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Sea Monsters! The 10 Biggest Trophy Fish Ever Caught in Hawaii

Written by Cindy Rasmussen
Published: September 30, 2022
© Xavier ELIAS Photography/Shutterstock.com
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You can imagine that Hawaii has some of the most diverse fishing in the world! Hawaii is surrounded by warm tropical waters and unique coral reefs teeming with a wide range of sea life. Massive marlins, enormous tuna and a few good sized sharks have all been caught in the waters around the state. For anglers that prefer freshwater fishing there are channel catfish, rainbow trout and largemouth bass inland. Here are the 10 biggest trophy fish ever caught in Hawaii.

10. Bigeye Tuna: 277 lbs 5 oz

bigeye tune
A 277lb 5oz bigeye tuna was caugh in Hawaii in 2013

©Anna L. e Marina Durante/Shutterstock.com

The first three fish on our list are tuna. There is a reason the TV show Wicked Tuna is so popular, it is quite a task to land the biggest trophy sized tuna. While official fishing records require one angler vs a team bring in the fish, we are looking at the biggest fish ever caught so the biggest bigeye tuna ever caught in Hawaii was 277 lbs 5 oz. On July 22, 2013 a team of three guys, Capt. Jason Van Den Hende, Thomas Pantalion and Charley Lively caught this tuna fishing in Poho’iki, HI, off “the Big Island”, island of Hawaii.

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9. Yellowfin Tuna: 325 lbs

Yellowfin tuna out in the open ocean in crystal clear blue water
Yellowfin tunaare popular with anglers due to their large size and powerful nature

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The biggest yellowfin tuna ever caught in Hawaii was a 325 lbs tuna caught by Joey Cabell as he was trolling from O’ahu to Lana’i in a catamaran. In Hawaii they refer to yellowfins as ‘ahi and skipjack tuna as aku, both are prized in the seafood industry. Skipjacks don’t get nearly as big as yellowfin, but are a popular fish for anglers. Campbell set this record on July 13, 1990.

8. Bluefin Tuna: 376 lbs

The largest species of tuna is the bluefin and the record set in Hawaii weighed 376 pounds!

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Of all of the tuna species, the bluefin tuna are the largest. There are three species of bluefins, Atlantic, Pacific and Southern with the Atlantic bluefins being the largest of them all with some reaching 1,500 lbs! Off the coast of Hawaii the biggest bluefin ever caught was a 376 lbs caught by Jeffry Fear off Kumukahi Point. After snapping some photos with his prized catch he sold the fish to Suisan Fish Market. His record was set back on August 13, 1983, but over the years there has been an increase in the demand for bluefins for sushi and sashimi which has led to overfishing putting the population at risk. All three bluefin species are being carefully monitored and are listed on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species.

7. Swordfish: 503 lbs

Fastest Sea Animal: Swordfish
Swordfish are a popular sport fish of the billfish category, though elusive. They are elongated, round-bodied, and have a sword that can reach 3 feet long

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You certainly have to be careful pulling a swordfish into your boat! The long flat sword can be three feet long or more accounting for a third of their total length. Swordfish, sometimes called broadbills,can get up to 15 feet long and weigh close to 1,000 pounds. The biggest swordfish caught in Hawaii was a 503 lbs swordfish caught by Josh Bunch off Kona, HI on June 15, 2006. His new record was way heavier than the previous record of 365 lbs, but nowhere near as heavy as the world record of 1,182 lbs caught in Iquique, Chile.

6. Giant Sea Bass (Hapu’upu’u): 563 lbs

fish
Seabass commonly exceed 500 pounds!

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In the world of fish “bass” can refer to several different species of fish. The three main ones are fish from the Serranidae family which includes sea bass, fish from the Moronidae family like striped bass and Centrarchidae, which are the sunfish family, that include smallmouth and largemouth bass.

The biggest giant sea bass ever caught in Hawaii was a 563 pounder caught by Russel Mori on February 27, 1989. This one was not on the Big Island but on Maui at a beach in Makena. He was actually shore casting when he snagged this with a 60-lb test line! This record is actually extremely close to the world record which is 563 pounds 8 oz caught by James McAdam Jr. off Anacapa Island, CA. The world record was set back on August 20, 1968.

5. Mola Mola (Ocean Sunfish): 575 lbs

Sunfish underwater close up. Mola mola are perhaps the biggest bony fish in the world.
Sunfish underwater close up. Mola mola are perhaps the biggest bony fish in the world.

©Andrea Izzotti/Shutterstock.com

Another notable name deferntiation is that if you catch a sunny, or sunfish, in Minnesota for example you are talking about a small handsized panfish. If you catch a sunfish in Hawaii it is also called a mola mola and can be more than 500 pounds! Ocean sunfish are the heaviest bony fish in the world. They are definitely unique looking with a flattened body looking much like a pancake with a fin sticking out the top and bottom of their bodies. They don’t really have a tail fin but more of a fan-like scalloped fin coming off their rounded back.

The biggest mola mola caught in Hawaii was a 575 lbs fish caught by Capt. Dan Shaffer. On June 11, 1995 Capt. Dan and his crew of the Desperado were trolling off the coast of Lanai around the Palaoa Point Lighthouse when one of the rods hooked this mola mola. Although it may be the biggest one on record in Hawaii, it is actually considered a smaller one compared to the average weight of 2,200 lbs…that’s just average. The biggest one in the world was a bump-head sunfish that weighed 5,070 pounds!

4. Thresher Shark: 952 lbs

Longest Tail: The Common Thresher Shark
The most notable feature of the thresher shark is the long, whip-like upper lobe of their tail, which is known as the caudal fin.

You knew there would be some sharks on this list! The thresher shark has a long (very long) tail sometimes half their body length. They are skilled at using their tail to stun their prey so it goes without saying that you have to be very careful when fishing for threshers. The biggest thresher shark ever caught in Hawaii was almost 1,000 pounds. It weighed 952 pounds and was caught by John Patterson and Bill Rhee. They were actually out fishing for swordfish when they caught this thresher. The group fishing on the Marlin Magic II was surprised to find out just how big their shark was. This one was also caught off of Kona, HI.

3. Black Marlin: 1,205 lbs

Marlin are one of the largest fish in Hawaii and can weigh more than 1,200 pounds
The largest black marlin in Hawaii weighed 1,205 pounds!

©kelldallfall/Shutterstock.com

The nest three fish on our list biggest fish are all more than 1,000 pounds. Marlin are similar to sword fish with a long sharp bill but while the swordfish has a flat sword the marlins have a rounded one. They are also some of the fastest fish in the world.

The biggest black marlin ever caught in Hawaii was caught by Bill Bronsteme, Brad Bronsteme and Frank Didonna. They were out on the Lei Aloha charter boat with Capt. Jim Hunter and crewman Fred Thibault when they caught this enormous marlin. It was so big it wouldn’t even fit in the boats tuna door so they had to drag it behind the boat back to shore. It weighed in at 1,205 lbs and has remained the biggest record since July 19, 1980.

2. Mako Shark: 1,207 lbs

Short fin mako shark swimming just under the surface, about 50 kilometers off the Western Cape coast in South Africa.
Short fin mako shark are the fastest sharks and can reach 46mph!

©wildestanimal/Shutterstock.com

Another fast fish, and the fastest shark, is the mako shark. Shortfin makos can reach speeds of 46 mph in short bursts. One of the biggest trophy fish in Hawaii was just a couple pounds heavier than the black marlin with a mako shark weighing 1,207 lbs. It was caught by Jodie Daniels off of Kona, HI on March 2, 1990. Jodie used a 3 lbs skipjack tuna as bait and a 130-lb test line. Unfortunately the catch was disqualified as an official IGFA world record due to a crewman bringing a pole to Daniels when they were already in the fighting chair. However, Daniels still has quite a fish tale and a 1,207 lbs shark to prove it.

1. Blue Marlin: 1,805 lbs

Fastest Water Animals
The blue marlin is the largest fish in Hawaii and weighs in at 1,805 pounds!

©iStock.com/LUNAMARINA

The absolute biggest trophy fish ever caught in Hawaii was a blue marlin that weighed in at 1,805 lbs! Capt. Cornelius Choy was out fishing with his daughter, Gail Choy-Kaleiki when Gail snagged the trophy sized blue marlin. They were out off the island of O’ahu on June 10, 1970 when they were lucky enough to bring this catch in. Because they had to have help landing it, it was disqualified for the IGFA World Record. It was officially weighed and both Gail and Capt. Cornelius were photographed with their epic catch. An amazing story to pass on in the family. Fishing is a popular pasttime and there is nothing more exciting than landing a big one. So lets discover the largest fish in Hawaii!

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Shortfin mako shark with pilot fish.
Shortfin mako shark swimming with pilot fish. Pilot fish are small fishes that can be seen swimming alongside sharks and other bigger fishes.
© Xavier ELIAS Photography/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness about conservation by teaching others about the amazing animals we share the planet with. I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with a degree in Elementary Education and I am a former teacher. When I am not writing I love going to my kids' soccer games, watching movies, taking on DIY projects and running with our giant Labradoodle "Tango".

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