Fishing in Hawaii

Visit the beautiful islands of Hawaii and say Aloha to the best fishing vacation you’ve ever experienced.
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About Hawaii

Located 2,000 miles southwest of the contiguous United States, the state of Hawaii is an archipelago completely surrounded by the Pacific Ocean. It consists of eight main islands, six of which are open to visitors. Tourism is a major industry here, and Hawaii is a world-famous destination for big-game sportfishing, especially billfish and tuna. Because the deep water is so close to shore, pelagic big game fish swim close to the islands to feed, and you don’t have to run very far out to experience amazing fishing. Deepwater fishing is not the only game in town, however. The islands also have excellent inshore and flats fishing. And yes, you can freshwater fish in Hawaii too. The islands have five small natural lakes and more than 200 man-made freshwater reservoirs. Several species of bass, catfish, and even rainbow trout have been introduced into these inland waters. No license is required for recreational saltwater fishing in Hawaii. But if you want to try your hand at taking some of the introduced freshwater species on the island, you’ll need a Freshwater Game Fishing License.

Fishing Types

You can find just about any type of fishing you want in Hawaii—other than ice fishing, of course! Big-game fishing in the deep blue waters offshore is the most common type of fishing here, but anglers can also fish the reefs and inshore waters, shore-fish from beaches and piers, fish from a kayak, or fly-fish on the flats. Spearfishing and kite fishing are both traditional pastimes in Hawaii. And don’t forget the often-overlooked freshwater fishing, where anglers can cast lures or jigs for largemouth bass or fly-fish for smallmouths and rainbow trout.

Targeted Fish Species

Even if you’re familiar with Hawaii’s most popular fish, you may not know their local names. Here, yellowfin tuna are known as ahi, wahoo are ono, amberjack are kahala, and dolphin fish are mahi-mahi. Yellowfin tuna (ahi) are the major draw for offshore big-game fishermen in Hawaii, and it’s also possible to catch skipjack tuna. These fish can weigh well over 100 pounds, and reeling them in is a feat in itself. If it’s billfish you’re after, you can find black, blue, and striped marlin cruising around the islands, as well as swordfish and spearfish. Other targets for offshore anglers are wahoo (ono) and mahi-mahi, which is well known as excellent table fare. The word mahi-mahi means “very strong” in Hawaiian — which gives you an idea what a hard-fighting gamefish it is, in addition to being delicious. Reef and inshore fish include amberjack, Pacific barracuda, snapper, trevally, and needlefish. Many people don’t realize that Hawaii also has excellent flats fishing for bonefish, and that the bonefish here are some of the largest in the world. The only freshwater fish native to Hawaii are gobies and an eleotrid, known as o’opu. However, many fish species from elsewhere in the world have been introduced to Hawaii. Largemouth bass, peacock bass, panfish, tilapia, and channel catfish are well established in artificial reservoirs around the state. Take your fly rod to the streams on Kauai and try for rainbow trout, or fish for smallmouth bass in both streams and reservoirs on Oahu and Kauai.

Fishing Techniques

Casting and retrieving lures and bait with light spinning tackle is the usual technique for reef fishing in Hawaii; locals use a modified Carolina rig called a whipping rig, or sometimes a “dunking” rig for bait. If you’re out on a charter boat for tuna or billfish, your captain will likely be chumming and trolling live baits such as sardines or mackerel to entice these behemoths. Once the fish is hooked, get ready—you may be in for the fight of your life!