What Fish Species Can You Target in the Cook Islands?
Always wanted to reel in a ridiculous-sized fish or looking for the next pelagic species to target on a list of many? Rarotonga and the Cook Islands will sort you out. The island nation has most of the game species sought for in the South Pacific, from monstrous tuna to darting bonefish! Check out what are some of the most popular types of fish to target in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands in this guide.
In Brief: The 15 Most Popular Game Fish Species in the Cook Islands
- Yellowfin Tuna
- Dogtooth Tuna
- Skipjack Tuna
- Blue Marlin
- Striped Marlin
- Black Marlin
- Pacific Baracuda
- Pacific Sailfish
- Giant Trevally
- Napolean Wrasse
- Red Snapper
We’ll go through some of the most popular catches in the guide below.
Best time: October to May
Yellowfin tuna is a Cook Islands fishing favourite, not only because they are available to catch for most of the year but they always put up a fight whether they’re big or small. The best time to target yellowfin tuna is from December to April but there are always some hanging about throughout the year with increased chances of a catch between October and May. Plus, head on a charter at dusk or dawn to increase your chances of reeling in these eating favourites.
Typical weights of yellowfins are between 15lbs/7kg and 23kg/50lbs but they have been weighed up to 80kg/176lbs. They are also a popular fish to target for spearfishing, which you can learn more about in The Complete Guide to Spearfishing in the Cook Islands.
Best time: May to September
One of the most commonly caught game species in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands, especially during the wintertime, wahoo provide an exciting challenge for anglers. These speedsters are fast and furious, providing a real challenge when reeling them in. They are mostly caught early morning near the FADs and along the coast.
Wahoo is best targeted on a fishing charter at daybreak using trolling fishing techniques. They can reach 23kg/50lbs but can be as heavy as 50kg/110lbs!
Best time: March to September
Also internationally known as dorado or dolphinfish, mahimahi is a popular species to target in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands during the winter months, but the season lasts as long as March until September. The colourful fish is enough to wow as you pull it to the surface, but is also one of the best fish to eat.
Mahimahi can weigh anything from 5kg/11lbs to 25kg/55lbs. Learn more about seasonal fishing in The Best Time of Year for Fishing in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
Best time: October to April
Billfish anglers will not be disappointed in the Cook Islands, with the prize of blue marlin, striped marlin and, more rarely, black marlin waiting to be caught. Although all marlin species are caught in the Cook Islands’ waters, the blue marlin is the most common. Blue marlin can be caught all year round, but the best months to try your luck are October through to April.
Blue marlin can range in size from 65kg/150lbs to a whopping 450kg/1000lbs!
Best time: October to April
Looking for a tough fight? Then head out for giant trevally (GT), known for being some of the toughest fighting fish.
GT fishing on Rarotonga mostly comes in the form of night fishing to increase your chances of reeling in your targetted catch. You’re also likely to catch some flying fish (maroro) on one of the trips too, which are fish used for live bait for catching the Cook Islands’ pelagic species. On Aitutaki, however, there are fishing charters who can take you by boat to the reef’s edges where you can catch GT all day long – find out more in Fishing Aitutaki: 5 Best Fishing Charters on Aitutaki. Note that GTs are catch and release only.
The best time to catch giant trevally is between October and April when the flying fish are more abundant, but GTs can be caught all year round. GTs in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands range in size from 5kgs/11lbs to 50kgs/110lbs!
Best time: All year!
A popular, if not, the most popular fish species to target on the Aitutaki Lagoon, bonefish or “kiokio” provides a fun yet challenging fly fishing experience on the flats. With fishing licenses required for fishing within the lagoon (learn more in The Ultimate Guide to Fishing in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands), the populations of bonefish are kept strong to guarantee a fair chance at a catch.
The weight of bonefish range from 3.2kg/7lbs to 3.6kg/8lbs but can reach a whopping 9kg/20lbs (well, at least that’s big for a bonefish).
More About Fish Species to Catch in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands
Now that you know the most popular types of fish in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands to catch on fishing charters, take a look at more advice to help achieve the perfect fishing excursion:
- The Ultimate Guide to Fishing in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands
- 10 Best Fishing Charters in the Cook Islands
- The Complete Guide to Spearfishing in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands
Finally, discover more awesome experiences in the 101 Best Things to Do in the Cook Islands: The Ultimate List.