A heavy-weight bruiser. Whilst the Philippine record stands at something over 500lbs it is my estimation that throughout the country at least half a dozen larger fish are lost every year through inadequate tackle, boat, experience, etc. A local boatman who caught two last year, both under a hundred pounds & when I asked him how many he lost, he hesitated for quite a while & when I suggested 20, “No”, he said, “More”. I’m optimistic that we have a really serious opportunity of setting a local record on this one. World record over 1000lbs.
Season : All year, May – September best.
One of the toughest pound-for-pound fish that swims. Usually hooked at night while fishing for Squid, the bait, & Yellowfin Tuna. Local record unknown but estimated to be in the region of 250lbs. Another fish where we believe we can set a record. World record over 1000lbs.
Season: All year, but usually when the South West monsoon sets in, May -September.
The light-weight of the billfish but arguably the most beautiful fish in the sea, also one of the fastest, clocked at about 100/kph (about 60mph). A tester on light tackle. The Philippine record stands at 206lbs, yes, you read it right, 206lbs, so there’s no chance of breaking that! Caught on Tubataha reef in the Sulu Sea by Noel Jones from Hong Kong in May, 1990. It is also the IGFA 30lb line class record & appears to be the 3rd largest ever caught in the world. That really is enormous!
Season: All year but March & April are hot.
Good fun to catch & great to eat. Secret: Take the fillets off as soon as it’s dead & remove the skin, roll it up & put in the ice box. Relatively easy to catch between March-November although can be caught throughout the year. Local record probably in the region of 50lbs so we have a chance on this one. World record around 90lbs.
Season: All year but Feb–September best.
The small ones, up to about 20lbs are good fun & good eating but in my limited experience of catching the bigger ones, these are not good fun. One the most dogged fighters in the sea & certain to raise a sweat or a heart attack. Philippine record probably stands at around 150lbs. World record around 400lbs.
Season: All year but big ones are usually caught at night, May-September best.
A great fish, great fight, great eating! Local record around 50lbs. World record over 150lbs.
Season:All year, best February-September
Spanish Mackerel (Narrow barred)
I seem to be on my own when I say it’s over-rated for it’s fighting qualities & not great to eat. Local record around 30lbs. World record around 100lbs
Season: All year, best February-September
The Mike Tyson of the sea, ugly,big & brutal. Fortunately most of the ones we catch here are the featherweight version but it still rates among the toughest battlers out there on the poundage scale. Not bad eating. Local record 50lbs. World record over 150lbs
Season: All year, shallow water
This fish appears to have have been totally over-looked by the gourmets of the world, it’s a delight, raw or cooked & that’s why it has received mention separately. One to look out for (has gold spots & yellow lateral line).
Probably around another 20 species which are frequently caught, but not particularly noteworthy. Oilfish, caught at night in deep water are quite big, up to 100lbs, but act as a purgative, when eaten, in most people. Parrot fish, good to eat. Snapper, ditto. Coral Trout, never seen a big one here, and always good on a plate. Grouper, Cod, totally over-rated as food fish compared to other reef fish & pelagics. Sweetlips, usually easy to catch & good eating. Wrasse, good on light tackle & usually pretty good to eat. Some of the smaller fish, Big-eye for example, are delicious but no sporting quality. Squid, fun to catch, & great live-bait, not bad eating; small ones very good, big ones, good, chunked, on a sizzling hot plate (roll ’em over for 30 seconds & then eat!).
The styles of fishing here would be considered fairly basic but they work & thus there’s very little experimentation. My exposure to saltwater fishing, particularly offshore, is also pretty limited, so I’m on a steep learning curve. What I’ve tried to list below are the methods which I’ve seen employed here or those I’ve tried, intend to employ having used them elsewhere, or heard about from other fishermen.
Trolling – The primary method for catching fish here is using rigged deadbait, usually Flying fish although sometimes Ballyhoo. Average trolling speed is about 6 or 7 knots with the baits set back between 40m-70m, longer when the weather is settled. Rapalas & other similar lures are effective close to the reef (150 feet & less) in the morning & evening & sometimes if the weather is overcast or raining. Skirted baits are seldom used although we’ve had some success with Pink. In fact, the first time I ever went to Siargao I put up a pink squid & a high speed surface Rapala, maybe a Yo Zuri, (we had no bait) & had a Sailfish hit the squid within 10 mins of putting it out; we got a Barracuda on the lure.
Live baits – Usually Squid, at night, freelined or weighted, for Broadbill Swordfish & big Yellowfins; I’ve done this once in a banca & we caught lots of Squid, 60kgs, & a 4kg Triple-tail but nothing serious. The next night my guide went out & caught a big Broadbill (about 150kgs) on his handline. Squid fishing is fun ..for about an hour & then it’s monotonous; there are approximately 12 squid in a kilo & we caught 60kgs. The method is to have a bright light shining on the water under which you have a metre long stick with about a foot of stiff wire attached, to the end of that you put a strip of fish,squid whatever; you then draw patterns in the water underneath the light & when the squid attack it you net them, quickly, & drop them in the open cooler alongside the boat.
Once you have your Squid, you bait two or three lines with them, 2 or 3 at a time & drop them back. When I’ve done this in Kenya or Florida we’ve usually added lead weights & suspended the baits under lighted balloons (shake & snap crystal lights) or plastic bottles, attached at the desired depth,usually 3 lines at 50m,25m & 10m, by an elastic band. Once the biting depth is established set the two other lines within 10m of that depth, for example, if the 25m is hit you set one other line at 35m & the other at 15m.The deepest line is always closest to the boat. Change baits every 15 – 20 minutes; squid are cannibalistic & those impaled on your hook get eaten by the others.
Dead baits – Whole fish, cut strips & chunks free-lined, weighted or float-fished usually in shallower water up to about 300 feet.
Jigging – A method that has exploded in popularity in recent years. Non Stretch Braided line is essential.