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Handline Fishing

Handline fishing is a method of fishing that traces back to the ancient Hawaiians. It is simple, but can be highly productive. Handlining gear involves working several single lines with baited hooks. Hauling fish including large tuna well over 200 lb is done by hand in this traditional fishery. The handline fishery has become commercially important since the late 1970s.

There are near shore and offshore segments of the handline fishery. Ahi koa, or locations where yellowfin tuna are known to aggregate, are present near the island of Hawaii and some of the other islands.

Small vessels deploy vertical lines fixed with chum bags and baited hooks at these places and release chum (cut bait) underwater to entice large ahi ( yellowfin tuna) to bite. The ika-shibi method of fishing is practiced at night, whereas the palu ahi method is practiced during the day.

Larger boats travel to seamounts and weather buoys up to 200 nautical miles from shore to target juvenile bigeye and yellowfin tuna using handline and trolling techniques combined with heavy chumming.

Hawaii Handline Fishing
Handline Fishing – Illustration by Les Hata