Sustainable fisheries management is key to restoring and maintaining ecological function and benefits to people, but it requires accurate information about patterns in resource use, particularly fishing pressure. In most coral reef fisheries and other data-poor contexts, obtaining such information is challenging and remains an impediment to effective management. We developed the most comprehensive regional view of shore-based fishing effort and catch for the Hawaiian Islands to show detailed fishing patterns from across the main Hawaiian Islands (MHI). We reveal these regional patterns through fisher “creel” surveys conducted through collaborative efforts by local communities, state agencies, academics, and environmental organizations, at 18 sites and comprising >10,000 hr of monitoring across a range of habitats and human influences throughout the MHI. Here, we document spatial patterns in nearshore fisheries catch, effort, catch rates (i.e., catch-per-unit-effort [CPUE]), and catch disposition (i.e., use of fish after catch is landed). Line fishing was consistently the most commonly employed gear type (94%), followed by net fishing. The most efficient gear types (i.e., higher CPUE) were spear (0.64 kg hr-1), followed closely by net (0.61 kg hr-1), with CPUE for line (0.16 kg hr-1) 3.9 times lower than spear and 3.7 times lower than net. Creel surveys also reveal rampant illegal fishing activity across the studied locations. Surprisingly, overall, most of the catch was not sold, but rather retained for home consumption or given away to extended family, which indicates that cultural and food security may be stronger drivers of fishing effort than commercial exploitation for nearshore coral reef fisheries in Hawai‘i. Increased monitoring of spatial patterns in nearshore fisheries can inform targeted management, in order to maintain these fisheries for local communities’ food security, cultural, and ecological value.