What kind of fish can I catch?

Yellowfin Tuna aka Ahi, Shibi (Thunnus albacares)

Yellow Fin Tuna Picture

Ahi (Yellowfin Tuna) are readily available, great to eat, and fun challenge to reel-in, making them one of the most popular fish to catch in Hawaiian waters. They grow to full size in 5 to 6 years and are fast in the water. Yellowfin tuna are usually divided into two groups: Ahi are typically the larger yellowfin and over 100 lbs., while the smaller yellowfin under 100 lbs. are called Shibi.  The larger ahi will more likely to have a higher fat content compared to smaller shibi but both are excellent for eating raw, seared or broiled. (If you’ve ever tried local Hawaii poke, you’ll know what we mean!)

Yellowfin Tuna are easily identified by their bright yellow finlets along the spines; their flesh ranges from pink to deep red, depending the size of the fish. Shibi are always found in schools, while ahi are only sometimes found in schools.

Hawaii’s record for the largest Yellowfin Tuna is 325 lbs. set by Joey Cabell on July 13, 1990 on Lana’i.

Skipjack Tuna aka Aku (Katsuwonus pelamis)

Picture of Skipjack Tuna - Aku

Skipjack Tuna, also known as Aku, are fun and exciting fish to catch. They are prevalent in the waters surrounding all the Hawaiian Islands and run in large schools so, when you find a school of Aku, there’ll be plenty of opportunities to catch more than one!  The meat of Skipjack tuna is oily and dark. In Hawaii, larger Skipjack tuna are sometimes called otaru or otado. The larger aku, usually over 20 lbs., is sometimes good for sashimi or poke but all aku are great grilled or pan-fried. Aku are also used as live bait for Marlin.

Aku are small torpedo-shaped fish, averaging about 5 lbs., but with soft tissues around their jaw in conjunction with their speed and strength, they still take some effort to catch. Even so, they are great for beginners and younger anglers and provide an intermediate level of effort to catch.

Hawaii’s record for the largest Skipjack Tuna is 40 lbs. 8 oz. set by David Borgman on July 2, 2000 in Haleiwa.

Blue Marlin aka Kajiki (Makaira mazara)

Fishing for a Blue Marlin is one of the most exhilarating experiences in Hawaiian waters. At an average weight of 200 lbs., catching a Blue Marlin is a prize among many deep sea anglers. It can be quite a challenge to reel one in and dangerous if not handled properly, but the experience alone is often an extraordinary story and adventure! Blue Marlin can be served a variety of ways, especially because the fish is so big, but smoked marlin is a local favorite!

Blue Marlin can range from 100 to over 1000 lbs.! Like many of the sport fish in Hawaiian waters, there are peak seasons, but Blue Marlin is basically available all year round. In Hawaii, Blue Marlin may also be referred to as Kajiki, the Japanese name for the Blue Marlin.

Hawaii’s record for the largest Blue Marlin is 1,805 lbs. set by Gail Choy-Kaleiki on June 10, 1970 in Wai’anae.

Common Dolphinfish aka Mahi Mahi (Coryphaena Hippurus)

Picture of Mahi Mahi - Dolphinfish

Mahi Mahi, also known as a dolphinfish or Dorado is a colorful fish with a boxy hump at the head; the average weight is approximately 20 lbs but they can also get over 50 lbs. too! They tend to travel in school and are fast swimmers; they will sometimes jump out of the water when caught. Mahi Mahi is probably the fish most frequently associated with local Hawaii cuisine and has pink flesh with a nice, mild flavor when cooked. There are many ways to prepare Mahi Mahi including, in fish tacos, baked, pan-fried, or grilled and pair well with the local-style marinades and seasons.

In addition to the boxy hump on their heads, Mahi Mahi are easy to recognize with beautiful golden bodies with blue and green coloring on their sides. They tend to travel in schools and are attracted to floating objects.

Hawaii’s record for the largest Mahi Mahi is 82 lbs. set by Kathy Hunter on September 24, 1987 in Kailua-Kona.

 

Wahoo aka Ono (Acanthocybium solandri)

Picture of Wahoo - Ono

Wahoo, also known as Ono in Hawaii are one of the fastest and fiercest fish to catch in Hawaiian waters. Often found near drop-offs, even when caught, reeling them in can be quite an adventure as they can swim over 45 mph and will sometimes dive down when hooked. The fight is worth it, though, because they are absolutely delicious, often served as steaks for in fish tacos.

Ono have striped long and slender bodies with extremely sharp teeth and average around 20-25 lbs. They do not swim in schools and are related to mackerels.

Hawaii’s record for the largest Ono is 133.2 lbs. set by Tom Brandt and Sky Mullins on December 2, 2000 in Pohoiki.

Sailfish (Istiophorus platypterus)

Picture of a Hawaii Sailfish

Sailfish are a rare and beautiful prize in Hawaiian waters. Don’t expect to find them all the time as they don’t tend to get to close to the islands and even when caught will put up quite a fight while being reeled-in.  They average around 45 lbs. and can be prepared both raw for poke, pan-fried, smoked, or baked.

Sailfish are considered one of the fastest fish in the ocean and are recognized for their bluish to purplish large dorsal fin and the extended bill which they use to hunt smaller fish. Like other members of the marlin family, they are known for jumping out the water.

Hawaii’s record for the largest Sailfish is 151 lbs. set by Rodney Takaki on May 5, 2013 in Punalu’u.

 

Striped Marlin aka A’u or Nairagi (Tetrapturus audax)

Picture of a striped marlin

Striped Marlins are a fun and exciting fish to catch out in deeper Hawaiian waters.  They are smaller than their cousins, the Blue Marlin, averaging at about 60 lbs. but once caught, they can give just as thrilling a fight before being reeled-in. Also, they tend to travel in small packs. Striped Marlin can be eaten raw as sashimi or as fillets grilled, baked, or pan-fried.

The Striped Marlin is beautiful fish with blue side stripes and the bluish purple dorsal fin make the easily recognizable. The average size is approximately 60 lbs and, in Hawaii, they tend to range anywhere from 40 to 100 lbs.

Hawaii’s record for the largest Striped Marlin is 212 lbs. set by the Bickerstaff and Clark families on March 25, 2011 in Keahole Point.

Black Marlin aka A’u (Istiompax indica)

Picture of a black marlin

Black Marlin are native to Australia so they tend to be rare to Hawaiian waters. They are similar to their cousins, Blue Marlin, except they have black fins, and are most often found accidentally while hunting for Blue Marlin. Similarly, with an average size of 200 lbs, they’ll put up quite a fight once they’re hooked. Marlin are great served in a variety of ways and often eaten the as steaks baked, pan-fried, or smoked.

Black Marlin are one of the fastest and largest in the marlin family. The most notable features are their rigid black fins and more solid coloring.  Because they are usually found in Australia, there isn’t as much information about their habits in Hawaii.

Hawaii’s record for the largest Black Marlin is 1,205 lbs. set by the Lei Aloha on July 19, 1980 in Red Hill.

 

Shortbill Spearfish aka Hebi (Tetrapturus angustirostris)

The Shortbill Spearfish are also called Hebi in Hawaii. They are a smaller member of the marlin family and, in Hawaii, typically average between 25 to 35 lbs. Hebi have a white to pink-colored flesh and are delicious eat raw as sashimi, pan-fried, or grilled.

Hebi have long, tube-like bodies, shorter bills, and beautiful blue and silver coloring. They can be very jumpy when caught.

Hawaii’s record for the largest Spearfish is 76.8 lbs. set by the Alan Cadiz on November 20, 2011 in North Shore, Maui.

Kawakawa aka Bonito (Euthynnus affinis)

Picture of Kawakawa

KawaKawa, also known as Bonito, are a type of mackerel tuna. The average weight is 5 lbs. and they are often mistaken with Aku. They are often used as live bait, but you can also be eaten broiled or pan-fried.

Kawakawa are silver with spots on the underbelly. They may try to put up a fight, but usually are too small to create much of a challenge.

Hawaii’s record for the largest Kawakawa is 33.37 lbs. set by the Capt. Eric Hawkins on June 28, 2014 in Moloka’i.