Spearfishing in Hawaii: A Beginner's Guide

Jun 9, 2022 | 9 minute read
Reading Time: 9 minutes

The “Aloha State” is the epitome of spectacular angling action. You could even say that it’s the promised land for any passionate angler. How could it not be? With more than 130 isles bathing in the Pacific Ocean, fishing in the Hawaiian archipelago is a true adventure. But, if you want to take that adventure to the next level, you should find out what spearfishing in Hawaii has to offer.

An underwater view of a diver and fish

We regularly rave about Hawaii’s fishing opportunities, yet there’s always room for more praise. This time, it’s spearfishing’s turn. If you were thinking about giving it a try but weren’t sure how to go about it, allow us to help you. 

We’ll share tips with you about what to expect while spearfishing in Hawaii. From notable catches and their hideouts to fishing regulations and essential equipment – we’ll leave no stone unturned. So, let’s dive into the world of spearfishing together.

What does spearfishing in Hawaii look like?

Hawaii is arguably one of the most popular spearfishing destinations in the world. But what makes these islands so attractive? Is it the tropical temperature, a vibrant underwater world, miles of the deep blue to explore, or everything combined? Well, it’s a case of “All of the above”!

An underwater view of two spearos posing while on their way to go spearfishing in Hawaii

To depict how unique spearfishing in Hawaii really is, here’s a quick breakdown of what makes it so special:

  • Perfect conditions. Perfect indeed! Depending on the season, the temperature of the water may vary, but it’s usually at a comfortable 80°F. Plus, the ocean is always brimming with life. Add impeccable visibility on top of this and it’s clear why this archipelago is every spearo’s paradise. 
  • Space for everyone. When we say everyone, we mean it. Not only are there endless bluewater spots scattered around the islands, but there are also nearshore opportunities. You can fish from a boat or dive around reefs. There are options to choose from for both professionals and novices alike.
  • Diversity. The same goes for the fish. The aquatic life is so rich, that it’s difficult to decide which species to target first. Moving gradually from the shallow waters to the depths of the Pacific Ocean, you’ll stumble upon Bluefin Trevally, Amberjack, Snappers, Wahoo, Tuna, and many more.
  • A tailored experience. Spearfishing is hardly a universal venture. It relies on a number of factors that range from your experience to weather conditions. For this reason, it’s important to have a certified guide by your side to cater to your needs, follow regulations, and respect safety measures.
  • Impact and importance. Besides being fun, spearfishing plays an important role in the Hawaiian ecosystem. You protect the reefs by focusing on invasive species. It’s environmentally friendly as you’re selectively fishing instead of overfishing!

We know, we know – this is just the tip of the iceberg of what spearfishing in Hawaii looks like. We owe you the handy guide we promised earlier, don’t we? To make sure you’re truly ready to embark on this journey, let’s take a closer look at the most important aspects.

What can I catch when spearfishing in Hawaii?

The good news is that you can go after a plethora of species when spearfishing in Hawaii. From colorful reef residents to bluewater monsters – the Aloha State has it all! You can chase anything from Parrotfish to Tuna. However, your preferences and level of experience might play a crucial part in determining which fish to pursue. We’ll highlight the most desirable catches below to help you choose. 

Snappers and Groupers

There’s a reason these pals are in the same category – Snappers and Groupers inhabit areas around reefs. Some species like Roi (Bluespotted Grouper) and Toau (Blacktail Snapper) are also invasive. They hunt the local fish and wreck the ecosystem. Is there a better way to start your spearfishing journey than by contributing to the greater good?

A view of several caught Groupers and written sign about preserving the reefs and hunting invasive species while spearfishing in Hawaii

Apart from the invaders, you can try your luck with natives like Uku (Blue-Green Snapper). They’re intelligent and hunt-worthy opponents. You’ll most likely spend some time figuring out the approach that works best. And once you develop the perfect strategy, you’ll come out victorious. In case you need help, the locals will have a few tricks up their sleeves to share with you.

Trevally

Beautiful, strong, and stubborn, Trevally are the trophy fish you’ll want to battle with. These brutes will keep you on your toes, for sure. But, once you overpower them, they’ll reward your taste buds with excellent table fare. They’re extremely popular among avid spearos. If you prefer fishing in the flats to diving in the depths of the Pacific Ocean, Trevally are your go-to fish.

An underwater view of a spearo holding Trevally fish caught while spearfishing in Hawaii

If you decide to target them, you’ll be happy to know that there are several species worth chasing. Giant Trevally – or Ulua as they’re called here – and Bluefin Trevally, otherwise known as Omilu, are the headliners. However, locals also love Yellowspotted Trevally for their game fish qualities and delicious meat. Whichever Trevally you catch, you’ll hit the jackpot. 

Mahi Mahi

By going further from the flats and reefs towards the open ocean, you’ll be in for even more of a treat. If Trevally cheered you up, just wait to see what vigorous Mahi Mahi will do. They’re world-famous for their relentless nature. It only makes sense to unlock the deep blue level with them. But with the deep waters, comes a challenge. The pelagic zone will put your skills to the test. 

A man holding Mahi Mahi he caught with both hands

Mahi Mahi tend to swim closer to the surface making spearfishing easier for first-timers. While you won’t have to dive deep to spot them, you’ll need to juggle between swimming, aiming, shooting, and fighting Mahi Mahi. It can be tough but extremely rewarding. Even more so if you land a 50-pounder. Keep in mind that spring brings bigger specimens and thus finger-licking sashimi.

Tuna

The heat of summer marks the peak of the Yellowfin Tuna season. This means it’s time for you to gear up and hit the deep blue in pursuit of these notorious rivals. Muscular and strong-willed, Yellowfin Tuna won’t go down without a fight. These giants are among more massive Tuna species and can reach up to 300 pounds. Spearfishing for Yellowfin Tuna is quite an endeavor – even when they’re smaller. 

A woman holding her Yellowing Tuna catch with both hands

Ahi, as Yellowfin Tuna are known locally, aren’t as dramatic jumpers as Mahi Mahi, but they’re faster and more unpredictable. Even seasoned spearos find themselves in need of a helping hand when targeting Ahi. For this reason, pairing up with a licensed guide is always a good idea. This is especially important if you’re going after Yellowfin Tuna for the first time. 

… And More!

Of course, there’s more! You didn’t think we would end our fish talk without mentioning some other flamboyant reef fish, did you? Trevally, Mahi Mahi, and Tuna are ideal candidates for Hawaii’s spearfishing adventure. But, depending on your mastery of this fishing technique, there are more trophy catches suitable for both professionals and amateurs. 

An underwater view of Lionfish caught while spearfishing

Goatfish, Surgeonfish, Triggerfish, Wrasse, and Lionfish, for example, dominate the area around coral heads and reefs. They’re fun to catch and even prettier to watch. Plus, newbies will learn to land them in no time. When you warm up with the reef beauts, you can move on to speedsters like Wahoo or engage in a duel with mighty Tuna. 

Are there any species I can’t spearfish for?

The islands of Hawaii welcome your spearfishing spirit. You’re allowed to spearfish for almost any fish imaginable as long as you respect their size and bag restrictions, but more on that below. Meanwhile, there are a couple of species that are strictly forbidden to spearfish for. These are almost exclusively Lobsters and Crabs:

  • Ula (Spiny Lobster)
  • Ula Papapa (Slipper Lobster)
  • Kona Crab
  • Samoan Crab
  • Kuahonu Crab

What are the top spearfishing spots in Hawaii?

While you can practice spearfishing almost anywhere along the Hawaiian archipelago, Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island offer the most enviable opportunities for passionate spearos. Kauai has excellent locations as well, but these three spearfishing magnates dominate the underwater fishing world. We’ll share several hotspots below that are great starting points. 

An infographic showing the Hawaiian archipelago and the best spearfishing spots on the Big Island, Oahu, Kauai, and Maui
  • Kailua-Kona. The area around Kailua-Kona is probably the most prolific spearfishing realm. Spearfishing instructors and equipment stores are plentiful here so you won’t lack anything. You can book a charter and spearfish from a boat or easily reach the Big Island’s reefs while shoreline diving.
  • Honolulu. The southern part of Oahu is studded with spearfishing goods and diving centers, and Honolulu is at the epicenter of the spearfishing activity. As with Kailua-Kona, you can embark on a spearfishing journey with a boat or start your expedition from shore. 
  • Anini Beach. Kauai hides a beautiful gem in its northern part – Anini Beach. Widely recognized as the spot suitable for basking, swimming, and snorkeling, Anini Beach is also good for spearfishing. Its calm waters make it ideal for beginner spearos, too.
  • Lahaina. The “windsurfing capital of the world” provides spectacular spearfishing corners too. Lahaina is the best departure point for exploring what spearfishing in Maui is all about. This place will treat you with top-notch instructors and a vibrant underwater world.

While spearfishing in Hawaii is common, there are certain areas where it’s strictly prohibited or partially restricted. The Diamond Head shoreline on Oahu, for example, is available for spearfishing only during daylight hours, while you can’t engage in spearfishing activity at all in the Waiakea Public Fishing Area on Maui. For more information on the regulated areas check out the website of the Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR).

What gear do I need to go spearfishing?

If you’re a beginner spearo looking to buy your first spearfishing equipment, the offer online can be overwhelming. But don’t let this discourage you from having the time of your life. The checklist can be quite simple at first, and you can easily expand it as you go. Also, if you forget to bring something, your guide will have you covered. Now, let’s let you in on the essential items. 

An underwater view of a spearo with spearfishing equipment like a mask, snorkel, gloves, fins, wetsuit, and speargun
  • Mask and snorkel. Along with the speargun, this set is the cornerstone of spearfishing. For durability, choose masks with shatterproof tempered glass and, for a steady flow of air, choose tubes with a dry-top snorkel. After all, you want to spend as much time as possible looking for your game fish without being interrupted.
  • Polespear or speargun. You can opt for one of these or use both on the same hunt. However, a polespear might be more suitable for a novice, as it’s easier for handling. Once you get the hang of a polespear, feel free to proceed to a speargun. It will give you that extra range you need if you want to snatch Omilu.
  • Wetsuit and fins. Unless you intend to explore the deep blue during the colder fronts, you won’t be needing a thick wetsuit. If you plan to spearfish from time to time, you don’t have to invest a lot in fins, either, but you’ll need them for sure if you want to go freediving. To sum it up – a 2mm suit and plastic fins, and you’re good to go.
  • Gloves and knife. Let us remind you how important your hands are in the entire endeavor. Make sure you wear gloves to protect your hands while handling the speargun and any fish you catch. Use a knife to safely cut the fishing lines and to help you move seamlessly through seaweed. 
  • Dive flag. Speaking of safety, don’t forget to mark your spearfishing position with a dive flag. Place it on the water’s surface to indicate your whereabouts and thus help other divers, swimmers, and spearos around you navigate the area safely.

Do I need a special license to spearfish in Hawaii?

A rear view of a spearo looking for the fish while holding a speargun and swimming closer to the surface

The good news is that you don’t have to purchase a special spearfishing permit to fire a gun or pole underwater in Hawaii. The state also doesn’t require a saltwater fishing license! There are, however, regulations regarding the areas you can fish, along with catch size and bag limits.

If you’re spearfishing with a guide, they’ll make sure you keep up to pace with the latest rules and laws. Additionally, they’ll assist you with regulated fish species and their measurements. Should you decide to explore the deep blue on your own, take a look at the Marine Fishes and Other Vertebrates list on the DAR’s official website.

Spearfishing in Hawaii: Next-Level Fishing

An underwater view of a spearo with a speargun while gliding through the ocean

Describing spearfishing in Hawaii as an otherwordly experience is probably an understatement. With a tropical climate, crystal clear water, and an insanely rich underwater kingdom, spearfishing in Hawaii is simply a fishing feast for your soul. And, let’s be honest, a treat for your taste buds, too. So, are you ready to experience firsthand everything you’ve read so far? It’s time to start booking!

Have you ever been spearfishing in Hawaii? Any tips or bragging stories to share with us? Go wild in the comments below and let us know!

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