Shore Fishing the Kona Coast

Angler and Kona Hongwanji Judo Club member, Stance Oyama, shows off his First Place winning 53 pound Ulua, which was taken from shore using a live baitfish. Second and Third Place winners weighed in at 38 pounds and 29.5 pounds respectively.

When it comes to world class saltwater fishing, Kailua Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii remains one of the most renowned venues on the planet. The clear, cobalt blue waters just offshore are home to numerous highly prized saltwater gamefish species such as Mahi-Mahi, Ono and Ahi. Yet many of the anglers who visit this region are unaware of the outstanding shore fishing opportunities that also exist here.

Although there are a large number of upscale, corporately owned properties on the Big Island, I have always found that the smaller, locally owned hotels offer a warmer, more sincere ‘Aloha’ spirit to their guests. Another attractive feature is that they are also usually much more economical without having to compromise on quality.

Along with a plethora of reef fishes that include snappers, groupers, parrotfish and bonefish, big game species like barracuda and Giant Trevally, referred to locally as Ulua, can be readily taken from shore using either live or chunk bait.

Tackle can vary greatly, depending upon what you happen to be fishing for. Smaller fish will often strike baits like strip squid and small pieces of shrimp that are suspended a few feet below a medium sized bobber or popping cork and allowed to move with the current. Light to medium spinning gear is usually sufficient to get the job done. If you are going after somewhat larger species, use a Sabiki rig to catch small baitfish that can then be used live, dead or chunked. Use a standard dropper loop and either an octopus or circle hook with just enough weight to get to the bottom.

Artificial lures can be effective, but plastic swimbaits tend to get chewed up by the triggerfish without even the benefit of a hook up in the process. Hence, shiny metal spoons like the Krocodile and Hopkins with a terminal treble hook will help to neutralize that issue.

Those who feel that they are ready to try and tackle one of Hawaii’s big, bruiser Ulua, however, had better come prepared. Since many of the areas used to access these fish are wet and rocky, always wear appropriate aquatic footwear that is designed for this type of application. A long, heavy action pole matched with a high quality conventional reel spooled with 40 to 60 pound test line is generally necessary to battle one of these beasts to shore. It is also a good idea to use a 60 to 80 pound test fluorocarbon leader along with an 8/0 circle hook. Since most of the best action for Ulua takes place at night, it is always wise to fish with a couple of buddies and come properly equipped with lanterns, folding chairs, gaffs and landing nets.

Here are a few productive fishing spots that you might want to visit:

Makalawena Beach - From Kona, take Highway 19 north. Between Mile Markers #89 and 88 take the dirt road to the left. The first portion of the road is decent, but it later becomes very bumpy. Alternately you can hike to the beach. It takes about 15-20 minutes.

Puako Bay - Drive north from Kona on Highway 19. Before mile marker 70, make a left turn onto Puako Road. There are six public access trails, located by telephone poles #106, 110, 115, 120, 127 and 137.

Kailua Kona Fishing Pier – Located just across the street from the popular Kona Seaside Hotel, this easily fished platform is perhaps one of the best places for beginning anglers to toss out a line. Nonetheless, larger species like Ulua and white tip shark are commonly caught here as well.

Pahoehoe Beach - From Kailua Kona, drive south on Alii Drive. The beach park is located between Mile Markers #3 and 4. Pahoehoe Beach is a rocky beach that offers good fishing and diving.

Ke'ei Beach - Located just south of Kealakekua Bay. When coming from State Highway 160, make a turn into Ke'ei Road and follow the road to the ocean. Small beach near Kealakekua Bay, one of the best-kept secrets on the Big Island's Kona Coast; good fishing, surfing and snorkeling.

Papakolea Green Sand Beach - Papakolea is located at Mahana Bay, three miles northeast of South Point, the southernmost point in the United States. At the end of the paved South Point Raod to Ka Lae (South Point), take the road to the left. Park at the end of the road. This is the first parking lot, which is about 3 miles (4.8 km) away from Papakolea Beach (you'll see a portable bathroom here). From here, it takes about 90 minutes to hike down to the beach. About one mile into the hike, there is a second parking lot. To get to it, you have to make a left turn from the main road about ¼ mile (400 m) before the first parking lot.

One thing is certain; fishing the Big Island from shore can be just as exciting as doing it from a fancy charter boat, and it will cost you a lot less money. You will see and do things that are often off the radar of most visiting tourists, all the while having the chance to catch a type of fish that you may have never even seen before.