Your Guide to Deep Sea Fishing in Hawaii

Mar 25, 2022 | 9 minute read
Reading Time: 9 minutes

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Hawaii? Is it the soothing dance of turquoise and cobalt blue waves? Or perhaps the silky touch of sand beneath your feet? What about vivid sunsets and vibrant wildlife? If you saw all of this at once, we feel you. But the list doesn’t end there. Today, we’re here to tell you about the incredible deep sea fishing in Hawaii.

A view of palm trees and sandy beach of Blue Water Bay in Oahu, Hawaii

Besides seductive beauty and exotic qualities every vacationer is looking for, the “Aloha State” is also an angler’s paradise. Remember that Hawaii’s archipelago boasts more than 130 isles, and big game fishing opportunities lurk around each one of them.

However, before you brag with your Marlin photo, there’s a whole world of unknown. Not to worry – we’re here to help you. In this article, we’ll talk about Hawaii’s most prominent fish and give you tips on how to target them. Stay with us, and you’ll also find out where the best departure points are and how to go about getting a fishing license. So let’s get started.

Top Hawaii Deep Sea Catches

A fun day out on the water or an intense fight with some giants? Deep sea fishing in Hawaii can be both. Be it your first time going after trophy fish or if you’re looking to add to your winning Tuna streak, Hawaii’s deep sea offer will cater to your needs. The tropical waters of the Pacific Ocean are home to some world-renowned species. Ladies and gentlemen, we present you the mighty four.

Marlin

We can’t talk about Hawaii’s big game pursuit without glorifying its Marlin opportunities. Marlin secured their place in the hall of fame of Hawaii’s deep sea fishing more than 60 years ago when a Kona skipper landed the first certified world-record Blue Marlin. Ever since, four-digit Marlin have been synonymous with Hawaii. It only makes sense that we start our journey with these majestic beasts.

A group of anglers proudly gathered on a dock around a 500 lb Marlin caught while deep sea fishing in Hawaii

While Blue Marlin are the royals who dominate these waters, Black and Striped Marlin aren’t lagging too far behind. They migrate across the Pacific Ocean year-round in search of food. Lure them with mackerel, bonito, or ballyhoo, and there’s no way they’ll resist your bait. 

Besides tempting meals, Marlin love mild waters. The impressive Black and Striped Marlin specimens emerge as early as spring. Meanwhile, Blue Marlin prefer tropical temperatures, and the heat of summer is when the massive ones meander around the archipelago. Therefore, we believe we know what you’ll be doing this summer!

Tuna

Speaking of summer, there’s another trophy fish you simply have to go after – Yellowfin Tuna. Along with their fellow titans Blue Marlin, Yellowfin Tuna feel at home in the warm waters. This means that the hottest season of the year brings 300-pounders and Hawaii state records. With July as your ally, you’ll be rocking your summer vacation! What more can you ask for?

Two anglers and their huge Yellowfin Tuna catch on a boat

Yellowfin Tuna, also known here as “Ahi” here, are to-die-for opponents. They’re gigantic, powerful, and feisty – all the qualities anglers are looking for. Not only are they worthy rivals to seasoned fishermen, but they’re incredible challengers to all first-timers as well. 

You’ll be thrilled to know that Yellowfin Tuna’s friends – Skipjack and Bigeye Tuna – abide in Hawaii’s waters, too. If you decide to focus on these beasts, we recommend Kona as your starting point and high-speed trolling as your go-to fishing approach.

Wahoo

These toothy fellas, also called “Ono” in Hawaii, are admirable game fish. Wahoo are among the most prestigious deep sea fish in Hawaii. These speedsters’ reputation is what makes them a desirable catch. While 40-pounders are common, three-digit specimens aren’t a myth either. You just have to know where to find them – and the insight of the locals is invaluable!

An angler sitting on a boat and holding Wahoo with both his hands

They love temperatures above 70°F, so the best time of the year to go after them is during spring and summer. While they swim around throughout the day, early mornings are ideal for targeting them. They’ll be meandering around floating objects during their food runs. If you’re lucky, you might cross paths with more than one Wahoo!

Mahi Mahi

Did you think Hawaii’s deep sea fishing guide would be complete without magnificent Mahi Mahi? Of course, not! They’re the center of attention! Their exotic looks and acrobatic jumps are all the rage among the anglers. And if you aren’t after them because of their tropical vibe and angling qualities, you’ll be hooked on their delicious meat. Once you try it, your palate will crave more Mahi action.

Three happy anglers showing off their Mahi Mahi catches on a boat

We could talk about Mahi Mahi for days. However, we think the fact that their name originates from the Hawaiian language speaks volumes for itself. Did you know that mahi-mahi is a Hawaiian expression for “very strong”? These muscular creatures are so vigorous, that you could spend all your energy battling them. But, that’s their real charm, isn’t it?

Mahi Mahi love the open ocean, but to locate them easily, look around floating structures, weeds, and even boats. They’re attracted to all sorts of objects while in search of food. To maximize your likelihood of catching them, we recommend hitting Hawaii in summer.

… And There’s More!

While the mighty four are the deep sea fishing headliners, Hawaii’s depths have so much more to offer. The Aloha State’s waters are so prolific that it’s every angler’s dream to hit them up and score the giants. Besides Tuna and Marlin, deep sea fishing in Hawaii gives you a unique opportunity to test your skill against monsters like Sailfish, Swordfish, and Spearfish.

Two anglers holding Spearfish together on a boat

Warm up with Swordfish in the first half of the year, and then continue gliding into the Sailfish world for the rest of it. If you thought Mahi Mahi could jump and show off, just wait to see what the intimidating Sailfish can do! When it comes to fishing methods, trolling is the most efficient technique for all deep sea royals, but we’ll talk more about that in the next section.

How to Go Deep Sea Fishing in Hawaii

Hawaii’s offshore fishing welcomes both experts and novices alike. However, the open ocean is a boundless playground. If you’re visiting Hawaii for the first time, finding the right spot and angling approach on your own can turn out to be mission impossible. So how, then, to conquer the deep blue? Easy. Pair up with a certified boat operator! They’re fully equipped and ready to roll.

An aerial view of the Kewalo Basin Harbor and docked fishing charters in Honolulu, Hawaii

Hawaii fishing charters will hook you up with all deep sea monsters. And more importantly, they’ll show you how to land your dream catch. Now that we have you covered with a guide, boat, and equipment, let’s see what fishing methods are the best.

Trolling

If you’re looking for the most effective angling technique, look no further – trolling is by far the best deep sea fishing formula. Not only are you able to cover an insanely large area while trolling, but also you can target a variety of species. As if this isn’t enough, trolling is so versatile that it allows you to set up multiple rods and different lures at the same time. But, how does it work exactly?

A view of a fighting chair and rods while a boat is trolling

Pulling your lines behind the boat is essentially considered to be trolling. The entire idea behind this method is for your bait to imitate the real prey. You want your Marlin to think that they’re actually hunting mackerel. That is why your boat has to be on the move constantly. Once the reels announce the action, it’s time for you to roll up your sleeves.

Note to self: speed is a cornerstone of trolling. While some predators like Marlin and Wahoo are hooked on high-speed trolling, other species, like Tuna, prefer a less intense chase. You want your bait to look realistic at all times, so don’t always hit your target with maximum force.

Bottom Fishing

While not as dynamic as trolling, bottom fishing has its own perks. Once the fish start biting, bottom fishing is equally action-packed. However, the initial approach towards targeting your catch is different. If you want to take your time finding the right spot and prepping for your cast, bottom fishing is the perfect choice.

A side view of an offshore boat and anglers who are deep sea fishing in Hawaii using the bottom fishing method

Judging only by the name, you’ve probably guessed what bottom fishing is all about – luring a predator by keeping your bait on the ocean’s bottom. To ensure your bait stays down there, you’ll need to attach a sinker to your line. This is essentially the main difference between bottom fishing and other methods. To dive deeper into the peculiarities of gear, check out our bottom fishing guide.

Fly Fishing

For seasoned and adrenaline-thirsty anglers, we saved the best for last. While trolling and bottom fishing are the two most popular deep sea fishing techniques, fly fishing is considered to be the most formidable one. And we couldn’t agree more. Just imagine battling monstrous Marlin on fly gear. Pretty intimidating, yet sensational, don’t you think?

A view of an angler with a fly rod in his mouth and Marlin caught while deep sea fishing in Hawaii

Landing a majestic Marlin on fly fishing equipment is indeed the ultimate ambition of every veteran fisherman. To seal the deal, you have to juggle different methods. Trolling and a bait-and-switch combo will score you the jackpot. Once you tease Marlin by trolling and lure them close enough, switch the bait for a fly at the very last second and prepare for a serious fight. A piece of cake, right?

Where to Go Deep Sea Fishing in Hawaii

With more than a hundred islands in its archipelago, Hawaii is the world’s angling epicenter. However, three islands are the true deep sea fishing pioneers – Hawaii (also known as the Big Island), Oahu, and Maui. To help you narrow down your search for the perfect fishing spots, we’ll focus on the best departure points from these three islands.

An aerial view of the blue ocean, sandy Waikiki beach, and city in Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Kailua-Kona. If we were to choose one destination for deep sea fishing for the rest of our lives, we’d opt for Kailua-Kona. Kona is the Big Island’s Marlin gem, with numerous big game records and the finest charter fleet Hawaii can offer. 
  • Honolulu. Out of the three islands we recommend, Oahu is probably the most prolific one and Honolulu is its pride. Known for its excellent Marlin, Tuna, and Wahoo opportunities, Honolulu’s harbor is a jewel you don’t want to miss out on.
  • Haleiwa. Oahu’s North Shore is home to another impressive departure point – Haleiwa. While the majority of fishing activity happens in the Kewalo Basin in Honolulu, the north coast and Haleiwa put a fresh perspective on big game fish like Marlin and Tuna.
  • Lahaina. The windsurfing capital of the world can brag angling spots, too. West Maui is reserved for trophy catches and Lahaina Harbor is its ideal starting point. Apart from an enviable Blue Marlin supply, Lahaina will put up a good Mahi Mahi and Wahoo show as well.

Anything else I need to know?

An infographic showing the flag of Hawaii and deep sea fishing regulations description

You’ve probably been wondering about rules and regulations. Well, you’ll be pleased to hear that you aren’t required to purchase a Hawaii fishing license to try your luck in the offshore waters. This applies to any deep sea fishing activity regardless of whether you’re fishing with a charter operator or on your own. 

If you decide to go aboard one of many Hawaii fishing charters, you won’t have to worry about anything. They’ll provide you with top-notch equipment and useful tips on how to land your beast. Depending on the fish, it’s either customary for the crew to keep the catch or share it with you. Being on the same page is crucial, so don’t forget to discuss this with your captain ahead of time.

Hawaii Deep Sea Fishing – A Must for Every Avid Angler

A horizon sunset view from Hanauma Bay in Oahu, Hawaii

Unmatched natural beauty and outstanding angling variety – the Aloha State radiates both. There aren’t many places in the world where you can cast a line and potentially land a record-breaking Marlin, but Hawaii is one of those precious corners. 

Deep sea fishing in Hawaii is an experience unlike any other and we hope we managed to at least give you a glimpse of how magnificent it can be. Now, we’re impatiently waiting for you to tell us all about your wins, so we can have the complete picture!

OK, your turn – tell us all about your angling adventures. Have you ever been deep sea fishing in Hawaii? What did you catch? Any tips or tricks you can share with us? Let us know in the comments below!

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