Do humpback whales effect a Maui fishing charter? Well, yes and no. The fish don’t care much, but captains are at the mercy of a humpback’s movements. Federal regulations prohibit approaching humpback whales (by any means) within 100 yards (90 m) when on or in the water. These regulations apply to all ocean users, year-round throughout the Hawaiian Islands, except as authorized under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).
The first humpback whales of the season were sighted off Mala wharf in Lahaina on October 14, 2014. The whales will continue to be seen here through about mid-April, with the height of the season falling during the end of February, beginning of March. While there are fewer humpback whales towards the end of March, those that are around are often very active and gather in larger pods (what we used “heat runs”). IMHO, the last 2 weeks of march is just about the best time to whale watch off Maui!
If you’re visiting Maui between Jan – March, and you’re vacillating between a fishing charter and whale watching, then consider combining the two!
Can we whale watch on our Maui fishing charter?
Fishing charter captains will stop their engines or at least slow down considerably if whales are nearby. Understandably, most captains will want to get outside of the 100 yard limit and get back to sport fishing as soon as possible unless you’ve told them you want to see the whales.
There are a few boats that enjoy a bit of whale watching. Plus they’re good at it! So if you’d like to combine a few hours of fishing with an hour or two of whale watching let me know. I’ll put you on the right boat! You’ll want a private charter. Not a share since others on board your share trip may not share your enthusiasm.
Does the presence of whales affect fishing in Maui?
Every year, we receive email from folks who have the erroneous idea that Maui gamefish are afraid of the whales. Baloney!!!
It’s my belief that the gamefish could care less. Humpbacks aren’t actively feeding during the winter months. The whales pose no threat to the fish. Sure they’re big, but fish have speed and agility on their side. That said, having whales around CAN affect an offshore trolling trip. You can’t successfully troll for marlin if you’re moving at no-wake speed. As I mentioned, the boats are required to slow, or move outside 100 yards.
Amazing whale encounter
One of the boats we book regularly had an amazing whale encounter last year. This particular humpback “whale mugging” went on for a little over 30 minutes. Believe me, this is NOT your normal whale watching experience! I worked with the Pacific Whale Foundation for roughly 3 years back in the late 80’s. I was on the water nearly 8 hours per day documenting whale behavior and I never had a whale experience quite like this one.