What are the Major Fish Caught in Hawaii?

The many seas and beaches of Hawaii offer not only swimming or snorkeling activities, but also fishing. The Native Hawaiian Community relied on the island’s abundant fishing areas for their daily food. Aside from locals, tourists can experience fishing in Hawaii and not just approach it as a hobby, but as something that is a way of living.  

Types of Fish

1. Tuna

Tuna is a popularly caught fish on the island of Hawaii, especially during peak seasons, or the months from June to August. The deep waters that surround the island of Hawaii are home to a variety of delicious, hard-fighting varieties of tuna. Yellowfin Tuna is one of the sought-after kinds of tuna. Sometimes, Skipjack Tuna can be found lurking within the Pacific. Trolling live baits such as sardines, anchovies, and mackerel is an effective method of catching these big fishes. 

2. Billfish


Billfish includes the Marlin (blue, black, striped, white) and other billfish species including Sailfish, Longbill Spearfish, Shortbill Spearfish, and Swordfish which are all available on the island of Hawaii year-round. 

3. Mahi Mahi


The mighty Mahi Mahi is named for a reason. Mahimahi is a Hawaiian word that means “very strong,” and this is fairly true since catching a Mahi Mahi causes a fight between the line and the angler. Mahi Mahi leaps majestically through the air once caught. It also plays a big role in Hawaii’s local cuisine. 

4. Bonefish


Considered one of the hardest saltwater fighters around, the bonefish is a common fish caught closer to the shore. 

5. Bass


he island of Hawaii is surrounded by several reservoirs and lakes where two species of bass are often found: the largemouth and the peacock bass. 

Is there a need for a license when fishing in Hawaii?

The most important thing about doing something in a new area is to identify its rules and regulations so that there will be no need for you to worry about what you do or do something reckless. But there is no need to worry because if an area is prohibited or restricted from fishing, there will be visible signs and posts that say so. The good news about fishing in Hawaii is that you do not need any license for recreational saltwater fishing. However, freshwater options such as in Oahu or Kauai islands require people to have a license or permit for fishing. These licenses can be purchased online, through websites, or from an authorized license agent.

Where not to fish in Hawaii?

Several freshwater areas in Hawaii limit their fishing activities, including the time to fish and the minimum sizes and weights that people can catch, to preserve the fish population and diversity. Generally, anglers are not permitted to cast their lines in wildlife refuges, freshwater streams, natural area reserves, military bases, and harbors.  

Specific locations where the state does not allow fishing includes:

Hawaii Island: Lapakahi Marine Life Conservation District, Waialea Bay Marine Life Conservation District, Kealakekua Bay, and South Kona (Milol’i)

Kauai: Waikaea Canals and Kapaa. 

Maui County: Molokini Shoal, Honolua-Mokuleia Bay, and Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve. 

Oahu: Paiko Lagoon Wildlife Sanctuary, Hanauma Bay Marine Life Conservation District, Pupukea Marine Life Conservation District, Waikiki Marine Life Conservation District, Ala Wai Canal, Coconut/Moku-o-loe Island (reefs and bay waters surrounding it), He’eia Kea Wharf.

Where to fish in Hawaii?

According to many anglers, the best time to fish and the peak season in Hawaii are from June to August. So, if you are in Hawaii and were able to secure a fishing license (only if you want to fish in freshwater areas), and have kept in mind the specific prohibited places above, now is the time to look for these perfect places to fish:

Kailua-Kona: an amazing spot for big game fishing, especially during the summer months when tuna, marlin, and the occasional dolphin are found within 15 miles of the coast. 

Hilo: All year-round, tuna is close to the shore, which makes Hilo a popular destination for tuna fishing. 

Oahu: A place to fish for the notorious peacock bass.

Hale’iwa: Yellowfin tuna along with blue marlin are a common sight of catch fish.

Wai’anae: Another place where tuna fishing is popular

Penguin Banks: considered one of the richest fishing grounds in Hawaii, Penguin Banks often catch pelagic fish (fish that inhabit the water column—not close to the bottom nor near the shore). 

Fishing Industry in Hawaii

As mentioned, fishing has been a way of life of the old Hawaiian people. Even today, the fishing industry has proved to be one of the most important sectors of the local economy. The fishing industry in Hawaii is important because:

It gives more job opportunities to people. Fishing does not only benefit fishermen but also supports the vast economy of mechanics, electronics companies, chandleries, boat yards, icehouses and fishmongers. It creates more source of income for people which made it one of the most important industries in the state. 

It supports the local cuisine to continue being well-known.  Seafood has been as primary food of the islanders since the first Hawaiians arrives. Many of the island’s most delicious regional recipes call for fresh catches of fishes. In the present time, seafood dishes are so popular that Hawaiian citizens eat more than twice the national average.

It supports the state’s economy. Hawaii’s charter fishing industry supported corresponding of 16 full-time jobs and generated $3.2 million in gross sales on the U.S. west coast. 


Tuna: Popular tuna delicacy includes what is called as Poke. Poke is a Hawaiian culinary staple consisting of cubed raw ahi (Hawaiian name for tuna) marinated in a mixture of shoyu, sesame oil, Hawaiian salt, and green onions. The dish is commonly served atop warm rice. 

Blue Marlin: Selling of Marlins are illegal in other states of the USA, specifically with the Billfish Conservation Act. Hawaii, on the other hand is exempted from the said law with the consent of former President Obama, after the state made a bold assertion in the Hawaiian press that the exemption was created because the Hawaiian longline fleet was harvesting billfish in a sustainable manner. 

The blue marlin with flesh ranging from colors white to pink is called Kajiki in Hawaii. It has a mild flavor profile and cooks to a firm and flaky white meat, is ideal for grilling, and as an ingredient in sashimi.   

Mahi-Mahi: Mahi-Mahi is not only known as a main dish in various meals served in specialty shops and restaurants, but as an ingredient in raw foods, such as sushi. It is also an ingredient in other ocean-based meals centered on seafood. Mahi-mahi may be eaten raw but careful procedures must be taken to kill parasites and bacteria without cooking it. Other cooking methods of Mahi-Mahi includes baking, grilling, and frying. 

Bonefish: Bonefish is a popular fish in classic Hawaiian dish. Popular delicacy of bonefish is called Lomi’o’io (an appetizer made of bonefish) in Hawaiian language. It is an appetizer made by scraping the meat of the bonefish with spoon and mixed with aromatics and other wonderful flavor. Bonefish can be cooked either by baking or deep-frying. 

Bass: For bass, a popular delicacy is with the use of a sea bass or grouper that is known to only occur in the Hawaiian islands called a Hapu. Hapu is prepared both as a whole fish and as filets, while the head and bones are used for soups or fumet. Cooking method can include baking, broiling, deep-frying, grilling, and steaming. 

Final Thoughts

Fishing in Hawaii is also one of the best experiences the island can offer, aside from swimming in its beautiful water resources. The different fish that can be caught will surely make families’ stomachs full and their stay more unforgettable. But aside from the fun side, fishing is treated as one of the most important industries of Hawaii that continues to support the economy and living of the people in the state.