Fishing on Maui: HOP to it

Some people come to Maui for the beach, others for the hiking, most for relaxation. But if you’re coming to Maui and want to try your hand at fishing, there are some things you need to know. In this article, we’ll talk about regulations, where you might want to fish and finally, what you may be catching. Please note, this article is by no means comprehensive. Rather, it’s a place for you to begin your research. Let’s dive in…

First, you should know that you do NOT need a license to recreationally fish in the ocean. However, that does mean you can drop a line anywhere in the Pacific. You need to be aware of the restrictions at the five regulated fishing areas on Maui. Fishing is strictly prohibited at the Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve (but the snorkeling is out of this world). Everywhere else on Maui is fair game. Of course, you should also familiarize yourself with the minimum size and size and weights of fish you will be attempting to catch. The state has a full list here for fish and here for invertebrates.

Now that you’re aware of the regulations, it’s time to start fishing. Here on Maui, there are mainly three ways to fish: from shore, from a charter and underwater with a spear.

  1. Where to fish from shore: The short answer, if you’re just visiting Maui, seek out areas where there are other people fishing. Of course, you don’t want to be driving at 5 AM looking for other people standing on the shore with fishing poles, so if that method doesn’t immediately work, here are some common fishing spots on each side of the island.
    A. South Shore: Kalama Park, behind the baseball fields and the far north side of Charlie Young Beach
    B. West Side: The outside breakwater near the old, broken down Lahaina Pier and Black Rock in Kaanapali
    C. Central: The pier in Kahului Harbor and Camp One behind the airport.
    D. North Shore: Baldwin Beach (early in the morning, before it gets too windy is best)
    E. Hana: We actually don’t recommend you fish out there. The locals are very protective of their fishing spots. For them, it’s really more about survival than ‘fun’. If you do decide to fish in Hana, be respectful, friendly and ask for permission. In general, they will be cool if you show respect.
  2. There are many charter fishing boats that leave from Maui. If you’re staying in Kihei, we recommend you charter a boat of of Ma’alaea Harbor. It can get super windy leaving the harbor, but it’s more convenient than driving out to Lahaina. If you’re on the west side, you should try a charter boat of out of Lahaina Harbor. It’s much more fun spending time on a boat than in traffic. Be aware, while most bottom fishing boats will let you keep your catch, or at least a majority of it, if you’re headed out for sport fishing, you typically cannot keep your fish. The charter boats will sell the largest fish. That said, they will generally cut some fish into steaks and share them among the passengers.
  3. Spear fishing is the one type of fishing you can do in Maui that you probably can’t do from where you’re visiting. Spearfishing is a great way to rid our reefs of three invasive species of fish: bluestripe snapper, blacktail snapper and peacock grouper, so you can feel doubly good if you’re able to bag one of these fish. Since you’re probably not bringing spearfishing gear on the plane, the best options are to go out with a guide or to rent gear from a local shop. Gear is simply snorkel equipment and of course, a spear. The type of guide you hire depends on what you hope to accomplish on the excursion. Guides can be hired for first timers where you’ll learn about safety, local fish and how best to dive. At the other end of the spectrum are private guides who assume you have some knowledge of spearfishing and will take you out to prime spots. Finally, if you know what you’re doing, you can rent spearfishing gear from numerous “snorkel” rental shops across the island.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of the more exciting types of fish you may catch while on Maui:
SHORELINE FISHING
Barracuda
Bluestriped snapper (invasive)
Bonefish
Needlefish
Peacock grouper (invasive)
Puffer
Redtailed snapper
Soldierfish
Trevally (AKA Jacks)
Triggerfish

DEEPSEA CHARTER
Ahi
Mahi mahi
Ono
Pacific blue marlin
Striped marlin

SPEARFISHING
Big eye emperor
Blacktail snapper (invasive)
Bluetail snapper (invasive)
Grey snapper
Peacock grouper (invasive): while poisonous and not edible, they are slowly decimating the local fish population.
(plus all of the fish listed in the shoreline fishing section)

If you decide to try fishing on Maui, be safe and respectful of the people and the environment. Most of all, have fun!