No license is required for recreational saltwater fishing in Hawaii. A Freshwater Game Fishing License is required for the taking of certain freshwater fishes. Many marine shoreline and freshwater areas of the State are private property, and that permission of the landowner is required for access. Most shoreline areas in Hawai‘i are open to fishing, unless prohibited or restricted and indicated by signs. There should be prominent signs posted at key public access points to the shore where fishing is restricted. Restricted areas include military bases, wildlife refuges, natural area reserves, harbors, and other areas. In addition, freshwater streams (fishing not available on all islands) do not usually have signs, but access is restricted by private property rights. It’s best to fish in publicly-accessible areas, just to be certain.
Although no license is required to fish in the ocean, fishing in Hawaii is highly regulated. Its up to the fisherman to stay educated about the various laws regulating fishing including seasons, regulated species, protected & endangered species interactions, bag limits, registries, reporting, commercial requirements, vessels, minimum sizes, weight restrictions, bottom fishing, special licenses, stream fishing, net usage, traps, spearfishing, dive markers, aquarium fishing, taking coral, live plants, hooking sea birds, etc.
It is unlawful to harass fisherman, prevent or attempt to prevent the lawful taking of fish by licensed freshwater anglers, including by means of affecting behavior of fish, affecting personal property for fishing, or obstructing access to fishing areas. It is also unlawful to enter or remain on public lands or waters, or private lands or waters without landowner’s permission, for this purpose.
Marine Managed Areas
Marine Managed Areas (MMAs) are areas designated to manage a variety of marine, estuarine, or anchialine resources and their use. The resources may include any type of marine life and their habitats. In some cases, particularly Fisheries Management Areas, regulations may serve to resolve user conflicts. The goal of MMAs may also include preservation of cultural or historical resources. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are a subset of MMAs, and focus on protection, enhancement, and conservation of habitat and ecosystems. Some MPAs have very few fishing restrictions and allow sustainable fishing, while others restrict all fishing and are “no take” areas. In Hawai‘i, forms of MPAs, such as Marine Life Conservation Districts, have been in use for over 40 years. The benefits of MPA’s are protecting important habitat and biodiversity in a natural state, protecting intact ecosystems, preventing overuse, providing refuge and helping with tourism.
Ethical Fishing Guidelines
Keep native fish populations healthy by preventing the release of live bait and non-native fish into Hawaii’s waters. Take only what you need today. Leave tomorrow’s catch in the water. Limit your take; don’t take the limit. Fish for the fun of it, and release fish quickly whenever possible. Set hook immediately to keep fish from swallowing bait. Land fish quickly and don’t play it to exhaustion. Handle fish gently and deep fish in water if possible. Hold with a wet glove or rag and don’t let it thrash on rocks or boat. Don’t handle by eyes or gills and avoid removing mucus or scales. Unhook carefully and cut leader close to mouth if fish is deeply hooked. Use needle-nose pliers or hookout to back hook out the opposite way it went in. Don’t jerk a leader to break it. Use barbless hooks whenever possible (squeeze barb flat with pliers). Revive an exhausted fish by moving it back and forth in the water to force water over its gills. Use a needle or hook point to puncture the expanded air bladder of a fish taken from deep water. Watch to make sure the fish swims away and try again. Keep the water free from litter and pollution by properly disposing of rubbish. Respect the rights of fishermen and other resource users. Improve your fishing and boating skills and pass on your knowledge to others.
To learn more about Hawaii’s fishing laws, contact the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Aquatic Services at 808-587-0100. The DLNR enforcement hotline is 808-643-DLNR.
Here are some online resources: