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Fish, Fishing, and Fishing Charters in Hawai’i:

Blue Marlin on the Hook Near Kona, HawaiiFishing Icon Regardless of the Hawaiian Island you are visiting, there is nothing more beautiful than the view of Hawaii from the ocean looking back. Fishing is great fun here, but even if you don’t get a strike (which is super-rare), the view of the Hawaiian shoreline and mountains, reefs and sea born traffic, make it worth the money and time to try on your trip to Hawaii.

Waipio Valley in Hamakua, Hawai'iThe fishing off Hawaii remains one of the most consistent and productive resources of the State of Hawaii. Fed continuously by a warm "counter current" rushing toward Hawaii all the way from Asia, thereby creating a resultant long Hawaiian Island's wake. The current traces a watery, fish filled highway, that no doubt helped ancient Polynesian mariners settle the islands of the Pacific, including Hawaii itself. Scientists have long known that waters downstream of Hawaii turn back toward the Hawaiian islands. But they also believed that the reverse current (known as the "Hawaiian Lee Counter Current") dissipated about 300 kilometers downstream. Much beyond that point, they thought, wind and water flowed on toward Asia as if Hawaii had never been.

But recently, while examining data from a NASA Satellite called “QuikSCAT” which uses microwave radar to measure winds near the ocean surface, NASA researchers realized that Hawaii's wake is, in fact, much longer than they thought. Indeed, it stretches nearly 8000 km across the ocean. This current and counter current combine to create an ideal circumstance for Deep Sea Fishing, and also stimulates smaller fish reproduction, which is ideal for shore fishing enthusiasts.

Catch and Release Hawaii Sailfish!The results for you are very good news for you if you plan to try your hand at Fishing in Hawaii. The prognosis is that the fish will be there – regardless of the time of year you show up. There are specific seasons for certain types of fish in Hawaii, and we will talk about that by individual species.

Fishing Licenses and Permits in Hawaii
Unlike almost everywhere else these days, you do not need a License or Permit to Fish in Hawaii. Only fresh water fishing requires a permit. Ecological care is the mandate in Hawaii, and the rule is never kill what you will not eat.

General Information Deep Sea Fishing Charters
Having fished all over the world, we can tell you that fishing in Hawaii from a charter is no more expensive than almost anywhere else you may seek, and is probably a better bargain comparatively if you are safety and comfort conscious about your trip. The Charter boats here are well equipped, regulated and inspected, and more often than not, run by friendly operators who know the fishing grounds well on their Island and beyond.

The practice in Hawaii is that the fish you catch generally belongs to the boat, so it you are planning on creating a meal, or selling your fish later yourself, you will need to discuss your plans with the operator prior to leaving on your charter. Wholesale fish sales are considered a component of revenue for the Charter boat, thereby creating a scenario where the vessel operators can provide Fishing Charters at a more competitive price to fishermen, who generally just want the pleasure of finding and catching Deep Sea Fish.

Hawaii Fishing Charter BoatBooking your Fishing Charter In Hawaii
From the moment you arrive in Hawaii, you will see promotions for fishing and other various tours on the Islands of Hawaii. Many great bargains exist in these promotional flyers, and you can also find discounts from merchants that line the shore areas and general tourist congregating areas. Travel Magazines, and even your rental car map document may carry ads for fishing charter companies, as will your Resort or Hotel concierge or travel suggestion rack in the lobby.

In Hawaii, it is a great idea though to check out the Charter boats first before you book your charter. You may even discover that you can get a better deal by going directly to the boats and making your bargain in person. Charter Operators are very aware of their bookings, and they may offer you a bargain that does not appear in any publication. Also, you can see the boat for yourself, and assess whether you feel you would be comfortable during your charter.

Fish in the Morning, Afternoon Fishing, or All Day Fishing in Hawaii
Many people suggest that fishing in the morning is best… and, sometimes it is good in the mornings. Often the ocean surrounding Hawaii is calmer in the morning too (because the wind is usually not blowing – yet). But the afternoons can have their own special appeal, and certain species actually habitually come closer to the surface in the afternoon, following the baitfish they eat. So fishing can be good then as well.

Charter Boats in Hawaii general have two Fishing charter(s) they sell per day. One fishing charter for about four hours in the morning, and then another separate fishing charter for about four hours in the afternoon. People who are not accustomed to being on a boat may find they are very tired after about four hours. Hawaii is on the ocean, and things are always moving up and down almost all the time on the ocean. This can fatigue even ardent and dedicated fishermen.

But if you really want to maximize your chances for a catch (especially a Marlin), you may want to budget for an All Day fishing charter. This will give you your best statistical chance for a catch, and most Fishing Charter Operators will find a way for you to “hook something” over the course of a whole day, even if the Marlin are not biting that day.

School of Hawaiian Albacore TunaSharing the Charter Boat with others
Many of the larger Charter Boats will carry as many as 6 to 8 people in a charter, although 4 seems to be the best if you are looking for a Big Game Deep Sea Fish to hook. There are only so many great trolling spots on any boat, so certain accommodations must be allowed in every Fishing circumstance.

The best advice we can offer is try to line up your fishing group yourself, so you are picking your ship mates, because if you don’t the Fish Charter Operator will pick them for you. You learn quite a bit about people when you get them out on the open water. Sometimes this is a great joy. Other times… not so much!

Tipping the Fishing Charter Captain and Crew
In Hawaii, the Captain and crew expect a tip if you caught a fish. The general expectation rolls around 10% to 15% of what you paid for your trip. Pay the Captain – he pays the crew. Great service may well be worth more, but use your judgment and remember these people are working for a living too.

If you are unhappy with your fishing charter, you have no obligation for a tip.

Hawai'i Mahimahi on DeckWhat should you bring Fishing in Hawaii?
You do need a couple of personal items on the boat, and it is your responsibility to have these items in advance of leaving the dock to start your fishing day.

Sunglasses- A good pair with some UV protection built in. Successful fishing requires that you can see, and squinting all day won’t help.

Sufficient Clothing- The sun on the ocean in Hawaii can be brutal. Not only does it shine down directly when you are on deck, but it also shines up from the water back at you. Long sleeves shirts are suggested, and a good hat with a brim can help keep the sun off your brow. Also, mornings can be cool before the sun gets going so you might want a windbreaker for insulation.

Sun Block- Factor 50 for all your tender spots that have access to the direct sun. Plan on tanning when you get back to the beach or shore and you can control your exposure to the sun.

Food- Some boats provide a lunch or snack, but you will be amazed how hungry you might get on the water. You are burning calories out there way faster than onshore. Bring something fun for your tummy.

Fishing Charter, Kona, Hawai'iSeasickness Pills– Well, some people need them – but read the label first. They have to be in your system already to do you much good. That means you may want to start taking them the day before you go out. Stay away from the pills that can affect your vision, or that make you sleepy. Also, eat only items that always agree with your constitution before you go. Otherwise, the fish say “Mahalo” for the snack.

Aspirin, or whatever you take for a headache- It is very common to get a Hawaiian headache after you have been out for about two hours on the open ocean fishing. Unaccustomed stress + bright sunshine + lessened hydration = A headache. Drink plenty of water, take two headache tablets and you should be good to go. If that fails, close your eyes and keep out the sunlight for about 10 minutes. Repeat if necessary.

What the Fish Charter provides for you
A safe, durable and reliable vessel to fish from. A knowledgeable crew that are accustomed to fishing in Hawaiian waters. Fuel for the thirsty fuel tank and engines. Lifesaving equipment such as required floatation, and some medical supplies if needed. Drinking water sufficient for four hours. Food, if it is part of your fishing charter contract. And last but not least, fishing tackle including rods, reels, baits, lures, and advice about how to use them to catch the fish of your lifetime off lovely Hawaii.

What kind of Fish do you want to catch?
As mentioned earlier, some species are more frequent in certain seasons than others, and some fish are migratory in nature – so they may not live in Hawaii year round. We have compiled a short list for you to consider as you plan your Hawaii Fish trip:

Fish / Hawai'i Names Description Size Habitat Feeding Schooling Season
Yellowfin Tuna "Ahi"Yellow Fin
Tuna
"Ahi"
Blackish blue above fading
to white below;
faint yellow stripe extends
from eye to tail,
soft dorsal and
anal fins
and finlets bright
yellow; dorsal
and anal
fins lengthen
with age.
Weight up to
300 pounds
Open water, generally found over
deepwater banks and submarine
ledge
areas at
depths to 1000 fathoms; young
Diurnal and nocturnal; fish,
squid and crustaceans
Yes Adults more abundant late
spring through early fall; juveniles abundant
fall and winter
Albacore Tuna, Ahi palahaAlbacore
Tuna
"Ahi palaha"
Blackish blue above fading
to silvery below; long
pectoral fins which
extend beyond the
soft dorsal and anal
fins.
Weight up to 80 pounds or more,but few exceed 40 pounds Open water, generally staying
below 60 fathoms during the day, then
moves close to surface by night
Diurnal and nocturnal; fish,
squid and crustaceans
Yes More abundant during summer
months
Fish / Names Description Size Habitat Feeding Schooling Season
Skipjack TunaSkipjack
Tuna
"Aku"
Dark metallic blue
above,
light dusky blue below,
with four or five
dark purplish
longitudinal
stripes on side of
belly.
Weight averages about 18 to 22
pounds during the summer,
5 to 12
pounds during the rest of the year
Generally found in waters 100
fathoms and deeper
Diurnal and nocturnal; fish,
squid and crustaceans
Yes Taken year round, but most
common during spring and summer
Wavyback Skipjack TunaWavyback
Skipjack
Tuna
"Kawakawa"
Dark blue or bluegreen
above fading to silver
below; about 12
dark wavy marks on dorsal
area.
Weight up to about 20 pounds, but
most are around 4 or 5 pounds
Open water, but somewhat close
to shoreline, generally in depths less than
100 fathoms; often found over dropoffs, or
in association with aku; young may enter
bays and harbors
Diurnal and nocturnal; fish,
squid and crustaceans
Yes Present throughout year,
but most abundant during summer when
the fish come fairly close to shore in large
schools
Fish / Names Description Size Habitat Feeding Schooling Season
Ono, Wahoo, HawaiiWahoo
"Ono"
Dark blue above
fading to
silver below, with
about 30 purplish-gray
vertical bars on sides that
flash bright blue
when the fish is
fighting
a hook.
Weight up to 100 pounds, average
30 to 40 pounds
Roams the surface waters of the
open sea, usually over deep-sea ledges;
often found near floating logs and other
objects
Diurnal and nocturnal; fish,
squid and crustaceans
Yes,
but will
go
solitary
More abundant late spring
through fall. The Hawaiian word for delicious is "Ono"
Striped Marlin, Oahu, HawaiiStriped Marlin
"A'u"
Nairagi
Royal blue above
fading tosilvery below,
with lavender or pale blue
vertical stripes on sides;
dorsal and anal
fins cobalt blue; high
pointed dorsal fin
Weight up to 150 pounds or more;
most average about 25 to 100 pounds
Pelagic Diurnal and nocturnal; fish,
squid and crustaceans
Generally
Solitary
Taken mostly in spring and
fall
Pacific Blue Marlin off KauaiPacific Blue
Marlin
"A'u"
Kajiki
Cobalt blue above fading to
silvery below, with pale blue vertical
stripes on sides and blue patches on dorsal
area and tail.
Weight averages about 300 to 400
pounds, but some exceeding 1400 pounds
have been taken
Generally taken over bank areas
where baitfish are abundant, and over offshore
ledges where bottom drops off from
100 to 1000 fathoms or more
Diurnal; mainly aku and other
tunas
Solitary Most abundant during summer
Fish / Names Description Size Habitat Feeding Schooling Season
Black Marlin, Molokini, HawaiiBlack Marlin
"A'u"
Hida
Variable coloration; most
are dark slate blue above
fading to silvery below; may have pale blue stripes
or blue patches on sides
that fade quickly
after death; pectoral
fins don't fold against
body.
Most average about 200+ pounds,
but have been
known to reach
1800
pounds
Pelagic Diurnal; fish and squid Solitary Year round,
but they are
rare
Broadbill Swordfish, Catch and ReleaseBroadbill
Swordfish
"A'u ku"
Shutome
Coloration varies from
metallic purplish to blackish brown, but
generally dark brown, with silvery iridescence
below; pelvic fins are absent, dorsal
fin not retractable.
Average weight about 200 to 300
pounds; large fish may exceed 1000
pounds
Pelagic Nocturnal; fish and squid Solitary Year round, and relatively rare
ShortBill Spearfish, Molkai, Hawaii
Shortbill Spearfish
"A'u"
Hebi
Deep metallic blue above
fading to silvery and white below; no significant
markings; upper jaw extends on a
short distance beyond the lower jaw.
Average weight about 20 to 40
pounds, rarely exceeds 100 pounds
Pelagic Diurnal; squid and small fish solitary or very small schools Most abundant during winter
and early spring
Fish / Names Description Size Habitat Feeding Schooling Season
Sailfish being release, Kona, HawaiiSailfish
"A'u lepe"
Body coloration dark steely
blue above fading to silvery white below,
with pale purple vertical bars on sides; sail
cobalt blue to purple
with numerous small
blue spots.
Average weight about 30 to 50
pounds
Generally near submerged
shoals fairly close to shore
Diurnal; small fish and squid Solitary Rare -
Year Round
Mahimahi off MauiDolphinfish
"Mahimahi"
Dorado
Brilliant green and yellow
dotted with phosphorescent blue, with purplish
blue dorsal fin; colors change rapidly
when fighting and just before death. Males have an almost vertical head profile,
females are more sloping.
Average weight
20 to 30 pounds;
occasionally 70 pounds
Open ocean, often seen close to
surface near schools of flyingfish, or
around floating objects
Diurnal and nocturnal; squid
and small fish, especially flyingfish
Yes Small fish
(up to 5 pounds)
common in summer,
large fish
(30 to 40
pounds) more plentiful in late winter and
early spring
Barracuda near Mauna Kea Beach, HawaiiBarracuda
"Kaku"
Great Barracuda
Greyish back turning silvery
on sides and belly, with irregular black
flecks on sides.
Length up to 6 feet; weight generally
up to 70 pounds
Various, inshore and offshore;
juveniles prefer brackish water areas, bays
and stream mouths
Diurnal and nocturnal; fish and
squid
Solitary Generally caught casting
from shore, trolling lures and baits, and
handlining from boats. Prominent sharp
teeth make a wire leader essential, and
the fish should be regarded with caution.
Great Amberjack, Hounaunau, HawaiiGreat Amberjack
"Kahala"
Greyish back turning Light metallic brown with
purplish tinge; light yellow horizontal band
extends from head to base of tail, fades
after fish is caught; dark diagonal streak
through eye.
Length up to 6 feet; weight generally
up to 120 pounds
Deeper coastal waters, typically
60 to 600 feet or more; lives near bottom;
young often found around floating objects
at sea
Diurnal and nocturnal; fish and
squid
Yes Caught mostly by fishing
over deep-sea ledges or drop offs;
usually taken handlining offshore, but
often come close enough to shore to be
caught with baitcasting gear; occasionally
by spear or trap


"Catch and Release" Hawai'i Style
The Hawaiian staple diet has always included fish, so as "Catch and Release" Fishing started increasing in popularity elsewhere, it was slower to evolve here in Hawai'i. Some fish, like "Tuna" Fish for example, do not release well in that they typically exert every last ounce of strength they possess to attempt to escape capture. Their internal systems overheat, and they literally often expire as the hook is being removed. Besides, Hawaiian Tuna is delicious and valuable, so they are rarely if ever released after fishing.

Hawaiian Billfish, like the Marlin and Spearfish families, however do adapt to catch and release well, and with proper resuscitation can swim off happily after a great fight with your rod and reel. Since these prizes are becoming more rare worldwide, the practice of catch and release is starting to become more popular in Hawai'i as well. If you are planning on catch and release fishing, make a point to find a fishing charter that practices this type of Billfish fishing. Often, a great photo of you with your live fish, and the knowledge that the fish lived to fight another day, is better than the lasting image of your beautiful fish hanging dead and bleeding, and starting to smell on the fish scales after the day is over. Just a thought.

Additional SBHawaii.com Fish, and Fishing Information:
Hawai'i Big Eye TunaHawai'i Yellowfin TunaHawai'i Albacore TunaHawai'i Skipjack Tuna
Hawai'i SwordfishHawai'i Blue MarlinHawai'i Striped MarlinHawai'i SpearfishHawai'i Mahimahi
Hawai'i Wahoo "Ono"Hawai'i MoonfishHawai'i Sickle PomfretHawai'i Longtail Red Snapper
Hawai'i Pink SnapperHawai'i Blue Green Snapper Hawai'i Sea Bass
A Compendium of Fishes in Hawai'i
Hawai'i Fish and Safe Eating
Skipjack Tuna Fishing Recovery in Hawai'i


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