Spearfishing in Hawaii
Spearfishing in Hawaii is one of the most exciting things you can do in a place already famous for heart-thumping angling action. Nothing beats the thrill of taking the fight to a fish’s home soil (or water) and the spearfishing Hawaii has to offer is some of the best out there. You couldn’t pick a more beautiful place to try spearfishing, and you have an incredible cast of species to choose from on your trip.
Most people don’t realize that spearfishing can actually be one of the most sustainable ways to catch fish. You always know exactly what you’re targeting, meaning no bycatch or undersized fish. It’s also an effective way of combating the invasive species that have become a huge problem on Hawaii’s reefs. But more than that, it’s great fun! Getting into the water, seeing the world beneath the waves – nothing beats it.
What to Expect from a Spearfishing Trip
Most Hawaii spearfishing trips head to the reefs just a few hundred yards from shore. The main targets are invasive species like Roi (Bluespotted Grouper) and To’au (Blacktail Snapper). Roi are a plague on Hawaii’s reefs, hunting local species and spreading ciguatera poisoning to many people that eat them. To’au are great to eat, and are also a non-native pest. There’s no catch or size limit on either of these species, so fish away!
As well as cleaning up the reefs, you can catch a range of native reef fish like Uku (Blue-Green Snapper), Awa (Milkfish), and Umaumalei (Unicornfish). Again, these are great table fare. And if you really want to take things to the next level, you can even head offshore to take on Ahi (Yellowfin and Bigeye Tuna), Ono (Wahoo), and Mahi Mahi (a Hawaiian word to begin with). This is not for first-timers!
You will be freediving to catch you fish, meaning no need for heavy gas tanks or certification. You will have to be in decent shape, but it’s not just a sport for olympic swimmers. Guides normally run a freediving class to give you some pointers before you start, and they will be in the water with you to make sure you’re safe. The basic technique is to snorkel along the surface until you find the fish you’re after, then dive down from directly above and spear your catch before it knows you’re there. You can also search ledges and and crevices to find fish hiding among them.
What you use will depend on the charter. The Hawaiian sling is a go-to choice for beginners all around the world. It works more like a slingshot than a rifle, making it safer and easier to use. Spearguns are much more powerful and accurate but you need to know how to load and handle them safely. Other than your spear, you’ll need a weight belt, camouflage wetsuit, mask, snorkel, and fins. You’ll also want gloves to handle the fish, a mesh bag to put them in, and a dive knife, just in case.
Need to Know
You need to be sober and in good health to be allowed on a spearfishing trip. Most guides have a minimum age of 10 or 12, but it really depends on the charter. You don’t need a fishing license to spearfish in Hawaii, whether you’re with a guide or not. If you are thinking of heading out on your own, be sensitive to the fact that people fish to feed themselves here. Locals can get understandably annoyed when they see tourists spooking the fish they were hoping to have for dinner. Talk to other hunters you see on the beach and show a little respect, it goes a long way. They may even tell you about better spots to try!
Top Targeted Spearfishing Species in Hawaii
- Size 15 to 35lbs
- Food Value Average
- Game Qualities Excellent
- Habitats Nearshore, Offshore, Reef