Hawaiian Coastal Pelagic Fish by Hook and Line


Fishermen use a variety of artisanal hook-and-line methods to catch coastal pelagic fish such as tuna, marlin, swordfish, mahi mahi, wahoo (ono) and others. A pole and line with live bait scattered into the water is used to catch feeding skipjack tuna. Trolling with lures and lines, and handlines with lures, lines and bait bags are used to target larger fish such as bigeye tuna, swordfish, mahi mahi and wahoo. Catch rates are typically low for these methods, usually only a few pounds per hour with little bycatch (discards). These small-scale fishing methods are similar to those traditionally used by native Hawaiians.


Pelagic Handline

Hook-and-line fishing selectively targets pelagic fish with fishermen choosing their methods depending on their targeted species and fishing area. Pole-and-line fishing catches skipjack and juvenile tuna near the sea surface. Tuna are hooked on lines and in one motion swung onto the deck. Handline gear targets large, deep-swimming tuna for sashimi markets. There are three types of handline methods ika-shibi (nighttime) method, palu-ahi (daytime) method and seamount fishing (which combines both handline and troll methods). Troll fishing is conducted by towing lures or baited hooks from a moving vessel, using rods and reels as well as hydraulic haulers, outriggers and other gear. Up to six lines rigged with artificial lures or live bait may be trolled when outrigger poles are used to keep gear from tangling.

Hawaiian Coastal Pelagic Fish by Hoopnet

Ōpelu with Hoop Net


Fish harvesters use a traditional fishing technique to catch ‘Ōpelu (mackerel scad) in Miloli’i, one of the last fishing villages in Hawai’i. Community harvesters feed the ‘Ōpelu at koa or schooling sites using palu or vegetable feed in Hawaiian. After spawning, the fishing season begins in August when harvesters in canoes use the palu to attract the fish into schools and then capture them in hoop nets.


Hoop Net

‘Ōpelu is harvested in the fishing community of Miloli’i in a traditional fishery that involves fish harvesters and their youth. The community feeds the fish at “koa” or schooling sites from April to July, allowing the fish time to grown and spawn. During the fishing season, youth apprentices join harvesters in canoes with paddles or outboard engines for two to four days per week. They use “palu” (vegetable feed) to attract ‘Ōpelu into schools and then use a hoop net to surround and scoop the small fish from below.

In the fishing village of Miloli’i’ on the southeast coast of Hawai’i, about 10 families regularly fish ‘Ōpelu. Craig Carvalho and Kukulu Kuahuia are two of the village’s master fishermen who have a combined 80 plus years of fishing experience. They are both experts on the history and traditional fishing practices, which were handed down to them by their fathers.

Hawaiian Bottomfish by Hook & Line


Fishermen use rods and reels to catch six species of snapper and one species of grouper that are called “bottomfish” and nicknamed the “deep 7” because they live at the bottom of the sea around the Hawaiian archipelago. Each vessel has two to four weighted mainlines that are lowered and raised with reels to depths of 1,200 feet. Baited hooks branch off this mainline. This fishing method is similar to those traditionally used by native Hawaiians.


Deep-sea Rod & Reel

This hook-and-line method of fishing uses a heavy mainline that is lowered and raised with electric, hydraulic or hand-powered reels. Four to 10 circle hooks, baited with squid or fish, branch off the mainline using monofilament lines. A “chum” or bait bag containing chopped fish or squid is sometimes suspended on the mainline above the hooks to attract fish. Fishermen target deep-sea species, including Opakapaka, Onaga, Hapuupuu, Ehu, Kalekale, Gindai and Lehi, along reef slopes, seamounts and banks. Fish are hauled aboard by hand.


Gorilla Ogo by Hawaiian Fishpond


Fishponds are a traditional method of aquaculture used to grow Gorilla ogo seaweed. Hawaiian fishponds are unique because they are built with rock into especially large walled ponds. By allowing both fresh and salt water to enter the pond, a brackish environment is created that is productive for growing seaweed. Harvesters will remove seaweed mats by hand from the pond throughout the year in order to maintain and open water surface and enhance fish growth in the pond.

Hawaiian Fishpond

Fishponds are constructed of rock walls and are used to herd or trap adult fish, grow juveniles to maturity and farm shellfish and seaweed in shallow tidal areas. The compact style of wall construction slows water flow, allowing the pond to maintain a base water level even at the lowest tides and forcing more water to through sluice gates. Hawaiians invented fishponds to provide a regular supply of fish, shellfish and seaweeds in their traditional diet.

Hawaiian Pelagic Fish by Shortline


Fish harvesters often use a longline to catch a variety of pelagic fish on the high seas such as tuna and swordfish, traveling 500 to 1,oo0 miles. There are a few vessels who choose set a few shorter mainlines one mile or less to allow them to fish closer to the islands and reduce by-catch through more direct targeting of fish with less line. They catch mixed pelagic species including bigeye, albacore and yellowfin tuna as well as billfish, opah, and monchong. Baited hooks are attached to a line that floats in the ocean using buoys and flagpoles, same as a longline.


Pelagic shortline

The shortline consists of a long monofilament line, spooled on a hydraulic drum. Fish harvesters set the line from the their vessels typically using a line shooter which increases the speed at which the mainline is set. Baited hooks on leaders are fastened to this mainline. Shortlines differ from typical longlines by length of line set out. The shortline is less than one nautical mile whereas longlines are 30 or more.  The line is set between floats with depth depending on targeted species.