Fishing in Hawaii: Top Spots on Maui, Oahu, Kauai, & The Big Island

Hawaii is a volcanic archipelago that’s located in the Central Pacific Ocean. Hawaii’s chain of islands are littered with waterfalls, spectacular cliffs, and lush tropical forests filled with exotic flowers. Visitors from across the globe are drawn to this laid-back island State’s beautiful beaches of red, black, and golden sands.  Like Alaska, these unique features to Hawaii make it an angler’s paradise.

Given that the Islands are surrounded by ocean, you won’t be surprised to learn that there’s great fishing here, especially for saltwater angling enthusiasts. But there’s lots more to do besides fishing, making Hawaii the perfect vacation location for anglers with families.

When you tire of fishing, why not check out landmarks such as the Kilauea volcano, the Waimea Canyon, and Pearl Harbor? The kids are bound to love surfing, snorkeling, and scuba diving in the crystal clear waters around the Islands. Look out for Hawaii’s official State fish, the stunningly beautiful reef triggerfish, locally known as the humuhumunukunukuapua`a.

Licenses

Surf, shoreline, and boat fishing with a pole in the ocean waters off the Hawaiian Islands do not require a license.

However, you do need a Freshwater Game Fishing License if you want to fish for freshwater game fish.

Licenses are available online from the Hawaii Department of Land & Natural Resources and authorized fishing license agents.

There are regulations around spearfishing, and there are some areas where fishing is restricted to certain seasons to protect stocks. The State of Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources website has detailed information on all the regulations that are in place, so do be sure to check it out before you go.

Top Fishing Locations

Hawaii is a fabulous destination for leisure fishermen. In addition to the surf and ocean fishing, there’s plenty to challenge freshwater anglers too.

Whether you seek the challenge of chasing monster marlin in deep offshore waters or you prefer the tranquility of fly-fishing in freshwater lakes and streams, Hawaii has something for everyone.

Fishing is part of Hawaiian culture, and many of the Islands’ residents rely on the bountiful waters for their livelihood. The people here are very welcoming and love to entertain visiting anglers, but they do ask that you respect local fishing regulations to ensure that fish stocks are conserved and protected for future generations.

So, here are our 10 best fishing spots that you absolutely must visit when you take a trip to Hawaii.


1. Lake Wilson (Oahu)

Lake Wilson Hawaii

Wahiawa Reservoir, (located here) locally known as Lake Wilson on Oahu is the only freshwater fishing location in this part of Oahu. The 400-acre irrigation reservoir offers fabulous freshwater fishing. As well as the famous peacock bass, you’ll find over 17 species of fish here, including:

The best time for peacock bass is April through to the end of October when the weather is warmest. Although the temperatures are pretty constant, the spring and winter sees lots of rain, thunderstorms, and winds up to 50mph. Not only are these not the most pleasant of conditions to fish in, but the mud run-off also makes visibility in the Lake very poor, making sight-fishing tricky.

To get the most from your visit to Lake Wilson, hire a local fishing guide who will show you the best spots to try.

Facilities at the Lake include restrooms, picnic tables, and boat ramps. There’s no camping allowed here, but there are many locations nearby that offer accommodation and lodging.


2. Nawiliwili Harbor (Kauai)

Nawiliwili Harbor

Nawiliwili Harbor is a busy spot that’s located here, just north of Lihue Airport. The Harbor boasts a yacht club and sportfishing fleet, as well as pier fishing opportunities. The Harbor is within easy reach of Kalapaki Beach and its many hotels and lodgings.

Ocean fishing from Nawiliwili Harbor means hiring a charter. There are plenty of fishing charters that depart from here, most trolling with lures, rather than live bait. The water gets deep very quickly here, so less fishing time is wasted by cruising to fishing grounds. That said, some captains may elect to take you further out to hotspots where particular target species are biting.

Deepwater fish species you can expect to land include:

Before you book your charter, check the boat’s “fish policy.” Some captains will keep everything you catch; others will allow you to take enough for a meal and will clean the fish for you too. If you opt for a shared charter, ask about the maximum passenger count and fishing rotation. Charters typically run for four, six, or eight hours.


3. Koke’e State Park, (Kauai)

Koke’e State Park

Koke’e State Park is located here, set amid some of Hawaii’s most gorgeous tropical forest, high in the mountains to the north of Waimea Bay.

Koke’e is the perfect location for a family fishing trip. As well as fly-fishing in the crystal clear streams for rainbow trout, enjoy hiking, taking in the majestic ocean views, and looking out for the many native bird species that live here.

Wind down at the end of the day by cooking your catch over a campfire as you enjoy the glorious glow of a beautiful Hawaiian sunset.

Facilities in the Park are ADA accessible and include lodgings, campsites, restrooms, gift shop, and picnic tables.


4. Kaena Point, (Oahu)

Kaena Point

Kaena Point is located here on the island of Oahu.

Kaena Point is an exhilarating spot for saltwater angling enthusiasts to fish from, thanks to the steep ocean drop off at the location’s rocky point. Here, you can enjoy the big-game fishing that’s usually reserved for sportfishing charters.

Fish species you can expect to find off the Point include ocean-going giants like barracuda, swordfish, ulua, and even sharks.

Access to the Point is by four-wheel-drive vehicle or hiking if you don’t mind the walk. It’s not the easiest spot to get to, but getting there is well worth the effort.

For those who enjoy surf fishing, Kaena offers that too. Live and cut bait, rather than lures are most productive, and a 15-pound test line works best. Skim the bait across the water’s surface, allow it to sink a little, and then pull it in fast to the top. This technique works well with small jacks and barracuda if there are any near the shoreline.

Words of caution

Take care when landing unfamiliar fish species in Hawaii. Some of the fish here have teeth as sharp as scalpels that can also crush coral – think what that could do to a finger or toe!

Watch out for rogue waves, especially if you go night fishing or rockpooling. Monster waves can appear from out of nowhere, even on flat-water days so be sure to keep well back from the waterline when you’re fishing from cliffs.


5. Waiakea Pond, near Hilo, (Big Island)

Wailoa

Waiakea Pond is found in the Wailoa River State Park and offers fishermen an intriguing mixture of fishing.

The Park is located conveniently close to the town of Hilo and Hilo Airport. Facilities are good here, with restrooms, picnic tables, and a boat ramp, although camping is not allowed. Access to the park is easy, and there’s plenty of parking space.

With an area of close to 25 acres, Waiakea Pond is Big Island’s largest natural lake. The Pond is fed by several freshwater springs, connecting to Wailoa Stream, which ultimately takes excess water out into the ocean at Hilo Bay. At high tide, seawater washes into the pond from the bay, creating a mixture of salt and freshwater.

Fish found in the Pond tend to be saltwater species, including:

  • Mullet
  • Ulua
  • Aholehole

Catches are limited to 20 fish.

South of the footbridges, the Pond is designated as a public fishing area. There’s a boat ramp here for use by fishing boats only. Note that only wooden craft are allowed, and no gas-powered motors are permitted.

When the kids get bored with fishing, take them to feed the many different species of waterfowl that live on the Pond.


6. Makena Landing, (Maui)

Makena Landing

Makena Landing (located here) is popular with kayak anglers. There’s also snorkeling and shore fishing.

Access to the water is good, and once you’re in the open waters off the Landing, there is plenty of big-game fish to present you with a stern challenge. Marlin and mahi-mahi are more than feisty enough to rip your line right out! Take care when kayaking here; shark attacks do sometimes occur in these waters, so you do need to be on your guard.

Facilities at Makena Landing Park include ample parking, showers, restrooms, and a grassy barbecue area. Although there’s no campsite here, there are lots of good hotels nearby.

In addition to fishing, be sure to check out the scuba diving and snorkeling here. You’re almost guaranteed to see sea turtles gliding through the colorful corals, as well as brilliantly colored butterfly fish, eels, and perhaps the elusive frogfish too.

The best time for ocean activities at Makena Landing is in the early morning. From 11 am, the winds tend to pick up, especially during the summer months. Large south and west swells build, making launching kayaks extremely challenging.


7. The Waialua Bay Pier, (Oahu)

Waialua Bay

If pier fishing is your thing, you must take a trip to Waialua Bay Pier, found within the Halawei Alli Beach Park. There are plenty of hotels and apartments for rent in Waialua Bay a short stroll from the pier.

Local fishermen come from miles around to fish the pier. Use live bait to land papio and goatfish, which are abundant here. You can also land ulua, barracuda, and giant sea bass that hang around beneath the pier.

The park is easily accessible and has a large grassed area for picnics and barbecues. From the pristine beach, you can enjoy diving, boating, kayaking, and of course fishing. Two-mile waves are commonly seen here too if you have any surfing dudes in your party.

End the day with a meal and take in the sunset over the ocean while you enjoy a shave ice at one of the many nearby restaurants and bars.


8. South Point, (Big Island)

South Point Hawaii

The most southerly point in the US, aptly named South Point is located here on Hawaii’s Big Island.

South Point is also known as Ka Lae and is a mecca for fishermen. The confluence of ocean current just offshore makes this a hot spot for red snapper, ulua, mahi-mahi, and tuna (ahi). There are no facilities to speak of here and no official campsites; this is fishing gone native! Here you’ll be fishing from rugged cliff tops. Some of the drop-offs are pretty high, and the sea can run strong, especially during the winter months, so be sure to keep well back from the edges.

Some really beautiful accommodation and lodgings can be found relatively close to South Point.


9. Kahului Harbor Pier, (Maui)

Kahului Harbor

Kahului Harbor Pier is found in the town of Kahului on Maui. Close to the airport, Kahului is a busy, lively town with plenty of hotels, lodgings, restaurants, and bars, making it an ideal location for vacationers.

Fishing from the pier is very popular, but there’s plenty of space to set yourself up for a day’s angling. The locals are very knowledgeable and helpful and will surely give you a few tips on how to land Jack Crevalle and bonefish, which are plentiful here. Yellow tuna and mahi-mahi are also seen around here quite often, especially during the summer months.

On windy days, the waves inside the harbor can get pretty big. Although this is highly entertaining to watch from a safe vantage point, you should be very careful if you decide to try fishing from the rocks; it does get extremely slippery here, and it’s best to stay where it’s dry and safer underfoot.


10. Pearl Harbor, (Oahu)

Pearl Harbor Hawaii

Pearl Harbor is located here on Oahu. Although the fishing around Pearl Harbor is excellent, you must take time out to look round the Visitor Center, museums, and other historic sites. There’s plenty of very good hotel accommodation in Pearl Harbor, as well as some lively restaurants and bars.

There are some beautiful beaches close to Pearl Harbor. You can surf fish, sunbathe, swim, and fish too.  The days are long and the sun can be bright, so make sure you bring your favorite pair of fishing shades. Parasailing is popular, as is snorkeling, which can provide memorable encounters with dolphins, turtles, and many of the local colorful fish species.

Fishing in this historic site can be extremely productive. Fishing off the pier can see you land goatfish, ladyfish, and greenjack, attracted by the rocks beneath the structure. You’ll find fat, juicy Samoan crabs here too.

If you extend your stay, you might want to hire a fishing charter. Game-fish species abound in the waters off Hickam and Pearl Harbor, including:

  • Tuna
  • Mahi-mahi
  • Marlin
  • Swordfish

Any of these monsters will put up a considerable fight, pushing your body to its limits as you strive to take a beautiful trophy for your dinner table or display case.


Parting Thoughts

History, wonderful fishing, beautiful beaches, and a vibrant culture – what more could you ask from a vacation destination?

A multi-site trip will see you taking in the spectacular and diverse scenery and participating in a wide variety of activities for all the family, as well as enjoying some truly memorable fishing experiences.  While fishing in California or other states can offer a wide variety of diverse fishing opportunties, Hawaii offers some of the most unique angling options in the entire United States.

Check out waterfalls, volcanos, and glorious sandy beaches where you can cast a few lines with your rod and reel into the surf, or take a fishing charter out into the deep blue Pacific Ocean in search of big-game fighting fish.  If you want to make fishing a little easier, Fish finders might help out on the big blue ocean, but less so than a lake where it can accurately measure the depths at the bottom.

Hawaii’s warm welcome will see you making her Islands a regular vacation destination.

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