawaii’s deep waters are home to many big game fish species. Blue and striped marlin are the most desirable trophy fish, and each year anglers from the world over flock to Hawaii to compete in a number of different tournaments. There’s nothing quite like battling 300 pounds or more of thrashing marine muscle and landing the catch of a lifetime.
Other sought after game fish include yellowfin and bluefin tuna, mahimahi, and ono (wahoo). All are delicious, and all are regularly served in Hawaii restaurants. This islands are ringed by a series of dozens of buoys, deployed specifically as “fish aggregators” to increase the odds for anglers to hook up with a big catch.
On the shore, there are even more fish species and ways to go after them. Fishing for ulua (giant trevally) involves fishing from high cliffs using a sophisticated slide jig to get a line set and baited. Ulua fishermen often camp overnight on the rocks with extensive supplies.
Papio fisherman use a technique called “whipping,” or repeated casting to attract the smaller trevally species (which is also quite tasty). This can be done from shore or from a boat in shallow waters. Shrimp or squid are used for bait.
Spearfishing is hugely popular in Hawaii. The basic “Hawaiian sling” is as simple 3-pronged spear launched by loop of surgical tubing. Most spearfishing enthusiasts begin as kids using the Hawaiian sling before graduating to more sophisticated, triggered spear guns. In addition to a wide variety of reef fish, many divers target tako (octopus) and lobsters. Like game fishing, there are many spearfishing tournaments held in Hawaii each year.
There is even freshwater fishing in Hawaii, most notably bass fishing at Nuuanu Reservoir and at Lake Wilson on Oahu. Permits are required, but they are fairly easy to obtain through the Division of Fish & Wildlife.
Cast net fishing is done from shore, in a complicated dance/throw motion that can take years to master. Cast nets are used to catch a variety of edible reef fish, but also to catch bait fish. It is a traditional Hawaiian fishing method that continues to be passed down by kupuna (elders) to the next generation.
In recent years, concerns over depleted fisheries have resulted in increased regulation and overall awareness of the need for healthy marine ecosystems. For instance, new regulations have been placed on the commercial harvest of tropical reef fish for the aquarium trade. So, if you’re planning a fishing trip to Hawaii, be sure to find an outfitter who is committed to using sustainable practices. Take only what you need from the ocean, or, as Hawaii fishermen like to say “leave some for the next guy!”