Fishing - Common Questions
Do I need to get a license or permit to fish in the ocean?
There is no marine recreational fishing license in Hawaii for either residents or visitors, so you don't need to worry about that as long as you don't sell your catch. There are a few locations where shoreline fishing is prohibited, and you can see all the fishing regulations here.
Where can I fish in Hawaii?
We cannot recommend specific places to fish. Most shoreline areas in Hawaii 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. While the Hawaii Fishing Regulations booklet is a good reference, it does not list all areas where fishing is restricted. For example, military bases, wildlife refuges, natural area reserves, harbors, and other areas may not be listed in the HFR, but fishing may still be restricted. 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.
If I catch an undersized or out-of-season fish and it dies before I can release it, can I keep it?
No, it is unlawful to take or possess undersized or out-of-season fish. We recommend that you release it, even though it's dead. While releasing a dead fish might seem wasteful, it is unlawful to possess such fish, and it will be recycled in the ocean. Allowing persons to keep undersized or out-of-season fish because it was dead would make the law unenforceable.
What do I do if I catch (or see) something that I do not recognize?
If you cannot identify the aquatic life you intend to take, then we recommend you not take it. It is better to be safe and not take something legal, than to take something illegal and risk being cited.
Can I snag fish in Hawaii?
Snagging is generally not prohibited. However, snagging is prohibited in certain MLCDs, FMAs, PFAs, and other managed areas. Fishers are advised that they are personally responsible for injuries to other fishers caused by their hooks, regardless of fishing method.
Can I take reef fish I collect myself back home with me for my aquarium?
Yes, persons may take reef fish, provided the fish meet minimum size, season, and other legal requirements. You should check with the appropriate agency in your home state for any restrictions on the kinds of animals they will allow to be imported. Many states have alien species concerns, which may include microscopic organisms, pathogens, or parasites in the water or on the fish. You should also check with your airline to find out their requirements and recommendations for shipping live fish.
Do I need a permit to collect reef fish for my home aquarium?
It depends on the mesh size of the gear you are using to capture the fish. Small mesh means less than two inches mesh. A permit is not required if a) the net has large mesh (more than two inches mesh); b) the net has small mesh but is less than three feet in length, height, or width, including the handle; or c) using a slurp gun. An aquarium permit is required if you are using a small mesh net other than a hand net, or a small mesh hand net larger than the dimensions indicated above. Small mesh throw nets are always prohibited. Even with an aquarium permit, regulations such as minimum size, season, bag limits, etc., still apply. The aquarium permit only exempts you from the small mesh restriction.
How do I register a boat?
To register a vessel, you must contact the Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation. They have offices at most major harbor facilities.
What do I do if I see a violation?
We recommend that the public report all violations or potential violations to DOCARE at 643-3567. Even if you do not see an officer respond in person, your call is still important. The information may be used to create a list of problem areas where more directed enforcement resources could be focused.