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. Most bottomfish here are relatively 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.
The captains/crews aboard Maui’s sport fishing boats will typically filet a portion of the day’s catch for their clients. How much a given captain provides will depend on the quality/quantity of the fish caught that day, as well as the overall mood of the day. Any marketable fish they don’t cut up will be sold whole to local restaurants. Ahi over 100 lbs will most likely not be cut.
Additionally, most captains prefer ‘catch ‘n release’ 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!
In Hawaii, anything caught 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 (contact me if you’re interested in those). But even then, if the captain feels your request is unreasonable, he probably won’t make it easy on you!
Will the boats give us enough fish for a dinner or two?
Absolutely! Each and every Maui charter company I work with will be happy to fillet – at no charge – a portion of the day’s catch for you and your group to enjoy while you’re here. Exactly how much they give you will depend on what is caught, how much is caught, and how much they feel you really need.
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 process, 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!