Fishing In The Philippines – Asia’s Billfish & Tuna Unknown Destination

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  • With over 7,100 islands the Philippines is considered to be the epicenter of the world’s marine biodiversity
  • Learn what fish to expect to catch when you go saltwater fishing in the Philippines
  • Learn when to go, where to go, and have a family fishing vacation

The Philippines has a lot to offer, especially when it comes to the variety and quantity of fish. In addition to the fantastic game fishing, the friendly courteous people of the Philippines are happy to be your guide.

Communication is not a problem as the majority of the citizens can speak English.

Now, lend me 10 minutes of your time and I will take you on a wonderful Philippine fishing trip,  through the knowledge and information of this article.

Top Fish to Catch in the Philippines

How diverse are the Philippines? Of the 34,300 fish species cataloged in FishBase, 3,125 can be found in the Philippines. That’s the reason why the Philippines is listed in the top 10 countries with the largest variety of marine fish species.

Offshore Fish in the Philippines

Spanish Mackerel caught on a boat fishing charter off the coast of Siargao

The Philippines is strategically located in the Pacific migration path of major pelagic fish. According to the UN-FAO in 2019, the country’s commercial fishing industry produced over 1 million metric tons of fish. 

Don’t get too concerned regarding the commercial fishing industry, there’s a lot of fish in the country!

Offshore fishing and game fishing is not as popular as in other countries in the world. When you arrive and go fishing it’s likely to be very easy to book a charter boat at a very reasonable price.

These are the offshore fish you can expect to catch in the Philippines (with the local name):

Billfish (Malasugi) 

  • Black marlin
  • Blue marlin
  • Broadbill swordfish
  • Sailfish
  • Striped marlin

Mackerels

  • Indian mackerel (Alumahan)
  • Spanish mackerel (Tanguigue) 

Tuna (Barilis / Bodboron)

  • Dogtooth tuna
  • Frigate tuna
  • Mackerel tuna
  • Skipjack tuna 
  • Yellowfin tuna

Others

  • Dolphinfish (Dorado)

Inshore Fish in the Philippines

With over 36,289 kilometers of shoreline littered with tidal flats and shallow reefs, the Philippines has a place for every sport fisherman. Some of the common inshore fish caught are:

  • Bigeye scad (Matang baka)
  • Giant Trevally (Talakitok)
  • Rabbitfish (Kitong)
  • Parrotfish (Molmol)
  • Grouper (Lapu lapu)
  • Snappers (Maya maya)
  • Surgeonfish (Labahita)
  • Barracuda (Rompi)
  • Several species of wrasse

Where to go fishing in the Philippines

This map of the Philippines shows the main fishing areas

When traveling to the Philippines, you should always consider your arrival terminal as International airports are well distributed in the country’s major islands: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

Note: You should make sure you book the correct flight destination. Some research is necessary to make sure you fly to the correct domestic airport once you arrive. The Philippines covers a wide area and is a large country with many islands.

Luzon

Ninoy Aquino International Airport is your gateway to the country’s main island of Luzon. From there, you have 2 options.

First, you can travel north to Subic Zambales. While there are many fishing charters in Subic, we suggest you try going with local fishermen in their traditional fishing grounds and be ready for a tuna frenzy. If you’re dying to catch dolphinfish, then head to the northernmost part of Luzon on the island of Batanes.

Your second option is to go south to Batangas. Considered the epicenter of marine diversity, be ready to hook a variety of fish, especially its signature catch – the Spanish mackerel.

Visayas

If you want to go fishing 10-minutes after you land at the airport, then consider the Visayas islands through the Mactan-Cebu International Airport.

Fishing charters are just a short taxi ride away and the Mactan channel will be your main fishing ground. Spanish mackerel and dogtooth tuna are the common species caught here.

Given that the Visayas island is a tourism highway, try to explore other areas outside Cebu like Leyte, Bohol, Dumaguete, and Siquijor. All these destinations are just a 1-hour catamaran ride from Cebu harbor.

Mindanao

Mindanao is considered the country’s fruit basket. But for us sport fishermen, Mindanao is synonymous with paradise, as its deep trenches are a part of the Pacific pelagic migration path.

Aside from being the hometown of our world boxing champion and Senator Manny Pacquiao, General Santos City is also the country’s tuna capital. 

Just go to the fish port and you will see tenders unloading gigantic yellowfin tunas. The single-day haul of over 25 metric tons of tuna that was displayed at the City’s Tuna Festival in 2014 earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s largest display of fish.

But here’s the “catch” when you go fishing in General Santos City. While the quantity of fish that you will catch is still excellent, unfortunately, the size of the fish is reducing every year. An indicator of the pressure of overfishing in the Philippines. 

Siargao Island, Surigao

Siargao Island is located in the east of the Philippines, just south of the central belt, and it has several category 5 hotel resorts.

Siargao Island is the Philippines’ hot spot for Surfing, and Game Fishing. In 2019, Siargao was voted the best island in the world by the readers of Conde Nast Traveler magazine! There are also game fishing competitions held every August along the city’s coastal waters.

Siargao has great fishing for species of yellowfin tuna, skipjack tuna, jack, giant trevally, dorado, and marlin. The best time to fish is between March and May. Siargao is most famous for its sailfish! 

Dorado can also be caught from August to November, using trolling methods.

You can hire a local guide on the island and a large range of professional gear can be hired.

Other Philippine Game Fishing Locations 

As in most places around the world, the best places for offshore game fishing in the Philippines can be found in most of the least accessible places around the country. 

Some of the better recognized are San Vicente (Cagayan Valley), Calatagan & Ambil (Batangas), Laiya (Batangas), Port Pilar (Siargao), and Dingalan (Aurora). However, getting to these locations requires more research and some local knowledge.   

When to go fishing in the Philippines

The Philippines is a tropical country and fishing conditions are generally calm most of the year round. However, you have to be aware of the monsoon seasons and try to avoid these times if possible.

Whilst you can still go fishing, many of the boat charters may not be running on certain days if the weather is extreme.

Running from June to September, the southwest monsoon affects the western coast of the country (like Subic, Zambales, and Batangas). Usually, the northeast monsoon follows from October to January and affects the eastern part of the country (not to mention it is also the typhoon season).

Best fishing methods to catch fish in the Philippines

There are many methods used in sport fishing in the Philippines, such as:

  • Trolling 
  • Jigging
  • Popping
  • Fly fishing

While you are in the Philippines, you can also try using more traditional local fishing tactics which are proven to be effective, such as:

  • Hook and line
  • Multiple hook and line
  • Jigger (very effective for squids)

Take note that most of these gears are baited and you will be surprised what locals commonly use for bait (squid skin, hermit crab, or earthworm for reef fish and small live fish for big pelagics).  

How to book your fishing trip in the Philippines

Siargao Island – Local fishermen are the experts in finding the best locations

Booking nowadays is relatively easy as it can be done digitally in the comfort of your home. However, what we would like to emphasize is never make full payment before your fishing trip. The usual practice is a 10 to 20% down payment would suffice your reservation and pay the balance after the trip.

For big game fishing in Siargao, you have to go to sailfish bay surf and fishing lodge. This is one of the best in the Philippines!

For fishing charters in Batangas, we recommend the 25-footer powerboat of Dominique’s Charters. This boat is ideal for group fishing as it can accommodate up to 8 persons.

If you are in Cebu, you should try fishing in our traditional outrigger boat called “Banca” with Samsa Charters. With them, you can either go deep-sea fishing, trolling, or bottom fishing. And what’s best, all you need to do is just get on board as the fishing equipment, bait, snacks, and drinks are already included in the package.

In case you’re not comfortable fishing on a small boat, you can opt to go with Samsa Charters’ Power Catamaran.

These boats have more modern onboard amenities (like a toilet, chart plotter, and digital instruments like a depth sounder and a fish finder) and will add more comfort to your fishing vacation, especially if you would like to include your kids or spouse.

Finally, my personal choice where you can enjoy fishing and a family retreat is at Dipudo Private Island. You can hire gear and a boat for short trips for around US$250, but this is more of a family resort holiday with fishing as an add-on extra. 

Philippine Fishing Regulations

There is no specific law that governs sport fishing in the Philippines. However, policies are being implemented to conserve the country’s fishery.

Some of the policies include endangered species protection (all our list in the “top fish to catch section” is not yet classified as threatened or endangered) and the establishment of fish sanctuaries and marine reserves wherein sport fishing is strictly prohibited.

We highly advise talking with your local fishing guide on the do’s and don’ts in fishing as there may be a slight variation in policies between fishing areas.  

Your Key Takeaway on why visit the Philippines

As we earlier said, we take pride in our locales as we always take care of all your needs, may they be fishing related or not. That’s how hospitable Filipinos are! 

Your second takeaway is that you can do other things while in the Philippines. Being a tourist country, there’s a lot to see in this tropical nation, both on land and underwater.

And lastly, your final takeaway is the value for money. The purchasing power of foreign currencies in Philippine goods and services is far greater than in other countries.

I hope that this article on the Philippines was useful and informative. You can check out more articles on fishing in other countries around the world here!