In Hawaii, fishing is a way of life. Many people fish for recreational purposes and others make their living from the ocean. While it may not be easy and not always successful, it is possible to earn a good income fishing in Hawaii. The cost of equipment is the biggest obstacle to getting started. Most successful business models require a boat, and all require basic fishing tackle suited to the type of fishing you want to do.

Things You Will Need
  • Fishing gear

  • Boat

  • License(s)

  • Entrance fee(s), where applicable

Become a charter captain. This option requires the most equipment. However, it also offers the most income potential. As a charter captain, you derive income from both the charter fees you charge as well as from the fish you are able to sell commercially. To become a charter captain, you will need to obtain the appropriate licenses from the Coast Guard, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the State of Hawaii. The licenses will vary by your target species, the number of passengers you hope to carry, and the type of fishing you do.

Start a commercial fishing operation. Hawaii is a large consumer of fish, so there is definitely a commercial market for fish and seafood in the islands. Similar to a charter business, a commercial fishing operation is equipment-intensive. You will also require a license from the same entities as you would for a charter business. Unlike the charter business, you would spend more time fishing and less time trying to sell charter shares on your boat. A blended approach, in which you fish commercially on days when you have no charters, may be a good compromise between the two options.

Enter fishing tournaments. The islands of Hawaii are home to several large fishing tournaments, such as the Maui Jim Classic, that are known to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money. Despite this tremendous upside, you will face fierce competition and run the risk of having wasted time, fuel and a large entrance fee only to come home with a t-shirt.

Try inshore fishing. If you don't have a boat, there are still ways to make money fishing in Hawaii. Spearfishing for commercially viable inshore species, such as octopus, is one way to limit your equipment costs while making money. Spearfishing can also yield the occasional surprise as larger pelagic species, such as yellowfin tuna, often wander close to shore in Hawaiian waters. Using a cast net or fishing pole to target fish like tilapia and moi can also yield a salable catch.

Target fish for the aquarium trade. Catching fish for sale in pet shops and aquarium retailers is a big business in the islands. Hawaii's beautiful reefs make it an excellent location for catching aquarium-bound fish. Many reef fish are protected or off limits, but others like the yellow tang, Hawaii's most valuable inshore species, are abundant.