The six major Hawaiian islands – Kaua`i, O`ahu, Maui, Lana`i, Moloka`i and Hawai`i – are located at the southeastern end of the Hawaiian archipelago. Streams on the leeward slopes of these islands are mostly intermittent. By contrast, the windward slopes are often characterized by cliffs and valleys with high annual rainfall and many perennial streams.
Despite the abundance of fresh water and hundreds of streams, the only freshwater fishes native to Hawai`i are four gobies and an eleotrid, collectively known as o’opu. Two marine fishes, aholehole and mullet, are transient inhabitants of lower stream reaches.
Only five natural lakes, all very small, occur in Hawai`i, but 266 freshwater reservoirs ranging up to 400 surface acres in size have been created through impoundment of stream waters. Native fishes are not adapted to these artificial habitats.
Various fish species from elsewhere in the world have been deliberately or accidentally introduced to Hawai`i. High-quality game fishes such as largemouth bass, tucunare and channel catfish are now widespread and well established in reservoir waters. Two game fishes, rainbow trout on Kaua`i and smallmouth bass on O`ahu and Kaua`i, may be found in both streams and reservoirs. Panfish such as bluegill and tilapia are generally abundant in reservoirs statewide, and several tilapia species also occupy stream habitats.
This is a summary of information for interested fishermen and tells something of the origin, habits and distribution of the freshwater fishes in Hawai`i. Please note that a Freshwater Game Fishing License is required for the taking of introduced game species, and that regulations apply to these species and to Public Fishing Areas. It is unlawful to sell introduced game species. Refer to current Hawai`i Fishing Regulations before doing any freshwater or saltwater fishing in the state. Regulation booklets are available from Division of Aquatic Resources offices and most fishing supply stores.
Public Fishing Areas
- Kaua’i: Koke’e, Wailua (Wailua Reservoir is undergoing maintenance and currently unavailable for fishing)
- O’ahu: Wahiawa
- Hawai’i: Waiakea
Other Fishing Areas
Most reservoirs, stream banks and even stream beds in Hawai`i are privately owned. Unless these waters are officially designated as Public Fishing Areas, fishing is allowed only by special permission from the landowner.
Fishing is allowed in most State Forest Reserve Areas. Some sugar plantations will issue permits for fishing in their irrigation reservoirs, which contain excellent populations of bass, tucunare and other species. The Wailua Stream and its tributaries on Kaua`i offer good smallmouth bass fishing.