Fishing on Maui

Hanapa‘a!

That’s the phrase you hope to be screaming whenever you’re fishing on Maui. It’s Hawaiian slang for “hook up” or “fish on.” Hanapa‘a can be screamed from shore or while trolling behind a boat — as long as your reel is suddenly whistling and screaming right along with you.

Most of the fishing you’ll find on Maui is deep sea fishing offshore, where anglers troll for mahimahi, ono, ahi and marlin. While the fishing on Maui is spectacular year round, there are still some notable differences in seasons in terms of what will bite.

The Best “Seasons” for Fishing on Maui

Summer, in general, is the best time of year for trophy fish like yellowfin tuna and blue marlin. The largest yellowfin tuna, or ahi, can weigh well over 100 lbs., and blue marlin can tip the scales at over 1,000 lbs. Spring is the best time for mahimahi, as well as wahoo, or ono and striped marlin become more common as springtime morphs into summer.

Bottom fishing is better in fall and winter. And while the overall quantity of fish might be higher, the fish on average tend to be smaller — but still big enough for dinner. That said, Maui doesn’t really have “seasons” in a strictly traditional sense, since trophy marlin and yellowfin tuna have been caught every month of the year.
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The Best Fishing Spots on Maui

In terms of where to fish on Maui, all commercial fishing charters depart from either Lahaina Harbor, or in South Maui at Mā‘alaea Harbor. In theory, you can cast your lines the moment you leave the harbor breakwall behind. But because the waters between Maui and Lāna‘i are only 200 feet deep, fishing charters with the best chances of success are those that leave in the early morning around 2:30 or 3 a.m.

The best fishing in Maui County is where the shelf drops thousands of feet off the western side of Lāna‘i, and where buoys, or FADs, have been placed to attract pelagic fish. The north shore of Moloka‘i is another spot where the bite is usually running. But since both places are two hours away, if you want to be at the buoys by dawn, then you better set an early alarm. Even if you leave a bit later, around 5:30 or 6 a.m., you can still make it out to the deep-water buoys by booking an 8-hour charter.

Fishing With the Family

If you aren’t shooting for a trophy fish, or are planning to fish with your kids, spending a few hours bottom fishing might be more exciting. You don’t need to motor nearly as far, and it’s much more fun to catch a dozen fish than holding out hope for the big one.

Learn to Spearfish

Or, if you want to try something different and adventurous, there are also a couple of Maui companies that will teach you the sport of spearfishing. Learn how to equalize, or pop your ears, and how to increase your breath holds, all while hunting invasive fish that damage the island’s reefs. Participants need to know how to swim, and should be comfortable breathing through a snorkel while keeping a calm, patient eye for that flit of color in the reef.

Fishing off Maui. Photo: Flash and Mel.

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