how to catch lobsters in hawaii

How To Catch Lobsters In Hawaii + Best times and Locations

Do you crave the sweet taste of succulent lobster? Hawaii’s warm, crystal-clear waters offer a prime opportunity for catching some of the most delicious and highly sought-after crustaceans in the world.

But before diving in, equip yourself with knowledge of the right equipment, locations, and techniques on how to catch lobsters in Hawaii, which is essential to ensure a bountiful catch and sustainable fishing practices.

Outlined in this guide are the key takeaways to fishing lobsters, from understanding lobster behavior to preparing your fresh catch and enjoying a delicious Hawaiian feast.

Lobster Species in Hawaii

Here are the species of lobster you can find in Hawaii:

  • Spiny lobster (Ula)
  • Slipper lobster (Ula pāpapa)
  • Ridgeback slipper lobster (less common)
  • Chinese slipper lobster (less common)

The most common lobster species you’ll encounter is the spiny lobster (Panulirus marginatus) and the slipper lobster (Scyllarides squammosus). The other two are less common.

Hawaiian Lobster Regulations

Before embarking on your thrilling lobster hunting escapade, let’s ensure you’re fully prepared and ready to dive in. You should first familiarize yourself with the Hawaii Lobster Regulations:

  • Closed season for Spiny lobster and Slipper lobster: May – August
  • Minimum size for Spiny lobster: 3-1/4 inches (carapace length)
  • Minimum size for Slipper lobster: 2-3/4 inches (tail width)
  • No spearing, whole only, not mutilated
  • No taking or killing females or lobsters with eggs

Preparation for Lobster Hunting

Here are 3 steps to prepare yourself for catching lobster:

  • Ensure proper diving gear and skills
  • Familiarize yourself with diving spots and reef formations during the day
  • Be environmentally conscious and respect female lobsters with eggs

Essential Equipment and Gear

You’ll need the right equipment and gear to successfully reel in those tasty crustaceans.

Before you head out on your lobster-catching adventure, make sure you have the following essential items:

  • A durable and reliable lobster snare or net: These tools will enable you to catch lobsters without harming them, allowing for safe and sustainable practices. A snare’s typically used for catching lobsters hiding in crevices or tight spaces, while a net is more suitable for open areas.
  • A high-quality dive light: Lobsters are nocturnal creatures, meaning you’ll likely be hunting them at night. A powerful dive light’ll help you spot these elusive crustaceans and navigate the underwater environment safely.
  • A lobster gauge or measuring device: This tool’s crucial for ensuring that you’re only taking legal-sized lobsters and leaving the smaller ones to continue growing, promoting a healthy lobster population.
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In addition to these essential items, you should also invest in a good-quality wetsuit, gloves, and dive boots to protect yourself from the elements and potential hazards while underwater.

Best Times and Locations for Lobster Fishing

The two primary Hawaii lobster species you’ll be targeting are the Hawaiian spiny lobster (Panulirus marginatus) and the slipper lobster (Scyllarides squammosus).

Both species are nocturnal, so the best time to catch them is during the night when they’re most active.

Sustainable lobster hunting is crucial, so make sure to follow local regulations, such as size limits and seasonal closures.

Best time for fishing lobsters in Hawaii


The best time for fishing lobsters in Hawaii is from September to April, as they are considered good availability during these months.

It is important to note that lobsters are banned from May to August, making it the worst time for fishing them.

Best location for fishing lobsters in Hawaii

As for locations, Hawaiian lobsters are commonly found in rocky areas and coral reefs in depths between 10 to 90 feet.

Some popular spots for lobster hunting on Oahu include the northwestern coast, particularly around Kaena Point and Makua Beach.

For those on Maui, the waters around Molokini Crater and the Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve offer promising hunting grounds.

On the Big Island, the areas surrounding Kona and the South Kona Coast are known for their lobster populations.

Keep in mind that each island has its own unique conditions and regulations, so it’s essential to research and understand local rules before setting out on your lobster fishing adventure.

Techniques and Tips for Successful Catching

Ready to reel in those crustaceans? Let’s explore some techniques and tips to make your Hawaiian lobster fishing excursion a success.

One of the first things to understand is lobster behavior, as this will greatly increase your chances of catching them.

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Lobsters are nocturnal creatures, so night diving is your best bet.

They often hide in rocky crevices and coral reefs during the day, making them difficult to spot, and tend to be more active during the full moon, so plan your trip accordingly.

While you’re diving, pay close attention to the underwater terrain, as lobsters prefer areas with lots of hiding spots.

They are also known to be territorial, so once you find a good location, you’ll likely find more lobsters nearby.

Safety precautions are essential when lobster fishing, particularly while diving at night.

Make sure to dive with a buddy, as this increases your safety and efficiency in catching lobsters.

Proper diving equipment, such as a flashlight, gloves, and a lobster bag, is essential.

The flashlight will help you spot lobsters, while gloves protect your hands from sharp lobster spines and rough surfaces.

A lobster bag or net will make it easier to secure your catch.

Lobster Hunting Technique:

  • Nighttime diving activity
  • Search for lobsters in rocky areas, kelp, break-walls, and jetties
  • Approach lobster from the tail and push it to the ground for capture

Other Considerations

While embarking on your lobster fishing adventure in Hawaii, bear in mind these essential points:

  1. Always follow local regulations to promote sustainable and responsible fishing; knowing optimal hunting locations is crucial.
  2. Prioritize safety measures when diving for lobsters and ensure you have the appropriate gear and knowledge of diving techniques.
  3. Understand lobster behavior and habitats to maximize your chances of a successful catch.
  4. To prepare your catch, handle lobsters properly and humanely dispatch them before trying out delicious Hawaiian lobster recipes.

Considerations for Snorkeling and Lobster Catching

Remember: Look, don’t touch policy when snorkeling or diving to protect marine life.

You may find it difficult capturing lobsters while snorkeling due to their secretive nature and deeper habitats, so it may not be ideal.

No fishing license required, but respect fishing restrictions in preserve areas. Also be aware of the months you are allowed to fish, and the time they are banned by looking at the Hawaii Fishing Calendar.

Handling and Cooking Your Fresh Catch

So, you’ve snagged some delicious crustaceans – let’s dive into how to handle and cook them like a pro!

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Lobster cleaning safety is crucial to ensure you don’t harm yourself or the quality of the meat.

When handling live lobsters, always grasp them by the body, behind the claws, to avoid getting pinched.

Use a sharp knife to dispatch the lobster quickly and humanely by inserting the knife into the head between the eyes and slicing down the length of the body.

Once the lobster is dispatched, you can remove the head, tail, and legs, then rinse the body under cold water to remove any debris or leftover innards.

Now that your lobster is cleaned and prepared, it’s time to get creative with some Hawaiian recipes.

Hawaii’s unique blend of flavors and cooking techniques make for some truly mouthwatering lobster dishes.

Here are four ideas to inspire your culinary journey:

  • Lobster Poke: Combine cooked lobster meat with traditional poke ingredients like soy sauce, sesame oil, green onions, and toasted sesame seeds for a fresh and flavorful island appetizer.
  • Grilled Lobster with Pineapple Salsa: Grill your lobster tail and serve it with a zesty pineapple salsa made from fresh pineapple, jalapeños, cilantro, and lime juice for a tropical twist on a classic dish.
  • Lobster Coconut Curry: Simmer lobster meat in a rich coconut milk-based curry with spices like ginger, garlic, and curry powder, then serve over steamed rice for a comforting and fragrant meal.
  • Lobster Stuffed Avocado: Stuff ripe avocado halves with a mixture of cooked lobster meat, diced tomatoes, red onion, and cilantro, then drizzle with a tangy lime vinaigrette for a light and healthy lunch option.

With these creative Hawaiian recipes in your arsenal, you’ll be able to turn your fresh catch into a gourmet feast that will impress even the most discerning of seafood lovers.


In conclusion, you’re now well-equipped with the knowledge and tips to conquer the Hawaiian waters in search of delicious lobsters.

Remember, timing and location are crucial for a successful catch, so plan your adventure accordingly.

Once you’ve got your gear and techniques down, you’ll be able to reel in your fresh catch with ease.

Enjoy the fruits of your labor and treat yourself to a mouthwatering Hawaiian lobster feast—you’ve earned it!