The capt. and crew on “ACTION” will be happy to fillet a portion of the day’s catch for you at no cost, to enjoy during your stay on Maui. For more details on our fish policy, please email us.
Mahi Mahi (Dorado / Dolphin fish)
Mahi Mahi ARE NOT ‘Flipper’! They are, however, one of the most abundant game fish in Hawaiian waters. Though they don’t live more than about 4 years, but they reproduce quickly and prolifically. Mahi mahi (mahi means “strong” in Hawaiian) can put on quite a great show when they’re hooked, marked by high twisting jumps.
A mahi mahi’s skin color ranges from an iridescent golden yellow to brilliant green to silvery blue. They lose a lot of their color fairly quickly after being caught. The distinctions between the males and females is seen most clearly in the shape of the head, with the male/bull having a particularly large, bulbous forehead (as seen in the photo on the left).
Mahi Mahi are structure oriented, often congregating around any manner of marine debris, as well as “FADs” (Fish Aggregation Devices). They’re most often hooked trolling with either live bait or artificial lures. Mahi mahi is probably the most famous fish found in Hawaiian waters (next to the “humuhumunukunukuapua’a”). However, unlike the humuhumu, a mahi’s delicate white flesh is known world-wide for it’s subtle flavor. It is the most requested restaurant fish in Hawaii.
The Ono is a torpedo shaped fish averaging about 4-6 feet in length, and weighing to over 100 lbs.. The average ono caught off Maui is 25-35 lbs..
Ono have very intimidating looking, razor sharp teeth. They can swim at speeds up to 50 miles per hour, and hit both lures and bait with lightening fast strikes making them one of our favorite fish to hook up to.
Ono tend to be solitary, though they can occur in loose-knit groups of two or three fish. This usually occurs if there is an abundance of prey nearby rather than any possible schooling tendencies. In Hawaii, Ono are usually caught by trolling along the 40 fathom ledge, or, like mahi mahi, near a floating object such as an old log, net, or FAD.
Their diet consists essentially of other fish and squid. Ono means “delicious” in Hawaiian. The meat is firm white with a light, slightly sweet flavour, making it an excellent choice for ceviche!
Ahi (Yellowfin Tuna)
The word ‘ahi’ means fire in Hawaiian. The early Hawaiians fished for ahi from outrigger canoes, using rope hand lines. When a large ahi struck, the line would run over the canoe gunwale so fast that the side of the canoe would smoke from the friction.
Ahi over 100 pounds are generally caught in the summer months, but like all our other game fish, they may be caught year-round. Ahi are caught trolling lures and with live bait. In Hawaii, “shibi” is another name used for yellow-fin tuna and big-eye tuna, generally denoting a smaller one.
It’s high fat contact and deep red color makes ahi a premium fish for sashimi. Sashimi quality ahi is in very high demand on Maui, especially during the Christmas/New Year season, and the ‘market price’ is often in excess of $30 per pound. One of our favorite ahi recipes is the more modern “blackened sashimi”, a cajun spiced preparation.
Aku (Skip Jack Tuna)
Aku is a local favorite food fish that is sold fresh, frozen, canned, dried, salted, and smoked. Aku are also considered the number one live bait for catching marlin, large yellow-fin tuna, and even the occasional ‘bull’ mahi mahi.
Aku congregate in very large schools and are often found shoaled up around the numerous FADs. They usually weigh 3 to 8 lbs, but can grow in excess of 30lbs. Those weighing more than about 18lbs, are called by their Japanese name ‘otaru’. The ‘otaru’ have a deeper red color, a higher fat content and make excellent Aku Poke.
There are several billfish varieties caught in Maui waters including Pacific Blue, Striped, Short-nosed-spearfish, and sailfish.
Most of Maui sport fishing boats encourage catch-and-release on marlin. However, a marlin that is ‘played out’ or bleeding excessively is usually taken. Marlin taken in Maui waters are edible, though the meat is rather bland and tough, especially the larger ones. Most often, they are fileted into strips, marinated in a teriyaki type mix and then smoked over kiawe wood charcoal. The blue marlin pictured here was caught April, 2009 and weighed in at 567 lbs.
Pacific blue marlin weighing nearly 2,000 pounds have been caught in Hawaiian waters, but the more common size is between 80 and 300 pounds. Virtually all blue marlin over 300 pounds are female. June, July, and August are considered the three best months for blue marlin fishing in Hawaiian waters. However, blue marlin weighing in excess of 1,000 pounds have been caught in every single month of the year, which is why three of Maui’s biggest fishing tournaments — the Spring Shootout, the Lahaina Jackpot, and the Halloween Shootout — are held in the spring and in the fall, respectively. Blue marlin are elusive. A very good captain fishing nearly 300 days a year will only catch 25-75 blue marlin in a year.
Striped Marlin caught in Maui waters are seldom over 125 Lbs.. Don’t be fooled by their relatively small size. These acrobatic fish are often found in schools and multiple hookups are common while trolling. You may literally have every lure in the water get hit during a “rat attack” (what captains call it when a school of striped marlin attack en mass). Striped marlin are caught trolling with artificial lures, live and dead bait, with most being caught in the fall through spring months.
The Pacific short-nosed spearfish is a small, aggressive marlin that is relatively common in Hawaiian waters compared to other oceans. Ranging from 20-60 lbs., they are also usually caught trolling or live baiting.
Sailfish are not very common in Hawaii, and it’s not unusual that a Maui captain with decades of experience has caught less than 10, or none at all. If you land one of these beauties when sportfishing off Maui, consider yourself very lucky!