Courtesy of the clear waters and incredible biodiversity, Hawaii is one of the premier spearfishing locations in the world. While it takes considerable effort to reach the isolated islands, once in Hawaii, it is simple to get started spearfishing. The state does not require a license, and you can purchase or rent the necessary equipment from many local retailers.
Rules and Regulations
No license is required to spearfish recreationally in the ocean; however, you must obey a few safety rules when doing so. For example, spear fishers must mark their position with a blue and white “diver down” flag, and they must remain within 100 feet of the flag whenever surfacing. Flags must be at least 12 inches by 12 inches, unless the boat associated with the spear fishers is larger than 16 feet in length, in which case the flag must measure at least 20 inches by 20 inches. Some locations prohibit spearfishing or restrict the number or species of fish that you can harvest.
Some species native to Hawaiian waters are subject to size limitations or bag limits. For example, striped mullet may only be taken during the open season between April and November. Some regulations vary from one island to the next; fishermen pursuing kumu in Maui can only take specimens that are at least 12 inches in length, while kumu need only be 10 inches long to be harvested in the waters surrounding the other islands. The state also enforces a five-fish-limit for the so-called “Deep 7,” which includes onaga, ehu, kalekale, opakapaka, gindai, hapu‘u and lehi. It is unlawful to harvest marine invertebrates except the introduced freshwater prawn, nor is it legal to target marine mammals or turtles.
Targeting Invasive Species
Unlike fishing with nets or lines, spearfishing allows you to target specific species. This is helpful for reducing the populations of invasive species, which are wreaking havoc on Hawaii’s marine ecosystems. Some commonly harvested aliens include the peacock grouper and blacktail snapper; while the former frequently cause ciguatera poisoning, and should not be consumed, the latter make excellent table fare. In addition to these species, milkfish, giant trevally and bluestripe snappers are invasive species that spearfishing enthusiasts should target whenever possible.
Techniques and Tips
Over the years, spear fishers have developed a number of techniques to harvest fish. Some spear fishers emphasize stalking their quarry and try to get as close as possible before firing at a target. Others prefer to hone their marksmanship, and pride themselves on ambushing fish from long distances. Tapping your spear gun with your dive knife may attract surface-dwelling fish, while bottom dwellers often respond to divers who kick sand off the bottom.
Gadgets and Gear
Spear fishers rely on different gear, depending on personal preference. You can select from a variety of spear guns, including simple, traditional models – known locally as Hawaiian slings or three-prongs -- or modern, riflelike models. Some choose to use scuba gear, enabling them to stay underwater for extended time periods, while others opt to use snorkels and stay closer to the surface – in both cases, a quality mask helps you spot your quarry. Oversize flippers are helpful for traveling long distances with ease, while dive weights help spear fishers overcome their natural buoyancy, and descend more easily. While Hawaiian waters are relatively warm, many spear fishers wear wet suits to provide additional comfort and protect themselves from flailing fish and sharp coral.
- State of Hawaii: Division of Aquatic Resources: Special Provisions, Licenses and Permits
- Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources: Do I Need a License to Do Some Spearfishing?
- Topshot Spearfishing: Hawaii Invasive Fish Species
- Maui Spearfishing Academy: Fish Identification
- State of Hawaii: Division of Aquatic Resources: Marine Fishes and Other Vertebrates
- State of Hawaii: Division of Aquatic Resources: Bottom Fishing
- HawaiiBeachcombers.com: Hawaii Spearfishing
- Photo Credit FtLaudGirl/iStock/Getty Images
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