big island shore fishing

Big Island Shore Fishing Guide: Tips, Best Spots & Species

Whether you’re a local or a tourist, shore fishing on the Big Island of Hawaii offers unique opportunities and challenges. The Big Island boasts a diverse marine ecosystem and miles of shoreline, providing anglers with numerous locations to catch a variety of fish species.

In this article, we’ll discuss the best shore fishing spots on the Big Island, the fish species you can expect to find, along with tips and techniques to make your fishing experience a memorable one. But remember, understanding local regulations and practicing sustainable fishing is of utmost importance to preserve Hawaii’s marine ecosystem.

Big Island’s Top Shore Fishing Locations

Hooked on Kona Coast Fishing Spots

The Kona coast on the west side of the island is a popular destination for both locals and tourists. Known for its calm waters and lava rock shoreline, the Kona coast offers a vast array of fishing opportunities. Here are some prime locations to cast your line:

  1. Kailua Pier: This well-known pier in the heart of Kailua-Kona provides easy access and a plethora of fish species. Just make sure to follow the posted rules and avoid fishing during prohibited hours.
  2. Honokohau Harbor: A short drive north of Kailua-Kona, this harbor offers rocky shorelines and a variety of fish species. Seek permission from the harbor master before fishing here.
  3. Kohanaiki Beach Park: Further north, Kohanaiki Beach Park, also known as Pine Trees, offers sandy and rocky shorelines with excellent shore fishing opportunities, especially during the early mornings and late afternoons.

Kohala Coast Captivates Anglers

The Kohala coast, located north of the Kona coast, offers visitors beautiful sandy beaches and vibrant coral reefs. Here are two great locations to explore:

  1. Spencer Beach Park: With a sandy bottom and sheltered waters, this beach park offers excellent opportunities for beginner anglers to catch reef fish.
  2. Anaehoomalu Bay: Also known as A-Bay, this large bay offers incredible snorkeling and shore fishing opportunities, targeting primarily reef fish.

Hilo and Puna Coast’s Bountiful Fishing

The Hilo and Puna regions are located on the east side of the Big Island, offering a lush, tropical environment with their fair share of fishing spots for shore anglers.

  1. Hilo Bayfront: The rocky shoreline in Hilo Bayfront Park allows anglers to catch a variety of fish, including bonefish and trevally. Just be cautious of the frequently changing weather conditions in the area.
  2. Pohoiki Bay: Surrounded by black sand beaches and lava cliffs, Pohoiki Bay in the Puna district offers a unique fishing experience. Expect to catch a variety of reef fish and pelagic species.

Ka’u Coast: Black Sand Beaches and Fishing Delights

The remote Ka’u coast on the southern part of the island boasts black sand beaches and fewer crowds, making it an excellent choice for anglers looking for a more secluded experience.

  1. Punaluu Black Sand Beach: A prime spot for shore fishing, with opportunities to catch ulua (giant trevally), o’io (bonefish), and many reef fish species.
  2. Whittington Beach Park: This remote park provides anglers with a mix of rocky and sandy shorelines, perfect for targeting reef fish and the occasional pelagic species.

A little bit of exploration might just lead you to discover your own secret fishing spots!

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Big Island’s Rich Marine Life: Fish Species to Catch

Reel in a Variety of Reef Fish

The Big Island’s coral reefs are teeming with life, offering anglers a chance to catch a diverse array of reef fish. Keep an eye out for the following species:

  1. Goatfish: Easily identified by their barbels (whiskers), goatfish can be found grazing along the sandy bottoms near coral reefs.
  2. Wrasses: Colorful and diverse, wrasses come in a variety of sizes and can be found throughout the island’s coral reefs.
  3. Surgeonfish: Recognizable by their vibrant colors and scalpel-like spines, surgeonfish are often found grazing on algae near the reef.
  4. Parrotfish: Known for their beak-like mouths, parrotfish are essential to the health of coral reefs and can frequently be found feeding on coral.

Pelagic Fish for the Avid Angler

Open-ocean pelagic fish species provide a thrilling challenge for those seeking a bigger catch. These are some popular species encountered by shore anglers:

  1. Mahi-mahi: Usually found further offshore, mahi-mahi can occasionally be caught from shore, especially during the summer months.
  2. Yellowfin tuna (Ahi): Highly sought after for their tasty meat, ahi can be caught from shore during their seasonal migrations.
  3. Wahoo (Ono): Known for their speed and agility, ono can be caught from shore using lures and live bait.
  4. Giant trevally (Ulua): A favorite among locals, ulua can be found prowling the shoreline feeding on smaller fish.

Inshore Fish Species: Smaller Yet Equally Exciting

Inshore fish species live in the shallow waters close to the shoreline and can be targeted using a variety of techniques:

  1. Bonefish (O’io): Found cruising the sandy bottoms, these silvery fish are a popular target for fly anglers.
  2. Barracuda: With their sleek bodies and sharp teeth, barracuda can be a thrilling catch when encountered in shallow waters.
  3. Jacks: A variety of jack species can be found along the shoreline, providing an excellent opportunity to test your angling skills.

Seasonal Migrations: Timing Matters

Pay attention to the seasonal migrations and movements of fish species around the Big Island to target specific catches:

  1. Pacific blue marlin: Highly sought after by sport anglers, blue marlin often migrate through Hawaiian waters between May and September.
  2. Sailfish: These acrobatic fish are occasionally caught along the Big Island’s shoreline, particularly during winter months.
  3. Striped marlin: Migrating through the waters off the coast of Hawaii, striped marlin can sometimes be caught from shore during the first half of the year.

Tips and Techniques for a Successful Shore Fishing Experience

Spinning and Casting: The Go-to Technique for Beginners

Spinning and casting are popular techniques among shore anglers. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Rod and reel selection: Choose a medium to heavy action spinning rod and a matching reel with a strong drag system for shore fishing on the Big Island.
  2. Lure and bait choices: Opt for a variety of lures such as poppers, plugs, and jigs, or use live or cut bait to target different fish species.
  3. Casting techniques: Practice your casting skills to increase your chances of reaching fish holding areas, such as rocky outcroppings and points.

Fly Fishing: A Graceful Approach to Shore Fishing

Fly fishing in the surf can be a rewarding experience if you’re up for a unique challenge:

  1. Fly rod and reel selection: Choose an 8-10 weight saltwater fly rod and a matching reel with a sealed drag system to handle the saltwater environment.
  2. Fly patterns for Hawaiian fish species: Equip yourself with a variety of saltwater fly patterns, including shrimp, crab, and baitfish imitations.
  3. Casting techniques and presentation: Master the art of casting in windy conditions and learn to present your fly effectively to entice various fish species.
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Whipping: A Local Technique with Proven Success

Whipping is a popular technique among local Hawaiian anglers. Here’s what you need to master this method:

  1. Equipment and rigging: Use a 9-12 foot whipping rod, a spinning reel with monofilament or braided line, and a small lead weight with a single-hook bait.
  2. Bait selection: Live or cut bait, such as shrimp, mullet, or squid, is commonly used for whipping.
  3. Techniques for targeting specific fish species: Cast your bait near rocky structures or along sandy drop-offs and work it through the water column to target feeding fish.

Dunking: A Classic Technique for Enjoying a Lazy Day on the Shore

Dunking, or bottom fishing, is a popular method for those who prefer a more laid-back approach to fishing:

  1. Equipment and rigging: Use a 10-12 foot surf rod, a strong spinning reel, a pyramid sinker, and a 2-3 hook rig baited with your choice of bait.
  2. Bait selection: Live or cut bait, such as shrimp, mullet, or squid, typically works best for dunking.
  3. Techniques for targeting specific fish species: Cast your bait into deeper water, near rocky structures or sandy drop-offs, and let it sit on the bottom to attract fish.

Night Fishing: An Exciting Adventure under the Stars

Night fishing offers unique opportunities to target nocturnal fish species:

  1. Safety precautions: Be familiar with your chosen fishing spot, wear proper footwear, and bring a headlamp for hands-free lighting.
  2. Targeting nocturnal fish species: Fish species such as ulua and eel become more active at night, offering a thrilling challenge for night anglers.
  3. Equipment and techniques: Use the same gear as for daytime fishing, but consider using glow-in-the-dark lures or baits to enhance your chances of attracting fish.

The Influence of Tides, Weather, and Seasons on Fishing Success

Tidal Movements: Timing Your Fishing Expedition

Understanding how tides and currents affect fish behavior is crucial to increase your chances of a successful catch:

  1. How tides affect fish behavior: Fish are more likely to feed during times of increased water movement, such as during tidal changes.
  2. Best times to fish based on tidal movements: Aim to fish during the first two hours of an incoming tide and the first hour of an outgoing tide for optimal results.

Weather Patterns: Adapt to the Elements

Weather conditions can have a significant impact on fish behavior, so it’s essential to know when to adapt your fishing strategies:

  1. Wind direction and fish feeding patterns: Fish are more likely to feed when the wind is blowing towards the shoreline, as it brings food closer to them.
  2. Water temperature and its effects on fish species: Different fish species prefer different water temperatures, so keep an eye on temperature changes throughout the year.

Seasonal Factors: Plan Your Fishing Trip Accordingly

Seasonal changes can significantly affect fish movements and feeding patterns, making it essential to adjust your fishing techniques accordingly:

  1. Timing your fishing trip to target specific fish species: Research the seasonal migrations and movements of your desired fish species to increase your chances of success.
  2. Adjusting your fishing techniques based on seasonal changes: Adapt your fishing methods to suit the changing fish behaviors throughout the year, such as using different bait or lures.
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Fishing Regulations and Conservation: Preserve the Big Island’s Marine Ecosystem

Know the Rules: Hawaii Fishing License Requirements and Limits

  1. Hawaii fishing license requirements: Shore fishing in Hawaii doesn’t require a fishing license, but it’s essential to be aware of the state’s fishing regulations.
  2. Size and bag limits for common fish species: Ensure you know the minimum size and bag limits for the fish species you’re targeting to avoid breaking any rules.
  3. Restricted fishing areas and protected species: Be aware of any protected species or restricted fishing areas on the Big Island and never fish within marine reserves.

Best Practices for Catch and Release Fishing

  1. Use barbless hooks: Barbless hooks make it easier to remove the hook, reducing injury to the fish.
  2. Handle fish with wet hands: Avoid removing the fish’s protective slime by handling it with wet hands or using a wet cloth.
  3. Revive exhausted fish: Gently hold the fish in the water, facing upstream until it regains its strength and swims away.

Shore Fishing Safety and Etiquette on the Big Island

Stay Safe on Rocky Shores and Cliffs

  1. Wear a life jacket when fishing from cliffs or rocky outcroppings.
  2. Avoid fishing in dangerous swells or during high surf conditions.
  3. Keep an eye on the tide and avoid being trapped by rising water.

Dress for Success: Proper Footwear and Clothing

  1. Wear sturdy, closed-toed shoes or sandals with excellent grip for navigating rocky shorelines.
  2. Dress in layers to adapt to changing weather conditions.
  3. Protect yourself from the sun with a hat, sunglasses, and sunblock.

Respect Local Customs and Your Fellow Anglers

  1. Learn about and follow any local fishing customs or traditions.
  2. Give other anglers space and avoid crowding their fishing spots.
  3. Share your knowledge and help others, but also be open to learning from experienced anglers.

Minimize Your Environmental Impact

  1. Pack out all trash and leave the fishing location cleaner than you found it.
  2. Use environmentally friendly fishing gear and tackle.
  3. Practice responsible and sustainable fishing techniques.

The Big Island Shore Fishing Experience: An Unforgettable Adventure

Shore fishing on the Big Island offers a diverse range of opportunities, fish species, and challenges for both seasoned anglers and beginners alike. With a little research, dedication, and patience, you’re sure to create memorable experiences and fantastic stories to share. Most importantly, always practice responsible and sustainable fishing habits to ensure the continued enjoyment and preservation of Hawaii’s exceptional marine ecosystem. Tight lines and happy fishing!