Planning A Deep Sea Fishing Trip On Your Own in Hawaii

What You Should Know Before Deep Sea Fishing in Hawaii

Deep sea fishing is an exhilarating experience wherever you go, but deep sea fishing in Hawaii is a bucket list item worth checking off sooner than later. Hawaiian waters are known for sought-after fish like Blue Marlin, Yellowfin Tuna (Ahi) and Mahi Mahi (Dolphin Fish). Its beautiful waters are filled with diverse marine life, not to mention year-round warm weather, making it an ideal sport fishing location for beginners and professionals alike.

Deep sea fishing has many interchangeable titles including sport fishing, offshore fishing, and big game fishing. The sport and fishing experience occurs 30 meters or more from shore so that you can catch larger, more exotic fish species.

Continue reading to find out what you’ll need for your deep sea fishing adventure in Hawaii, including ideal locations, bait type, seasonal information, insider tips, and more.

Why You Should Deep Sea Fish in Hawaii

The Hawaiian Islands have picturesque coastlines and clear blue oceans teaming with fish. The year-round temperature only ranges between 85° F (29.4° C) in the summer and 78° (25.6° C) in the winter, making the Islands an ideal vacation spot any time of the year.

And what’s more, you do not need a license to deep sea fish for fun in Hawaii. There are also few restrictions on the wide variety of fish available to catch, and ample opportunities to rent a boat for yourself.

Best Locations For Deep Sea Fishing

There are eight main islands that make up the archipelago of the Hawaiian Islands. There’s Hawai’i (known as The Big Island), Oahu, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, Niihau, and Kahoolawe (which is uninhabited).

Each of the six visitable islands have unique views and climates, with many opportunities for adventure and exploration, from tropical rain forest to volcanic mountains, to what some say are the best beaches in the world.  

But the best part? There are so many wonderful places to deep sea fish in Hawaii.

Kailu-Kona, on The Big Island, is known for having some of the largest Blue Marlin in the world. Mahi Mahi and the Hebi (short-nosed spearfish) are available to fish year-round.

On the west side of Oahu there’s Ka’ena Point, known for its abundant Ahi, or the Hawaii Kai Harbour in Maunalua, Oahu, where you can find Penguin Banks, an area thought to have some of the best fishing in the entire archipelago, with ample opportunities for trolling and bottom fishing. You might also spot a few humpback whales if you visit in the winter!

What You’ll Catch Deep Sea Fishing in Hawaii

Hawaii has a wide variety of fish available to catch year-round. 

Among them are Marlin (Blue and Striped), Tuna (Yellowfin and Skipjack), Mahi Mahi, Ono/Wahoo, and Sailfish.

Yellowfin Tuna, also known as Ahi, is one you’re likely to spot. It’s especially favored for its meat. Ahi are identified by their long dorsal and anal fin, as well as the bright yellow finlets that run along its spine. The average Ahi is 40-180 cm and weighs in around 125 lbs, but they can weigh up to 400 lbs.

Another fish you’ll run into known for their delicious meat are Mahi Mahi (Dolphin Fish). Its meat is closely associated with Hawaii since the taste blends so well with Hawaiian cuisine. You can tell if it’s Mahi Mahi by the large, distinctive hump on its head as well as its vibrant green, blue, and yellow coloring. The average Mahi Mahi weighs in at around 20 lbs.

Pacific Blue Marlin are known amongst anglers as being exceptionally feisty creatures once they’ve been hooked and are especially sought after. They average at about 200 lbs, but have been known to weigh up to 1200 lbs! Be prepared for a tough fight—they present a struggle for even the most accomplished anglers.   

Bait Needed to Catch Deep Sea Fish in Hawaii

The best bait for deep sea fishing is live bait. While it’s still possible to attract fish with a lure or dead bait, live bait is your best chance at hooking a big game fish. Live bait requires a livewell that mimics the natural environment of your bait fish in order to keep your bait alive throughout your fishing trip.

There’s a wide variety of bait fish to choose from, among them Ballyhoo, Goggle Eyes, Mullet, Sardines, and Mackerel.

  • Yellowfin can be lured with sardines or anchovies.
  • Mahi Mahi are quickly attracted to sardines and mackerel.
  • The elusive Pacific Sailfish is also attracted by live mackerel.  

It should be noted that if you’re searching exclusively for Wahoo (Ono), they can be lured just as well with dead bait. This is a good option if you don’t have experience working with live bait.

Getting out on the Water in Hawaii

There’s quite a bit of gear needed for deep sea fishing and it doesn’t come cheap. Your regular fishing rod and tackle box will not suffice for deep sea fishing. A Marlin can weigh up to 1200 lbs, which requires heavy duty gear to reel in. Even if you find a small Marlin at 200 lbs, you still need to be ready for a good fight. These fish are feisty!

Don’t go without:

  • Sport fishing rods
  • Hooks
  • Sinkers (Bring extra—you will lose a few.)
  • Bait (See our section above on bait for Hawaiian fish.)
  • Livewell (If using live bait.)
  • Towel (For if/when things get messy.)
  • Hand sanitizer (So you can switch from hooking bait to eating a sandwich.)
  • Large Cooler (For what you catch—you don’t want to use the same cooler as your lunch/refreshments.)
  • *Sunscreen
  • Fully charged camera and/or smartphone (You don’t want to miss out on capturing your big catch—who will believe you caught a 1200 lbs Pacific Blue Marlin?)

If you didn’t come prepared with your own sport fishing gear (ex. rods, sinkers, livewell, etc.), don’t sweat it. Hawaii’s deep sea fishing industry is plentiful. It’s even possible to rent a boat that’s prepped and fully stocked with everything you need to go out sport fishing.

*Note that Hawaii has banned two ingredients commonly used in sunscreens due to the significantly harmful damage to coral reefs and the overall marine environment.  Make sure your sunscreen does not have the following ingredients: oxybenzone and octinoxate.

We recommend using sunscreens with Titanium Oxide and/or Zinc Oxide; they offer the best coverage against sun damage and have not shown harmful effects on the environment or people.

Boating License

You don’t need a boating license to operate a boat in Hawaii, but you do need a boat certificate.

“Providing a certificate of completion for a boaters safety course is a requirement that operators of boats or water vessels must complete in addition to other mandatory criteria. Boating without a license is possible when the appropriate certificate is submitted as proof of completion of the corresponding safety course.”DMV.com

To acquire your certificate, you need to complete a boaters safety course. If you get your boat from a rental company, their orientation and safety briefing should cover these requirements.

Learn more about Hawaii Boater Safety Courses and Licenses from the DMV.

Seasonal Information for Deep Sea Fishing in Hawaii

What time of year are you most likely to catch your favourite fish in Hawaii? The good news is you stand a good chance of finding fish no matter what the season, as Hawaii’s climate is very consistent.

  • Yellowfin tuna are abundant in Hawaii year-round, but the best time of year is between April and November.
  • Blue Marlin are also available throughout the year, but particularly between April and September.
  • Mahi Mahi are available the entire year, but especially between March and September, and the same goes for Wahoo (Ono).
  • The best time to catch a Striped Marlin is between December and March, although you may still find them throughout the year.
  • Pacific Sailfish and Bigeye Tuna are more rare in Hawaii, so there’s not a specific season you’re more likely to catch them.

Extra Tips For Deep Sea Fishing in Hawaii

  • Bring a separate cooler with lunch, snacks, and refreshments. It will be a long day out on the water and you don’t want to share a cooler with what you catch.
  • If you’re superstitious, don’t choose bananas as your onboard snack.
  • If you have someone on board that’s prone to seasickness, seat them at the back of the boat for the journey. The ride is less bumpy at the back of the boat.
  • Try to pick a day that’s less windy. Calm waters make for a more enjoyable experience and will prevent sea sickness.

There’s a lot to think about when it comes to deep sea fishing in Hawaii. That’s why so many visitors opt for private charters that come stocked with everything you need, and a captain that knows the ins and outs of the waters and the local fish.

There are plenty of charter options with varying degrees of privacy and expense if you want most of the details taken care of for you.

Consider a private charter in Oahu, Hawaii, with Whipsaw Captain Don Hackman.

Aloha, see you in Hawaii!