Monday, April 7, 2014

Fish and Three Fishy Tips You Should Know if You Visit Hawaii

From camouflaged fish with spines who lurk in the sand to iridescent parrot fish, Hawaii has a lot of fish varieties, both in the ocean and in the rivers and streams.   There are even native fish (o'opu) that swim upstream and climb up rock waterfalls! The ancient Hawaiians also practiced aquaculture before it became trendy, raising fish sustainably in fish ponds, lined with rock walls. Some of those fish ponds still exist.

A variety of fish and one lobster caught by a
local Maui fisherman, including uhu (parrotfish).

The Maui o'opu, a goby fish that climbs up waterfalls with its mouth.

The state fish is Humuhumunukunukuapua’a. Try saying that 5 times in a row. It means fish with a big nose.  How the heck do you say that?

It’s easiest to pronounce if you break it down into parts:
  • Humu (hoo-moo) like the “moo” a cow makes and repeat that twice. So… hoo-moo hoo-moo. 
  • Then nuku (noo-koo) which rhymes with “moo.”  Then apua’a (like ah-pooh (rhymes with moo!) ah-ah.
This 4 minute Dukes of Surf video is kind of hokey but fun, and will help you learn how to say humuhumunukunukuapua'a. (By the way, the mountain in the background is Diamond Head, a Hawaiian icon).

Three Fish Tips:

Where to eat or buy fresh fish: Some people think the only way to eat great fresh fish in Hawaii is to dine at an expensive restaurant like Mama’s Fish House (one of the top grossing restaurants in the nation). But you can also go to a casual place like Fish Market in Paia, which has fish maybe even from the same boat for a lot less.

Check out stores like Eskimo Candy, grocery stores, and mom and pop stores. Even Costco has pretty good local fish. Also, keep an eye out for fishing boats at the boat ramp or by the side of the road. Sometimes people sell fish out of their boat. It can be pretty good and affordable.

Can you catch a fish on a deep sea fishing trip?  Usually, you won’t catch anything except seasickness. If you’re lucky, you could land a 1000-pounder. Woo hoo! In that case, you can keep the fish, if you can transport it, clean it and process it. Try eating that much fish on vacation! Or get it made into a trophy. Or give it to the captain, and your $300 boat trip is free.  At about $20/lb retail, the captain would love to keep your fish.

What’s the best time to see fish snorkeling? if you’re on Maui, go snorkeling EARLY in the morning. The water is glassy and clear. If you wait till later in the day, the visibility is awful and you won’t see a lot of fish. Why? Maui is the windiest island in Hawaii and the wind kicks up around noon or earlier, and it churns the water. You won’t have that problem on the other islands, but you will on Maui. That’s why all the snorkeling trips on Maui are EARLY in the day.

Lastly, two fish issues in Hawaii:
·        There are invasive fish species. Fish that don’t really belong in the islands, like aquarium fish that used to be pets, but were released into the streams or in the drain and ended up becoming huge and disrupting the local ecosystem (like Godzilla in your living room).

·        There are tropical fish collectors. These are people who collect colorful wild fish from the reefs and sell them to aquarium stores and exotic fish dealers. This practice is more prevalent on Maui than on the Big Island, so sad to say, Maui’s tropical fish may not be as plentiful as they used to be. 

P.S. If you are blog hopping from the A to Z challenge, please include your link if you comment! I try to reciprocate comments as quickly as I can, though I did lag behind last year, especially towards the end.

P.P.S. I am running two mini-contests during the A-Z Challenge (and into part of May). Here's how to enter


  1. Somehow I am surprised that there are invasive fish or fish poachers. My view of Hawaii is a perfect land where everything lives in harmony. I know it's not true but that's the ideal I have in my head. And...I could probably eat 1000 lbs of fish on a vacation. Sounds yummy! Educational post.

  2. Yes, that's the fantasy but people are complicated, or maybe simple depending on how you look at it. They do it for the money.

  3. I'm off to a quiz later this evening. If the question comes up, 'What is the state fish of Hawaii?', I'm ready!

  4. Yeah, I learned how to pronounce the state fish years ago when I took Polynesian dance. We had a cute song about it!

    Fun post! Although disappointing to hear about the fish poaching and invasive species.

    ~Tui Snider~

    My blog: Tui Snider's Offbeat & Overlooked Travel

    I am also part of the #StoryDam team, a friendly writing community!

  5. All right! You get the gold star (or maybe a free drink)!

  6. How cool, now you can say it w/ a Texas accent.

  7. Yes, we love practicing it in front of tourists.

  8. You can listen to the song over and over again. Kids love it.


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