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Simply step aboard and cast your line for mahimahi, ahi, ono, and marlin. That's about how quickly the fishing—mostly trolling with lures—begins on Kauai. The water gets deep quickly here, so there's less cruising time to fishing grounds. Of course, your captain may elect to cruise to a hot location where he's had good luck lately.
There are oodles of charter fishermen around; most depart from Nawiliwili Harbor in Lihue, and most use lures instead of live bait. Inquire about each boat's "fish policy," that is, what happens to the fish if any are caught. Some boats keep all; others will give you enough for a meal or two. On shared charters, ask about the maximum passenger count and about the fishing rotation; you'll want to make sure everyone gets a fair shot at reeling in the big one. Another option is to book a private charter. Shared and private charters run four, six, and eight hours in length.
Boats and Charters
Captain Don's Sport Fishing & Ocean Adventure. Captain Don is very flexible and treats everyone like family—he'll stop to snorkel or whale watch if that's what the group (four to six) wants. Saltwater fly-fishermen (bring your own gear) are welcome. He'll even fish for bait and let you keep part of whatever you catch. The June Louise is a 34-foot twin diesel. Rates start at $140 for shared, $595 for private charters. Nawiliwili Small Boat Harbor, off Nawiliwili Rd., Nawiliwili, HI, 96766. PHONE: 808/639-3012. www.captaindonsfishing.com.
Explore Kauai Sportfishing. If you're staying on the West Side, you'll be glad to know that Napali Explorer (of the longtime rafting tour business) runs fishing trips out of Port Allen under the name Explore Kauai Sportfishing. It offers shared and exclusive charters of four, six, and eight hours in a 41-foot Concord called Happy Times. The shared tours max out at six fishermen, and a portion of the catch is shared with all. The boat is also used for specialty charters—that is, film crews, surveys, burials, and even Niihau fishing. Rates range from $130 to $179 per person. Port Allen Small Boat Harbor, Waialo Rd., Eleele, HI, 96716. PHONE: 808/338-9999 or. NO CURRENT WEBSITE.
Hana Paa. The advantage with Hana Paa is that it takes fewer people (minimum two, maximum four for a nonprivate excursion), but you pay for it. Rates start at $310 for shared, $600 for private charters, which can accommodate up to six people. The company's fish policy is flexible, and the boat is roomy. The Maka Hou II is a 38-foot Bertram. Nawiliwili Small Boat Harbor, off Nawiliwili Rd., Nawiliwili, HI, 96766. PHONE: 808/823-6031 or 866/776-3474.
Kai Bear. The father of this father-and-son duo has it figured out: He lets the son run the business and do all the work. Or so he says. Fish policy: Share the catch. Rates start at $159 for a four-hour, shared charter (six fishermen max) and run all the way to $2,000 for an eight-hour, keep-all-the-fish-you-want exclusive charter. What's particularly nice about this company are the boats: the 38-foot Bertram Kai Bear and the 42-foot Bertram Grander. Very roomy. Nawiliwili Small Boat Harbor, off Nawiliwili Rd., Nawiliwili, HI, 96766. PHONE: 808/652-4556. www.kaibear.com.