I’ve gotten a lot of wild questions over the years ranging from the obvious to the downright bizarre. These are some of the more common questions I get about fishing in Hawaii.
About Charter Fishing in Hawaii
What's the difference between a private charter and a share boat?
A PRIVATE fishing charter means that only your party will be on board. And, of course, the captain and crew! Just you and your friends, typically up to 6 people total.
A SHARE boat means that the vessel arranges it so you share the cost of the charter with other people who are unknown to you. You pay a per person rate.
If you have 5 in your party, you’re better off to take the boat privately because 5 SHARE tickets will usually cost within a few dollars of the private rate anyway. This also allows you more flexibility to either cut a trip short (don’t expect a pro rated refund) or stay out longer (yeah, you’ll probably have to pay for the extended time), though the captain always has the last say on these issues.
Say you and a friend wanted to go fishing, but didn’t want to pay $1,300. You book 2 seats on a SHARED boat at, say, $250 each. The vessel will try to put 2-4 other people on board with you.
Share boat fishing charters don’t target anything differently. The boats usually run 6 rods and if a fish bites your rod, you get to fight it.
Most of the Maui sportfishing boats listed on this site are licensed to carry six passengers. Some of them do not do “shares”. There are no boats here that do strictly shares, like the ‘head’ boats out of CA or FL.
Drawbacks of Share Boats:
- You don’t get to choose who goes out fishing with you. You might get stuck with whiners, barfers, drunks or other less than desirable fishing buddies. You’re also then tied to their schedules. Say your on a hot bite or fighting a big marlin, and “Joe Whiner” has a tee time or a plane to catch. The captain will often have no choice, but to force the issue by leaving the bite or breaking your marlin off!
- Virtually all the boats that do shares require a minimum of 4 passengers to confirm a trip. They may “bump” (cancel) a share boat, in favor of a private, if their minimum has not been met. Let’s say you and your friend sign up for a share trip next Weds. On Saturday, a party calls and requests a private charter for that same Weds. If the boat has no other people signed up with you, they may cancel your reservation (you will be notified, and your deposit or payment will be refunded). It’s not a matter of giving preference to private charters. If you booked a party of 4 they would not bump your charter for a private. None of the boats will ‘guarantee’ to run a charter that doesn’t cover the costs, meaning having the minimum # of passengers. All of the fishing boats on Maui have a 24-72 hr. cancellation policy. Though a boat may have the minimum when you book, there is the possibility that someone may cancel a few days before the charter, dropping the count below the minimum. If they aren’t able to get the minimum back, or a private comes up before that happens, you get bumped. Naturally, fishing boats with good catch records attract more privates. This doesn’t mean that you can’t get a good boat on a share basis, but it does require more flexibility as to which vessel and which dates.
- Charter companies that operate more than one boat will not say which of their boats you will go out on if you book on a share basis. They may place their shares on the #2 or #3 boat, which is usually smaller or slower or older, etc.. I’m sure they have economic reasons for doing this, but I personally don’t agree with this policy. If I were making a reservation, I would want to know which boat I was going out on. If they charged less for their #2 boats, I could understand it. This policy seems too much like a ‘bait n switch’ to me. If you inquire about a share trip with one of these companies, I will inform you again of this policy, and probably recommend that you book with a single boat company
- Murphy’s Law (The Share Boat Corollary): The least desirable of your fishing buddies will catch the big one of the day!
How much does it cost?
The cost of a fishing trip on Maui depends largely on THREE factors:
- Whether you plan to share the cost of a charter, or book privately.
- How long you fish for.
- What level of luxury you demand.
Shareboats average around $190 – $280 per person for a day of sport fishing (bottom fishing is a bit less). Private charters average between $850 – $1500.
For full details, read this page
How long should we go fishing for?
On a Maui deep sea fishing charter, the longer you fish, the better the odds. The “bite” moves constantly. There are days that the bite is very close to the harbors and there are days that the bite is two hours away, and there is no way to predict that in advance. The best chance of catching big game fish is on an 8 hour charter leaving in the early morning.
Inshore trips using lighter tackle (Bottomfishing trips, etc) do not need to stay out for 8 hours to be successful. 4 hours is usually plenty of time to have good luck bottomfishing, inshore slow trolling from 4-6 hours.
What time do the fishing boats go out?
Given the choice, most captains would prefer to sleep in! But the fish don’t usually oblige. Fish generally feed just before dawn and at sunset, with mornings being a bit more active. If a captain can get you on fish just before these times your odds of catching are pretty darned good!
Sportfishing: Departure times vary from boat to boat, with the earliest leaving at 2:00am or earlier. The average departure time is around 5:30am. If you are booking a private charter, you may request a departure time that fits your schedule better. Bear in mind, few captains will change departure times for share boats.
Bottomfishing: Departure times range between 6:30 – 7:30am, with some offering departure times at late as 10am and 1pm.
Click the button below to view a table of different fishing boats. If you’re viewing on a compater, you can sort the table in order of departure time (last column on the right)
How far offshore do you go?
Bottom fishing boats stay pretty close to shore, dropping their lines just off the edge of the reef. That’s one of the reasons why Maui bottom fishing charters are often shorter. A light tackle trip out of Lahaina need only power out for about 10-15 minutes before they’ve reached any number of suitable spots. The trips out of Ma’alaea usually drive a bit further, heading either south towards Wailea, or north around the Pali Lookout to Olowalu. The location will depend upon the wind, and sea conditions, and recent successes. You will have a clear view of land at all times.
Sport fishing boats will venture further offshore, particularly those that fish for 8+ hours. Marlin, ahi, mahi mahi and ono tend to bite better in the early morning. Their favorite gathering places are around FADS/buoys, floating logs, and any manner of flotsam that allows for a mini eco-system to develop around it (tiny fish hide in/under the objects. These are eaten by slightly bigger fish, and those by even bigger fish. And so on up the chain). It takes time to reach/locate these places, so as a rule, the longer fish for, the better your odds.
Of course, rules were meant to be broken! There have been days when the sport fishing boats that left at 2:00am, drive around for hours only to discover those fishing the inshore waters were much more successful!
Fishing is fishing, after all.
What do you fish for off Maui?
Anything that bites!! Seriously though, the boats usually don’t target any one particular species, but some captains have their “preferences”. Contact me and I can help you find the right one.
The boats’ primary catch include big game fish such as marlin (a’u), tuna (skipjack, aku, yellowfin ahi, kawakawa), wahoo (ono), and mahi-mahi (dolphin/dorado). Here’s a page briefly describing the most common types of game fish caught off Maui.
Fish caught on one of Maui’s recreational bottomfishing trips include smaller varieties of reef fish such as ta’ape, nabeta, ehu, aweoweo, barracuda, moi’lua, goat fish, trigger fish, shark, gray snapper, and trevally. Most are under 5lbs., but anglers do get lucky and land much larger fish. Many of the fish are considered good eating. Ya just don’t know WHAT’S going to bite down there!! There are no halibut, rock cod, calico bass, sheep head, red fish, drum, yellow tail, jew fish, or giant grouper here (oh yeah, I get folks asking me about the halibut season in Hawaii). Here’a a page introducing many of Maui’s inshore reef and bottomfish.
Can we keep what we catch?
If you go bottom fishing you can keep everything you catch as long as there are no legal limits imposed upon the species you bring in. Few of the fish you’ll be catching fall into this category. The captain will filet up any fish you wish to take back with you and even share a couple of recipes if you ask.
Sport fishing policies are different. In Hawaii it is customary to leave the catch with the captain to distribute as he deems appropriate. In most cases he’ll cut up one or two fish for clients, then keep the rest whole to sell to local restaurants which helps to defray the high cost of lost and broken tackle.
Maui’s captains are as a rule, very generous. They’ll usually give you as much fish as you’ll need, particularly if you’re booking a private charter. Whether they’re willing to send you off with enough to feed a party of ten back at your condo is another story.
As of this writing, there is only one sport fishing company I am aware of that will allow sport fishing clients booking a shared trip to keep the fish they catch. Contact me and I’ll hook up up (be sure to mention you want to keep what you catch in the notes).
In most cases, everyone is offered a portion of the day’s catch, regardless of who brings in the fish.
Can I have my fish mounted / stuffed?
Hoping to display your catch on the wall of your office? No problem. There are a couple of options available to you.
These are professionally created fiberglass castings of fish that are the same species, length and girth of the fish you caught. the Maui fleet works with professional marine taxidermists on the mainland who produce amazingly accurate representations of your fish. These trophies are not mass produced. Each is individually cast, prepared and painted by professional marine artists. The process is neither quick, nor cheap, so make absolutely sure it is what you (and your partner) want hanging on your wall for years to come.
GYOTAKU / FISH PRINTS
A faster, and more economical way to go is with a Gyotaku, or Japanese Fish Print. Local artists will make an imprint of your fish on either fabric or paper, and will embellish it to create a unique and beautiful representation of your ACTUAL fish. Depending on how long you’re here for, the size of the fish, and the complexity of the finish work required, you may even be able to carry the finished piece with you on the plane back home.
Be sure to talk to your captain / crew about trophy options before you release your catch!
Trophies – what to do with your catch
Can we take the kids fishing?
Most Maui fishing boats will not take children under 8 years of age on a shared sportfishing charter. The gear is too heavy, seas are often higher, and most kids’ attention spans can’t handle the longer hours required. It can make for a miserable trip for a young one, not to mention the parents enduring the complaints and grumpy faces.
Near shore fishing like bottomfishing is the preferred method of fishing for families with kids. The gear is lighter, the days shorter, waters often calmer, and the likelihood of getting “skunked” is less than on your typical trolling trip. Everyone will almost certainly catch something even if it is smaller.
Bringing a toddler or an infant on a fishing trip is not recommended.
Contact me. I’ll fill you in.
What's the weather going to be like? Will it be rough?
You must be kidding!! If we could predict the weather, we could make a lot more money than we make sport fishing!
Here’s what I DO know…
- As the day warms up, the trade winds tend to increase.
Consequently, the ocean is often rougher in the afternoons.
- Just because it’s raining at your condo/hotel, doesn’t mean it’s raining off shore.
- Just because it’s raining offshore doesn’t mean the fish aren’t biting.
- The captain gets the last word on weather cancellations.
If you have not been notified of a trip cancellation, assume you’re
going and show up at the dock.
- If the captain gives you the “option” of cancelling due to weather,
it’s my advice that you take it unless you’re a glutton for punishment.
- Your credit card will not be charged should a captain cancel
a trip due to weather. If your card was charged in advance, then a
refund will be issued.
Passenger safety is always a captain’s utmost concern. If you find the sea conditions not to your liking, you may request the captain to take you to calmer waters. However, refunds are not normally granted, should you make the decision to return to port. If anyone in your party is subject to motion sickness, we recommend they take appropriate medications or go shopping instead!
Do I have to make a reservation, or can I just show up at the harbor?
It is highly unlikely that you will be able to just show up at the harbor without a reservation and find a decent sportfishing boat to take you out.
Certain times of the year are extremely busy on Maui! Some of these are “no brainers” like: Christmas (December 20th through January 10th); Spring Break (early to late March); Memorial Day weekend; 4th of July weekend etc.. There are also a number of fishing tournaments, such as the World Cup (4th of July), the Pro-Am Hawaiian Billfish Tournament, the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament (August), the Lanai Rendezvous (September), the Lahaina Jackpot Tournament (late October). These tournaments run anywhere from 1-5 days. Many of the boats shut down to prepare for them a few days in advance, and often a day or two after. During those periods, not only are many of the better boats unavailable, but their ‘dance cards’ are extremely full for the 2 weeks on either side of the tournaments.
Additionally, Maui hosts many large convention/incentive groups. IBM, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Glaxo, Chevy, Digital, etc. etc. often bring in hundreds of people, and book all of the boats for days. Obviously, the hotels/airlines offer them good rates to come here in the slower weeks.
Other factors, such as the severity of the winter, storms, natural disasters, and political or economic unrest in other areas, can affect how busy Maui is.
How do I make a reservation?
Easiest way for you to make a reservation is to email me, or call if you’re coming inside the next few days. (808-344-3520)
The boats require credit card info, in lieu of a deposit, to hold a reservation. Your card is typically not charged until the day of the charter (one particular company charges 48 hours in advance). In most cases, you can change or cancel your reservation no later than 24-72 hours before the charter without penalty. You also have the option to pay with cash, travel checks, or different credit card the morning of the fishing charter.
How far in advance should I make a reservation?
How far in advance you book your fishing charter depends on your vacation schedule, choice of vessel, and that vessel’s availability. If you are limited to one particular day, and prefer a particular vessel, then book well in advance; don’t wait till you get here!
Once I've booked a trip, is my reservation guaranteed?
No reservation, share or private, is ever truly ‘guaranteed’. A vessel may be forced to cancel a fishing charter due to weather, mechanical failure, or other reasons beyond the control of the boat company. That company may be able to find you another boat, but that’s not always possible.
Or, if you book a share trip, and the vessel does not have enough people signed up for that day, they will try and move you to another day or they will cancel the charter. Boats won’t fish with fewer people than it takes for them to break even.
With these thoughts in mind, it is a good idea to reconfirm your reservation a day or two in advance.
A few of the more memorable questions received over the years… aka: What NOT to ask your charter boat captain
How many times have you flipped this boat?
This isn’t a river kayak. You only get one shot at it.
What's on the other side of the island?
More water. It’s an island.
What's the elevation here?
Honestly, this question requires no response beyond a deadpan expression.
Where's the tunnel that the cars take to get to Honolulu?
You mean the submersible drawbridge? Rusted out a few years back. Flying is your only option now.
Do you live here?
No. We commute.
OK, this query was pretty funny when posed to the captain at the helm. These days it’s a valid question.
If you’ve read my “about us” page, you’ll discover that the original author/captain of this website, my husband Mike Crawford, passed away in October 2012. I now manage FishMaui.com from my home on another island.
I still talk story with the owners/captains nearly every day and rely heavily on client feedback for my recommendations. So, while I may not be soaking up the Maui sunshine, the spirit of Aloha is still alive and well in the heart of Fish Maui.
Maui is, and always will be “No Ka Oi”