Here on Maui, the subject of keeping the fish you catch comes up again and again, year after year. I’d really like to put the matter to bed, once and for all. So here goes…
Can I keep the fish we catch?
Most bottom fishing boats on Maui allow you to keep whatever fish you catch (unless they plan on using it as bait). The captain/crew will let you know which are tasty and safe to eat. Maui’s bottom fish are usually small – under 3 pounds. We don’t have halibut on Maui, and the grouper we do have are frequent carriers of the marine toxin ciguatera, so are not eaten.
In Hawaii, anything caught while sport fishing is the property of the charter company (the commercial permit holder) to distribute as they feel appropriate. There are only a couple of sport fishing charter companies on Maui with policies stating that you can keep whatever fish you catch. Even then, I’ve found that some captains don’t always adhere to company policy! Not to worry. All will usually fillet a portion of the day’s catch for their clients. Some, indeed, will give it all to you if you ask. How much a given captain provides will depend on a number of factors like the quality/quantity of the fish caught that day. Any marketable fish they don’t cut up will usually be sold whole to local restaurants or shared with friends/family. Ahi over 100 lbs will most likely not be cut.
Most captains prefer ‘catch ‘n release’ for billfish like blue marlin. Only billfish which are unlikely to survive the fight will be boated for photo opportunities and smoked for the meat. If you’re lucky enough to hook a marlin on your Maui fishing charter, and you are hoping for photos, be sure to ask the crew if it is possible to get a picture of you alongside the fish as it’s brought to the side of the boat!
Will the boats give us enough fish for a dinner or two?
Absolutely! With few exceptions, the charter companies I work with will be happy to fillet – at no charge – a portion of the day’s catch for you to enjoy while you’re on island.
Are there restaurants that will prepare our fish for us?
A few, yes, but none that will allow me to put that in writing! Speak with the captain that day. They’ll have some suggestions for you if you don’t have access to a stove or BBQ here on Maui.
I want to ship the fish I catch home. Can I do that?
Maui is not Cabo, or Alaska, or Florida. We don’t have any canneries, or shipping services specific to perishable fish, so if you do end up with a cooler full of mahimahi on your lanai it’ll be your responsibility to pack, and ship. The boats do not get involved. My advice: don’t waste your valuable vacation time trying to hunt down dry ice, gel packs and airline regulations. Enjoy your fish FRESH!
UPDATE: I ran across a company that not only delivers fresh fish to you at your condo (just in case the fishing is slow the day you go out) but claims to pack and ship your catch if you ask. It’s not cheap, but it’ll save you running around. Tell Chimo “Lili at FishMaui.com sent me”