Sustainable fisheries management is key to restoring and maintaining ecological function and benefits to people, but it requires accurate information about patterns of 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 published to date, to show detailed fishing patterns from across the main Hawaiian Islands (MHI). We reveal these regional patterns through fisher “creel” surveys conducted by local communities, state agencies, academics, and/or environmental organizations, at 18 sites, comprising >10,000 h of monitoring across a range of habitats and human influences throughout the MHI. All creel surveys included in this study except for one were previously published in some form (peer-reviewed articles or gray literature reports). Here, we synthesize these studies to 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). This effort provides for a description of general regional patterns based on these location-specific studies. Line fishing was by far the dominant gear type employed. The most efficient gear (i.e., highest CPUE) was spear (0.64 kg h[superscript −1]), followed closely by net (0.61 kg h[superscript −1]), with CPUE for line (0.16 kg h[superscript −1]) substantially lower than the other two methods. Creel surveys also documented illegal fishing activity across the studied locations, although these activities were not consistent across sites. Overall, most of the catch was not sold, but rather retained for home consumption or given away to extended family, which suggests that cultural practices and food security may be stronger drivers of fishing effort than commercial exploitation for coral reef fisheries in Hawai‘i. Increased monitoring of spatial patterns in nearshore fisheries can inform targeted management, and can help communities develop a more informed understanding of the drivers of marine resource harvest and the state of the resources, in order to maintain these fisheries for food security, cultural practices, and ecological value.