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Fish flag protocol in Hawaii

By Staff | May 23, 2019

After catching your fish, there are protocols on how to fly your flags. First, flags are flown from the starboard (right) outrigger.

The billfish flag is always flown on top, no matter what other species is caught or its size. You can run a billfish flag for each one you catch. A blue marlin flag is a blue rectangle flag with a white-colored marlin design inside. A striped marlin uses the same flag as a blue marlin. There is also a white rectangle flag with a blue-colored marlin design inside that can be used for a blue or striped marlin.

A shortnose spearfish has its own flag, which is a light blue rectangle with a white-colored spearfish design inside. The spearfish flag is run below the blue or striped marlin flag if both species are caught. If you don’t have a spearfish flag, then you can run your blue marlin flag upside down.

If you tag or release a billfish, then a red triangle flag with a white “T” design inside is run below the billfish flag. If a billfish is captured, and another is tagged or released, then two billfish flags are flown, with the red tag flag underneath to designate that the bottom billfish was tagged or released. If multiple billfish are tagged or released, then a red tag flag is run underneath each one tagged or released.

For the occasional sailfish that are caught in Hawaiian waters, there is a white rectangle flag with a blue sailfish design inside. It is run below all other billfish flags. Most boats just run a blue marlin flag.

Next in the order is the mahi/dolphinfish flag. It is a yellow rectangle flag with a blue-colored mahi design inside. You only run one mahi flag, no matter how many mahi are caught. Some boats will run a black pirate flag under the mahi flag, designating they caught more than 20 fish.

The next flag is the ono/wahoo flag. It is an orange rectangle flag with a white-colored ono design inside. Again, only one ono flag is run.

The bottom flag on the outrigger is the yellowfin/bigeye tuna/ahi flag. It is a white rectangle flag with a blue-colored tuna design inside. Only if your ahi is 100 pounds or more do you run it either alone or above the mahi and ono flags, but never over a billfish flag. You can run multiple ahi flags if they are over 100 pounds.

Boats can run an ahi flag under the mahi and ono flags for shibi-sized yellowfin and bigeye (under 100 pounds). If no other flag fish is caught, then most boats will not run an ahi flag for shibi-sized ahi. That would designate that one was 100 pounds or more.

I made a proposal to the boats that if they caught a yellowfin or bigeye that was estimated 85-99 pounds, with no other flag fish caught, that they could run the ahi flag alone – but upside down. This would designate that their ahi was under 100 pounds. This would help them out on showing they had a nice-sized ahi aboard and flag-worthy. It started in Lahaina Harbor.

Below the ahi flag is the skipjack/aku flag. It is a green rectangle flag with a white tuna design inside. Most boats, if they have one, don’t run a skipjack/aku flag unless it is 25 pounds or more.

A shark flag is a red rectangle flag with a white shark design inside; it is run below all other flags. If the shark is released, then the red triangle tag flag is run below the red shark flag.

The trevalle/ulua flag can be a red rectangle flag or a purple rectangle flag with an ulua design inside. It is always run on the bottom.

Flags may be left up on the rigger until the boat’s next fishing trip.