I had the great luck to spend more than four months in the Philippines and to be able to fish in different places and islands. There was everything from a small pond to a lake twice the size of Lake Constance and the tropical sea. The hospitality on site was impressive and I was also positively impressed by the many helpful anglers who were happy to help the “Joe” (every white man is called Joe here, no devaluation). The Philippines is a country in which fishing tourism is not yet developed and is, even though it has the world’s most species-rich marine section and is highly interesting in terms of fishing. A report of an insider tip for the not so comfortable angler.
Fishing Licences or Fishing Permits in the Philippines
I would like to answer the question, which every German or European angler asks himself first. There is no fishing license or similar and you can fish for it (almost) everywhere. We are talking about a country where even for small fishing with the net no license (from locals) is needed. The exception to the rule are of course private ponds and waters and there are also some waters with protection status (e.g. parts of the bay of El-Nido). Just ask the locals and you will get great spots or hot spots.
As already mentioned, there are also some fishing lakes in the Philippines where a license is required or charged per kg fish. In general the prices are very reasonable and no comparison to local conditions. Especially lakes with snakeheads are very popular here.
Palawan – El Nido
Palawan is a dream island covered by tropical forest with mountains and a fantastic exotic landscape. A trip here is worthwhile. First I had to decide whether to spend a week’s holiday on Palawan or on Bohol. The decision to fly to Palawan was right. Everywhere rocks meet beautiful beaches and it smells like fish!
El- Nido is a small tourist town where you can find more westerners than anywhere else in the Philippines. You can either travel from Manila to the small local airport and from there by tricycle to the city or by bigger planes to Puerto Princessa and from there by van 6 hours overland to El-Nido. I have chosen the second possibility, but I would prefer to take the plane to El-Nido next time.
The city is completely designed for tourists, also culinary. For the first time in a long time we had here an Italian pizza from the stone oven or other well-known things. Of course there are also restaurants with local dishes. But the price of a pizza is as high as here and 10-11€ you have to calculate for the same money but there is also freshly grilled seafood and other delicacies.
El- Nido is one of the few places in the Philippines where fishing is restricted and you have to ask the local tourist office for information. Fishing is allowed on some of the offshore islands and on the right side of the bay as well. On one of the islands I tried spinning rod and small plugs of 3-11 cm and caught mainly small groupers (Lapu lapu) and a barracuda. I also saw some big garfish, but they were just looking critically at the lure. To get to the small islands we rented a two-seater kayak on the beach and paddled off with waterproof backpacks, which you also get on site. After 30 minutes paddling we were already at the first lonely beach we shared with only 1-2 other people. So we took out the spinning rod and put it on the edge of the beach by the rocks and started fishing. At the third cast with a Yo-Zuri wobbler there was already a small grouper hanging around who was allowed to swim again. Silvery blue plugs are like almost everywhere at the sea the bringer and I quickly caught a few more of the little fellows.
After another visit to the beach I went out to another even smaller island. Unfortunately not much happened here, except that I could watch the garfish.
But if you only fish here, you’ll miss a lot. That’s why the snorkeling equipment was always with us and so you could see the beautiful coral reefs in the crystal clear water from close up. Diving courses are also offered on site. Just like Iland hopping: with 10-20 people it goes from beach to beach and a delicious lunch is also included. On the tours you are already a little dispatched and the stays on the islands are relatively short. Also there are always 2-5 other groups there. In order not to disturb the nature too much, the areas are also closed off. Nevertheless, you should at least take part in one tour and always have your snorkeling equipment with you. Beach shoes are also a good idea with the sharp-edged corals and stones.
Bite on announcement
On the last evening I was able to go fishing alone. During the week I watched the bay quite closely and especially in the area where fishing is allowed I discovered strong swell in one place and lots of rocks in the water. So there were hiding places for robbers and the deep water had to be quite close to the rocks. So at the best time before sunset and the beginning of high tide I walked 45 minutes to the spot. It smelled like fish: a small shallow bay was bordered by a section of rugged rocks in the water and the tide came in. I quickly made a few casts and with the fifth or sixth cast something good was already hanging. My guess is either a shark or a GT. But I can’t say for sure, because I couldn’t land the fish. At first I thought of a trailer or hooked seaweed, but after I opened my brake a little bit, it was soon clear: there is something big hanging here. Thanks to the strong Shimano Shore boat the fish could be stopped and pumped back in again. I was wondering “was that really it?” but after the fish was about 10 meters behind me again, the second escape came. This time unstoppable and then it happened and the fish cut the line on the sharp rocks. Trembling I mounted another plugs, but of course there was nothing else big around. Almost in the darkness I was able to hook and land a small barracuda, which was allowed to swim again quickly. The action was definitely one of my fishing highlights on the Philippines. To hook a big tropical predator from the shore while standing in the surf is something very special and I am thankful that I could experience this. Here you can now find the video of me.
Laguna de Bay
Laguna de Bay is a huge lake, which is only 3-4 meters deep on average, but a huge area of about 911 km² has twice as much as Lake Constance. The lake is very productive because it is almost hypertrophic (very rich in nutrients) and yet thanks to constant wind from the sea, enough oxygen is getting into the water. The pollution levels are still high and borderline and the fish is quite edible.
Here I have spent most of my time and therefore I have been able to catch most of the different species. Among them were mainly tilapias, native catfish up to 55 cm and countless knifefish, the largest of which even surpassed the current world record. There are also other even bigger knifefish swimming in the lake. One specimen of 14 kg, which went into a fish trap, is documented. I wouldn’t recommend fishing in this lake but the lake is mostly overfished and for European eyes it is not a feast for the eyes.
Panay and Guimaras
Two beautiful islands, which are relatively in the middle of the island chain: Panay is not comparable to Palawan and not so beautiful. But the small neighbouring island Guimeras is a dream with many coral reefs and rocks. Fishing on Panay is quite ok, but on Guimeras it is much better. Nevertheless, one of my highlights was on Panay when I could watch robbing Wahoos from a pier. The speed at which quite big fish escaped from the huge predators was amazing and these are pictures I will never forget. Filmed I did not only take a few pictures here anyway. On the said pier I was taken by a friend of mine and we caught some small stuff and I was allowed to catch a smaller GT. On the pier there were always some local fishermen who offered with rod and reel or just with 1 mm lines a 25 cm bait fish on a 30 cm styrofoam ball.
There I was also taken on a small dugout-like boat and the three of us fished through the evening. Unfortunately I caught nothing. The anglers on the pier are not there for fun, but earn their living by fishing.
In the shallow coral reefs of Guimera there are also poisonous sea snakes. Nevertheless accidents never happen there, because the animals are not aggressive as long as they are not pushed into a corner.
Fishing shops in the Philippines
It is difficult to buy equipment on the spot. Although there are a few fishing shops, they are usually small and manageable. They are not cheaper than here, they are more expensive. Since most anglers can’t afford expensive new tackles anyway, they are incredible tinkerers from whom you can learn a lot. I also had a rod repaired and a landing net built. Nearly all the locals buy discarded rods and reels at special “junk stands” at the markets in Japan and repair them. Unfortunately I had no time to be taught more, because what the Philippinos patch up again is already madness. I also had a custom made predatory fish net head made. Material costs about 5 € with steel frame and stable net.
But what you can get on almost every market are lead, lines and hooks at very low prices.
Security in the Philippines
Here I am not talking about the southern islands of the Philippines, where the Abu Sayaf are active and the danger to life and limb is real. The rest of the Philippines is very safe for such a poor country and is not comparable with Central and South America. I felt very safe almost always and everywhere but still followed some rules e.g. never playing around in public with my smartphone or other technical devices and also walked around with cheap clothes. Violent crimes are very rare, much more common are simple scams. But this is also the case among the locals.
If you want to know more about the current situation, you should of course ask the Foreign Office.
Culinary delights in the Philippines
Since the Philippines is an Asian country, a lot of food is cooked with “magic sarap” (magical taste) – that is the sodium glutamate that is so infamous in our country. Who does not tolerate this, can hardly eat. Apart from that there are delicious things everywhere and the hygiene awareness is quite high. Since I had no choice I had to eat from the first day on in a small village from the street kitchens and never had any problems. Of course I only ate well cooked food.
Otherwise the many small restraunts outside of tourist regions offer great food for little money. A portion of rice usually costs around 30 cent and has to be ordered separately almost everywhere. A main course with the expensive king prawns is available in non-touristic regions for 3€ in more touristic regions for 4-5€. In highly touristic places like Boracay or El-Nido you have to expect 10-13€ per main course! In the street kitchen you can eat for about 1€!
A warning to all vegans or vegetarians, of whom I think there are only a few here (This is a fishing site :)). If you at least eat fish and don’t take vegetarianism too seriously, you won’t have much problems in the Philippines. But as a vegan you hardly have a chance to eat. Of course you can buy fruits and vegetables on the markets. But the fruit is not so cheap depending on the season and a mango still costs half of the local prices, if it is not in season. But there were pineapples for example for 15 cent freshly peeled. Bananas and peppers are also almost always very cheap.
Also a warning to frahling lovers, among whom I count myself: Coffee comes from the country where the most expensive coffee in the world is grown but cheap coffee is also grown just out of the bag and it says Nescafe on it. You have to look for something to get good real coffee.
If you want to know more, feel free to write a comment 🙂