Situated out on the western edge of Hawaii, Kauai is a paradise of lush forests and sandy white beaches. Known as “The Garden Isle” by locals, it is a land of extremes, where sheer cliffs rise straight from the beach and sink thousands of feet down to bedrock within swimming distance or shore. This makes Kauai fishing charters the easiest way to actually see the island, but you won’t have much time for sightseeing.
Within minutes of leaving the harbor, you can be battling pelagic predators like Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, Tuna, and Marlin. Head to the reefs, and you will find Giant and Bluefin Trevally, deep-water Snappers, Groupers, Jobfish, and more. Throw in some world-class flats fishing and a sprawling maze of rivers and streams, and you have every major fish habitat within easy reach of a day trip.
Most charters leave from the town of Lihue, the county seat of Kauai. This is the economic, cultural, and government center of the island, and chances are this is where you will be going on your vacation. Strong trade winds whip up the swell on the north shore of the island, making offshore adventures unreliable. The area’s amazing inshore fishing and stunning nature reserves make it well worth the trip north if you have the time.
Types of Fishing
Kauai sport fishing is as varied as the list of species you’ll be targeting. It may be less than half the size of Rhode Island, but “The Garden Isle” packs a lot into its waters. Here are a few of your options, so give you a feel for where you can wet your lines.
Deep Sea Fishing
If you visit Hawaii without going offshore, you’re doing it wrong. It’s as simple as that. Sure, this isn’t Kona, but the deep sea fishing
Kauai is surrounded by still blows most of mainland America clean out of the water. You can battle Blue and Striped Marlin, Shortbill Spearfish, Yellowfin and Bigeye Tuna, Mahi Mahi, and Wahoo almost year-round.
Most of the big game action happens around FADs less than 10 miles from shore, making even a half day trip hugely productive. Head out at night, and things get even more exciting. Target Tuna and Swordfish under cover of darkness, then head home as the sun rises with a boat full of some of the tastiest fish on earth.
If you’re after some delicious food fish but don’t fancy heading offshore, hit the local reefs in search of the “Deep Seven”. These are Hawaii’s tastiest bottom fish and are a real treat when they’re in season. The rest of the year, you can bag other tasty table fare like Gray Snapper and Triggerfish. Going after big fish isn’t always the best plan here, as Hawaii’s reefs have high levels of Ciguatoxin. Fishing with a guide is important if you want to know what is safe to eat.
While you won’t land anything as impressive as you would from a charter, fishing from shore is a great way to spend some time with the family while you enjoy some great fishing. Anahola Bay is a local favorite for shore fishing, with white sands, protected waters, and plenty of Needlefish, Parrotfish, and Triggerfish to target.
The mountains in the center of the island are one of the wettest places on the planet, with almost forty feet (yes, feet) of rain falling on them every year. This feeds an endless network of streams which have been stocked with Largemouth and Peacock Bass, Rainbow Trout, and more. The Bass fishing Kauai has to offer is simply stunning, and well worth the price of a fishing license.
Trolling is the go-to tactic on offshore charters. Monster Blue Marlin require heavy tackle and fighting chairs, while Striped Marlin can be great fun on lighter, stand-up gear. Some of the world’s favorite lures were invented in Hawaii, and trolling spreads of artificials are popular with many Kauai charter captains. Others prefer using live, bridled Tuna, with tuna tubes a common sight aboard larger charter boats.
Spearfishing Kauai reef fish is as popular with locals as it is with tourists, and is a great way to enjoy the shallower reefs. Be sure to go with someone who knows the waters to avoid fishing protected areas or ciguatoxin hot spots. If you want to sample the best fly fishing Kauai has to offer, hit the rivers to target Bass and Trout or head offshore in search of bigger game.
Pretty much every fish in Hawaii can be found year-round, but the Kauai fishing calendar does vary with the seasons. Blue Marlin are best in the summer and Striped Marlin are best in spring. Bigeye, Yellowfin, and Skipjack Tuna tag each other out as the year rolls on, so poke is always on the menu. The “Deep Seven” can be closed for harvest throughout the summer. The season changes yearly, though, so be sure to ask your captain.
Need to Know
Local names are used for many different species in Hawaii. Yellowfin and Bigeye Tuna are both known as Ahi, while Skipjack Tuna are known as Aku. Wahoo go by Ono most of the time, while Mahi Mahi is actually a Hawaiian name to begin with. Other important names include Ulua (Giant Trevally) and Humuhumunukunukuapua'a (Reef Triggerfish). That last one might not be very important, but it knocked Sarcastic Fringehead off the top spot of our favorite fish names, so it had to go on the list.
You don’t need a license to fish in saltwater in Hawaii, but you will need a Freshwater Game Fishing License if you’re heading inland. Buy these online
to save time or head to a local vendor when you get to town. Be aware that Kauai fishing charters usually split the catch at the end of the trip. If you are a strong believer in catch & release, you should discuss the fate of Billfish and other game species before your charter, as these are often kept and sold in Hawaii.