Spawning season is here for ‘ama‘ama (striped mullet), which puts the popular nearshore fish off-limits from December through March.
“‘Ama‘ama are about to enter their peak spawning season,” said Bruce Anderson, DLNR’s Division of Aquatic Resources administrator. “During this time, they congregate in large numbers. This increases their vulnerability to fishing pressure. Protecting ‘ama‘ama while they are spawning is done to enhance their reproductive success and conserve fishing.”
‘Ama‘ama was one of the most important fish species in traditional Hawaiian culture. Juveniles, or pua ‘ama‘ama, were caught in nets along the shoreline, then raised in the many fishponds throughout the islands. After being fattened in the fishponds, they were harvested and eaten raw with seaweed added, or wrapped in ti or ginger leaves and broiled or baked.
There are three species of mullet in Hawaiian waters, but the closed season applies only to the striped mullet ‘ama‘ama. There are no regulations pertaining to the other two species: uouoa (sharp-nose mullet), which is native, and kanda (summer or Marquesan mullet), which is introduced. Differences between the species can be seen at https://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dar/files/2016/11/mullet_handout_estuaries.pdf.
“We ask the public’s compliance with the closed season,” Anderson said. “While it’s DLNR’s job to protect our marine resources, everyone shares in the responsibility to take care of important fish species like ‘ama‘ama to ensure healthy populations into the future.”
During the open season, the minimum size for ‘ama‘ama is 11 inches (fork length), and a bag limit of ten per day applies in Hilo Bay only.
You can look for pua ‘ama‘ama as they begin to settle out in muliwai (estuaries) throughout spring and early summer. But remember, they’re too small to take.
There are two kinds of penalties, criminal and civil, for rule violations. The criminal penalty is a petty misdemeanor punishable by fines of up to $500 per violation and/or 30 days in jail, with no per specimen fine. First offense civil penalties are up to $1,000 per specimen and $1,000 per violation.
Copies of statewide fishing regulations for ‘ama‘ama and all other marine species are at all DAR offices and most fishing supply stores. Fishing regulations can also be found on the DAR website at dlnr.hawaii.gov/dar. To report violations of fish catch size or net use, call the DLNR enforcement hotline at (808) 643-DLNR (643-3567) or use the DLNR 411 Tip app (for more information go to the DOCARE website at dlnr.hawaii.gov/docare