Ahi (Hawaiian name), also known as Yellowfin Tuna, Pacific yellowfin. Yellowfin, as its name implies, is distinguished from other tunas by a long, bright-yellow dorsal fin and a yellow strip down its side. It’s also more slender than Bluefin. With its flashy markings, the yellowfin tuna is especially impressive at night. Fishermen say that when watching yellowfin feed, it’s easy to see why they carry the Hawaiian name ahi, or fire. Yellowfin is the most tropical species of tuna, abundant in warm waters throughout the Pacific and Atlantic, often mixed with other species, especially skipjack tuna. The best quality yellowfin is caught by hook and line and weighs between 30 and 150 pounds.
Blue Marlin share the common names of marlin, Pacific Blue Marin, sailfish, kajiki and more. A giant blue marlin was the Cuban fisherman’s quarry in Ernest Hemingway’s classic novella The Old Man and the Sea. The carcass of Santiago’s marlin measured 18 feet in length. While blue marlins are the largest of the marlin species and prized by anglers for their fishing nature, the average landed size is 11 feet and from 200 to 400 pounds. Pacific blue marlin are generally larger than the Atlantic strain. Ancient Hawaiians feared the fierce fish, which they called kajiki, because a jab from its heavy bill could easily sink a fishing canoe. Known as a blue-water fish, since it spends most of its life at sea, the blue marlin is found in temperate and tropical waters worldwide. The popular game fish is also taken incidentally in gillnets. In the Atlantic, U.S. commercial fishing vessels are prohibited from possessing blue marlin, but Hawaii has a commercial long-line fishery for the species. Peak landings are from June to October.
Mahimahi is the Hawaiian name for dolphinfish. The Hawaiian moniker came into common use to prevent consumers from confusing this fish with the marine mammal, to which it is unrelated. The alternative name of dolphinfish came about from the fish’s habit of swimming ahead of sailing ships, as dolphins do. Mahimahi is one of the most beautiful fish in the ocean because of its rich, iridescent colors. The back is an electric greenish blue, the lower body is gold or sparkling silver, and the sides have a mixture of dark and light spots. Mahimahi are caught year round in the waters around the islands. They range in size from 10 to 70 pounds.
Ono (Hawaiian name), also known as Wahoo. Wahoo is a member of the Scombridae family of mackerels and tunas and is closely related to the king mackerel. Hawaiian lore has it that the name wahoo comes from European explorers’ misspelling of “Oahu” on early maps, since the fish was abundant around that island. The fish’s alternate name, ono, is derived from the Hawaiian word ono, meaning “good to eat.”
Striped Marlin – The body of the striped marlin is elongate and compressed. The upper jaw is much extended, forming a rounded spear. Smaller than the blue marlin, the striped marlin has a dark steely blue back that is lined with dark cobalt blue or lavender stripes (coloration varies with location), fading to a silvery white underside.
The striped marlin has the most pronounced vertical line markings, hence the name. Generally fourteen to twenty vertical stripes from the true gill plate to the caudal peduncle. The stripes are prominent lavender to blue in color and they appear wider than the stripes on sailfish and seem to be made up of various size dots to form lines. The striped can “light up” to a very brilliant lavender to purple. The spear of the marlin is sometimes used as a weapon for defense and as an aid in capturing food. Wooden boats frequently have been rammed by billfish and in one instance the spear penetrated 18.5 inches of hardwood – 14.5 inches of which was oak. When it uses its bill in capturing food, the striped marlin sometimes stuns its prey by slashing sideways with the spear rather than impaling its victim, as some believe.
Since marlin cannot yet be accurately aged, the age and duration of different life stages cannot be determined. Females are reported to reach first maturity at 50-80 lb.; it is not possible to determine onset of sexual maturity in males because change in the size of testes is slight. Striped marlin are believed to spawn in the northwest Pacific and migrate eastward as juveniles, which would account for the abundance of smaller fish in Hawaiian waters.
Great Barracuda (Hawaiian Name kākū) is sometimes referred to as the “silver bullet” of the sea. The great barracuda has a reputation as a fierce predator. Long, lean and mean, it can strike without warning, reportedly at speeds approaching 40 feet per second. The Great Barracuda is the largest of the barracudas in Hawaiian waters and can weigh up to a maximum of 100 pounds and reach six feet in length. However, barracuda of such size are uncommon.
Hawaiians of old sometimes “trained” large barracudas to help them catch opelu or mackerel scad. The barracuda learned to respond to a distinctive thumping sound on the bottom of a wooden canoe and “helped” fishers to round up a school of chum-attracted opelu and drive it into a waiting net. The barracuda then received a “reward” for its assistance. Called opelu mama in Hawaiian, a “partner” barracuda was afforded protection from being hunted and was much respected rather than feared.
One other species of barracuda is fairly common in Hawaiian waters: the much smaller and comparatively harmless Heller’s barracuda or kawele‘ā, whose Hawaiian name means “long and bright.” A distinctive blue stripe runs the length of the body on this species. They school during the day and disperse to hunt at night. Maximum size is about two feet.
Giant Trevally (Ulua in Hawaiian) is a species of large marine fish classified in the jack family, Carangidae. The giant trevally is distributed throughout the tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific region, with a range stretching from South Africa in the west to Hawaii in the east, including Japan in the north and Australia in the south. It is distinguished by its steep head profile, strong tail scutes, and a variety of other more detailed anatomical features. It is normally a silvery color with occasional dark spots, but males may be black once they mature. It is the largest fish in the genus Caranx, growing to a maximum known size of 5.5 feet and a weight of approximately 176 pounds. It appears the Hawaiian Islands contain the largest fish, where individuals over 100 pounds are common.
Source: Sportfishing in Hawaii, Guam and American Samoa,1979; Seafood Source Handbook, 2013; http://theterramarproject.org; http://www.chefs-resources.com; http://en.wikipedia.org; Marine Sportfish Identification, California Department of Fish and Game, 1987; FishBase, FishBase Consortium, 2001; Billfish, Saltaire Publishing, 1976