Hawaiian Bottomfish by Hook & Line

Central Pacific — Hawai'i Islands

Fishermen use rods and reels to catch six species of snapper and one species of grouper that are called “bottomfish” and nicknamed the “deep 7” because they live at the bottom of the sea around the Hawaiian archipelago. Each vessel has two to four weighted mainlines that are lowered and raised with reels to depths of 1,200 feet. Baited hooks branch off this mainline. This fishing method is similar to those traditionally used by native Hawaiians.

Deep-sea Rod & Reel

Deep-sea Rod & Reel

This hook-and-line method of fishing uses a heavy mainline that is lowered and raised with electric, hydraulic or hand-powered reels. Four to 10 circle hooks, baited with squid or fish, branch off the mainline using monofilament lines. A “chum” or bait bag containing chopped fish or squid is sometimes suspended on the mainline above the hooks to attract fish. Fishermen target deep-sea species, including Opakapaka, Onaga, Hapuupuu, Ehu, Kalekale, Gindai and Lehi, along reef slopes, seamounts and banks. Fish are hauled aboard by hand.

Deep-sea Rod & Reel

The Hawaiian bottomfish fleet consists of a mix of vessels from 15-foot recreational boats to 70-foot commercial fishing vessels. The distinction between recreational and commercial vessel is unclear since some recreational vessels are permitted to sell their catch to cover trip expenses. Approximately 58 non-commercial vessels and 450 commercially licensed vessels make up the bottomfish fleet. Vessels typically have one to three crewmembers aboard. Fishing trips typically last a day or overnight, but can range up to seven days.

Conservation Measures

The Hawaiian bottomfish fishery is jointly managed by the Hawaiian Department of Land and Natural Resources in state waters within three miles from shore and by the Western Pacific Region Fisheries Management Council and National Marine Fisheries Service in federal waters beyond three miles. A number of measures address conservation in this fishery, including:

  • Requirement for all commercial fishermen to obtain State of Hawai’i commercial marine licenses and to submit monthly catch reports, including all bycatch (discards).
  • Closure of fishing in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, a 1,200-nautical mile chain of uninhabited islets, reefs and shoals
  • Total allowable catch limits for the 7 bottomfish species
  • Requirement for all non-commercial fishermen to obtain a federal permit and report catches
  • A limit of no more than five bottomfish per trip for non-commercial fishermen
  • Seasonal closures if the total allowable catch is reached prior to August 31

Ehu (Red Snapper) Food Info