Moving to Big Island, advice request

  • Greetings,

    I am fortunate to be moving to Hilo, Hawaii within the next few months to continue my education. I have been working on my master's here in Monterey but decided it was certainly not what I wanted to commit the rest of my life too, so I am starting over in a different field!

    I am hoping there are some spearos on here who are experienced with the island conditions and atmosphere who can help me as I update my gear locker.

    1. What size guns are most spearo's using out that way? I have a 44in midhandle that is really beefy and can handle 3 tight bands accurately, but think I may need a little larger weapon.

    2. What is a good wetsuit thickness? I imagine that the temperatures don't change too much over the course of the year. 1.5mm? 2? 3?

    3. What kind of float system do most divers use? I know a dive flag is required, so I assume you need a float, does a banksboard work or are inflatables more popular?

    4. Are reels or floatlines recommended for the area. Here in Ca it is personal preference, but are there conditions in Hawaii that make one significantly more practical than the other?

    5. Lastly, I will get to know the regs thoroughly before I get there, but are there any fish that should be avoided because of cultural significance to the Native Hawaiians (other than sharks)?

    Thanks in advance for any advice, if I can get 1 or 2 of these questions answered it will be a big help!

  • Hey montereyspearo!
    Super jealous that you get to go out big island.
    I'm living and diving over here on O'ahu so most of my advice is for my
    experience over here. I think "Makoa" is from big island and he should be able to answer most of your questions, he's a member on here so I would start off by asking him.

    But i'll give you some insight to some of your questions:

    1.) Gun sizes range from a 90cm euro for shallow reefs and shooting into holes, 105-120 cm is used for deeper reefs where your either dive bombing or waiting on the bottom trying to call fish in. 130-150cm are used for bluewater. there are some guys that use these from shoredives on the big island because it turns to bluewater literally 50 yards offshore in some places.

    2.) Wetsuit thickness: I would go with an 3mm 2pc wetsuit. depending on your size and how cold you get 3mm is a good middle ground. you could use just the top of the wetsuit and some boardshorts in the summer time and you can use the full 2pc when it starts getting colder. If you get too hot in the wetsuit, just flush in some water when your out diving.

    3.) For me, I would want to get a banksboard in the future, but a really popular and durable choice is the hard lifeguard float. Its really durable and doesn't have too much drag. As for bluewater floats, I don't have experience with that, so i can't provide any input.

    4.) I use a reel over here in O'ahu, but i'd probably want a floatline if i was diving out hilo side because the big game come in closer and idk bout fighting big fish with a reel, i got no experience in that department either.

    5.) Fish to avoid shooting: sharks (of course, unless its life or death), humhumunukunuku apua'a (triggerfish), Hagi (another type of triggerfish, usually don't shoot this because there the first ones on the scene after someone doo doo's in the water), mamo (sergeant fish)-- not really a game fish, but if you eat what you shoot, shouldn't have problems. It's frowned upon over here if you shoot a fish that is just BARELY legal, but i'm no hypocrite and will be the first to admit that i have done it and i felt bad about it, so it was a learning experience

    There's alot of info on facebook if you look up the Hawaii Spearfishing and Freediving page.
    good luck and dive safe.


  • I don't believe sharks are legally protected over here. It is frowned upon and bad juju to shoot sharks out here because of the Hawaiians' connection to them. A shark is considered an au'makua, kind of like a family god or spirit, I may be wrong on the literal translation because I'm Chamorro and can't provide a detailed insight into the Hawaiian way of thinking, but in general, it is frowned upon to spear a shark over here in HI.

  • Aloha E Komo Mai....welcome. Justin's answers are good advice. The wetsuit is personal preference. My boys and I use 3 mil and many times just the farmer johns with a rash guard top, depending on how long we stay out. Also its nice to have the protection when hunting around reef loaded with wana (black long spined sea urchin) and a surging current pushing you into them! The big Island has amazing spots everywhere but very rugged and the best spots not easy to get to. For Blue water I use an Aimrite Bluewater float, for shore dives a life guard rescue can (hard float) if diving away from surging swells and lava rock structure. We usually use reels on our guns so you don't have the problem of tangling your float line in the holes and caves you will be hunting on BI. Kayaks are great if you can get one. Alot of blue water action can be found as the depth changes rapidly and are accessible from shore dives with a long swim or a quicker kayak paddle. Sharks, or Mano, are Hawaiian demigods of many Kanaka Maoli, or native Hawaiians...ancestors that have passed on and returned as protectors of their posterity, especially for watermen. So while it is not illegal to shoot and take the Mano, it is not welcomed, especially by a haole or any other visitor that is not kama'aina. Bust out the three prong for reef action and it will prove your prowess in the water as you poke manini, kumu, kala, palani, etc. get a reef fish of Hawaii ID chart and load up your kui with these smaller but good eating fish. Spectra or cable for shooting ulua...Giant Trevally. Omilu, bluefin trevally, the best eating ulua and is smaller but fight and will thrash gear if allowed to run. Uhu (parrot fish) are some of the best fish you'll ever eat. But remember none of these fish are going to sit there and let you shoot em. Fish in Hawaii are akamai...very they've been hunted for generations and know how far away to stay from anything pointy! Clear waters also teach you how to stalk and hunt from ledges and among structure to stay hidden. You'll get to know the guys at S Tokunaga's Store...they have most everything you'll need for rigging,etc. and when you go grocery store and see fishing gear and pole spears for sale, you'll know you've landed in paradise!


  • Just a couple more thoughts. Lobster is one of the few seasonal restricted targets...but don't be confused when local boys come up with bugs in off season. Most locals harvest for feeding their Ohana and not for trophy so a lot of locals just grab according to what's there. Night diving, especially for lobster is awesome, but there are restrictions on what you can harvest at night. Again locals will poke uhu (parrot fish) at night which is not allowed but is done a lot. As a malahini you will want to adhere to the Hawaii State Regs and also local customs. Respect for the resources and customs goes along way to wether or not you're welcomed at local spots. Diving for your food is more than a hobby here on's a waterman's way of life. Hawaii has a long established and historical claim on spearing for food. The more you adopt a local mentality for diving (and every other aspect of island living) the more you'll fall in love with this place and become apart of BI. Read Sonny Tanabe's book on the history of Spearfishing in the early days of BI. When I'm back on island I would be glad to take you to a few of my family's "sacred" hunting grounds up Hamakua side. Diving these rugged and remote spots alone (not recommended, but for me a regular event) is almost a spiritual experience and my personal escape from the noise of daily life.

    The float line set up most guys use for blue water out here is a Hawaiian Breakaway, especially if shooting wood or hybrids, and even on the bigger Bluewater rail guns. It's a simple and clean set up. You can run an inline set up but personally I like hanging onto my gun especially when the big oceanic white tips and tigers show up. It gives you something to poke them away with.

    Plenty resources for hooking up with guys on BI. I know Spearboard is not well liked here on Speardiver, but way more Hawaiian shooters in the forum there. Also Hawaii Skin Diver (HSD) has a few more locals on forum. Also I'm sure UH Hilo student boards have guys posting looking for dive buddies.

    Immerse yourself in the BI liquid salt and enjoy. I'm stuck in the desert of AZ shooting stupid carp in murky water and am missing home majah! You are very blessed to be hunting some of the best waters in the world.
    Again, respect da locals and be principled in your harvest.



  • Makoa,

    Many thanks for both of your replies, it looks like I have a lot of learning to do before I get over there. I especially appreciate the specifics on how to respect the locals and their ocean; don't know anyone on the Island, and would hate to burn bridges with the local waterman community by unwittingly doing something that is legal, but frowned upon. Thanks for the offer to dive when you get back, I hope that happens. If you find yourself in CenCal soon, I would be glad to take you out to some of the more rugged, isolated spots I solo dive to recharge the soul.

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