First Time Fishing in the Maldives


Everything You Need to Know About Maldives Fishing

First Time Fishing in the Maldives

Everything You Need to Know About Maldives Fishing


August, 2019

Perfect combination of crystal clear waters, white sandy beaches and a large variety of marine life make the Maldives one of the most fishing destination in the world. Maldives experience is rarely done without fishing, and many an angler aspires to charter a boat with a dream to catch a big fish that should literally budge you! Perhaps you've heard a lot about this beach destination, but do not have a clue about how fishing looks like and what methods of fishing are most popular. Maldives has some of the richest fishing grounds in the world and you do not have to venture far from the shore to break fishing records. Spectacular trophy sailfish and marlin together with shark, GT, giant barracuda, rainbow-runner and wahoo make Maldives an exciting fishing destination for the experienced fisherman and novice alike.

The Maldives consist of a chain of 26 atolls, made up of nearly 1,200 coral islands, which stretch from north to south in the Indian Ocean, 400km away from Sri Lanka – the nearest mainland. The spectacular scenery and world class hotels make the islands a haven for holidaymakers, but a key part of the appeal is the excellent fishing spots which are dotted around the countless islands, lagoons and atolls. Fishing is one of the most popular recreational activities on the islands, which are home to over 1,100 species of fish ranging from tuna to barracuda, reef and squirrel fish. Whether you're fishing from land or by boat, there's a whole range of exotic fish to be caught. A variety of charter boats and fishing excursions allow for individual tailoring of fishing programmes.

Instructions for first timers and experienced anglers allow you to catch the sight of the picturesque landscape of the Maldives, and, with a certain luck, you will also receive a triumphal catch. Let the locals discover the best bites for you with a large abundance of fish, and revitalize your unforgettable excursion with a delicious dinner, whether on a desert island, aboard a dhoni boat or in the restaurant of your guest house or luxury resort.

big game fishing vaavu atoll

History

Fishing has long been the primary source of income for the Maldives with tuna fishing being the greatest. The Maldives used to ship up to 90 percent of its fishing catch made up mostly of tuna in dried form to Sri Lanka. However, when Sri Lanka decreased the import of such fish in the 1970s, the Maldives joined with the Japanese Marubeni Corporation to form the canning and processing company, Maldives Nippon Corporation to can and process fresh fish. In 1979, the Maldivian government also created the Maldives Industrial Fisheries Company, which controls the processing and exporting of frozen and canned tuna, as well as providing collection vessels.

Several fisheries development projects have been undertaken with financial support from Japan and the World Bank with vast improvements in harbor and refrigeration facilities, leading to an increase in earnings from canned fish in the 1980s. The fishery industry was the dominant sector of the economy until 1985 when the tourism industry overtook the fisheries in terms of its contribution to GDP. However, the fishing industry continues to provide a vital source of income for about 20 percent of the population, with about 22,000 individuals involved in full-time fishing activities. (Source: Wikipedia)

When to Go

There are two seasons in the Maldives, and each season offers different opportunities for fishing due to changes in currents, visibility, water temperature and plankton movement. Today, due to the global climate change, it is becoming increasingly difficult to know the time for successful fishing. The fish in the Maldives bite all year round, but for the Big Game, the best season is from November to March, although the sailfish fish also eagerly grab the bait from August to November. Tuna and wahoo are well caught from October to March.

Northeast Monsoon (January-April)

Starting in December, the currents through the atolls go from east to west. On the east side of the atolls, visibility under water improves to 30+ meters. Because of this current, marine life concentrates on the reefs and along the edges of the channels, gathering large masses of fish there. The current tends to be stronger in February, but on the surface expect a calm sea. The water temperature rises to 30 degrees, and GT often hunts a little deeper. These conditions are kept quiet until March / April, to storm clouds from the south-west. With the arrival of rains, the current changes to the opposite, and the water at this time is the kingdom of plankton. Visibility in the west of the atolls drops to 10 - 15 meters.

Southwest Monsoon (May - November)

In the southwest monsoon season, the western side of the atolls is an ideal place to catch yellowfin tuna. Currents are usually less severe and have good visibility. The water temperature is slightly lower, which means that pelagics hunt closer to the surface. At this time, it is also possible to catch well yellowfin tuna on the eastern side of the atolls, mostly about 10 - 20 km from the edge of the atoll. Since weather conditions can be unpredictable (often strong winds and heavy rain for a period of usually 3-4 days), you should think about whether you need such fishing. This, the rainiest period in the Maldives, however, can offer the greatest variety of fish if you are able to get to the fishing grounds.

Fishing Seasons

January
January marks the height of dry season, when Maldives big game fishing is at its peak! This is a great time to hook а GT, Sailfish, Marlin, Wahoo, Mahi Mahi, Yellowfin Tuna, and more.

February
Big game fishing will start winding down toward the end of the month. Be sure to get in on the action while you can! Marlin, Wahoo, Mahi Mahi, Tuna, and plenty of other fish are still biting.

March
The peak season may be ending, but you’re still likely to land a Barracuda, Sailfish, and much more. If you’re not having any luck offshore, try hitting the flats for some GT action!

April
As dry season comes to a close, be sure to keep an eye on the weather forecast in case of heavy rain. You’re less likely to make it offshore to catch Yellowfin Tuna, Marlin, Wahoo, and Mahi Mahi at this time.

May
When the weather is fair, May can be a great time to catch GT and Barracuda. Your chances of catching other big game fish are slim, but the reefs can still be promising.

June
For light tackle and fly anglers, GT fishing on the flats never fails to disappoint! Wait for a break in the weather and head out to the shallow turquoise waters for some fun.

July
Don’t let a sunny morning fool you at this time of year—severe storms can linger just over the horizon at the peak of wet season. It’s best to stay inshore and see what the flats and reefs have in store.

August
Wet season is far from over, but big game fishing is starting to pick up again. If the weather allows, you might have a chance to reel in Tuna, Mahi Mahi, Sailfish, and more.

September
The peak season for Maldives big game fishing is inching closer and closer. All the trophies are biting offshore, including Tuna, Wahoo, and Mahi Mahi. Marlin are still scarce.

October
With wet season drawing to a close, Yellowfin Tuna and Mahi Mahi are biting more than ever. As always, you can count on great action inshore while fishing for Barracuda and GT.

November
There’s no better time for big game fishing in the Maldives! Marlin are appearing offshore, joining the ranks of Sailfish, Wahoo, Tuna, Mahi Mahi, and much more.

December
A tropical holiday getaway may be just the thing you need this year! Ditch the crowds on shore and head out to sea for Marlin, GT, Tuna, Sailfish, and plenty of other trophies.

Fishing Styles

For anglers in the Maldives is offered a some types of fishing: Big Game Fishing, Casting, Jigging, Pole and Line fishing, Traditional night fishing and Fly Fishing.

Big Game Fishing

Casting your line from boats is one of the best ways to enjoy a spot of fishing on the islands. So-called 'Big Game Fishing' ranks among the most popular activities, mostly because of the large fish species which inhabit the deeper waters. Catering for novice and expert trawlers, the Big Game trip allows you to catch a sight of the Maldives’ picturesque landscape, and, with some luck you will be triumphant about your catch too. Tuna, barracuda, wahoo, dorado and sailfish are just some of the prized assets which can be caught just offshore. Maldives Big game fishing includes heavy duty trolling, jigging, and popping. Jigging and popping are preferred for Giant Trevally, Red Bass, Barracuda, Amberjack, and more. You can also catch these species from shore, mainly by beach casting, live bait fishing, and fly fishing. Strong braided line is recommended, since these fish put up a strong fight!

Pole and Line Fishing

While typically reserved for commercial fishing, Tuna may also be targeted by the traditional pole and line technique. Learn to master the art of Maldivian line fishing as you join the experienced crew on board their dhonis, cruising to spots where abundance of fish is vast and you are likely to catch what you’ve been hoping for. Commercial fishermen use 10-15’ bamboo poles fitted with a fishing line, a barbless hook, and a feather. Line fishing is environmentally sustainable and has been practised in the Maldives for centuries. After luring Tuna to the dhoni with live bait, these fishermen cast their lines and target the fish one-by-one. You shouldn’t expect to try this method on a typical fishing charter, but it’s possible to find a crew that offers trips specifically for visitors interested in the pole and line technique. Tag along for a chance to see the locals using the traditional ‘pole and line’ fishing method and show off with your catch during the barbecue lunch on an uninhabited island or on board the dhoni, just like the Maldivian fisherman would savour their catch.

Reef Fishing

Bottom fishing with hand lines is the typical method for reef fishing in the Maldives, traditionally aboard a dhoni or a smaller vessel called a bokkuraa. Depending on the species, techniques may include deep drop jigging, live bait fishing, or fishing with cut bait. Some anglers prefer feathered hooks with no bait for catching Green Jobfish. Bottom fishing gives you the chance to try your hand at any of these techniques. Whether you’re in the market for an authentic hands-on experience or a decadent vacation on the waves, your next adventure is waiting here!

Night Fishing

Fishing under the starlit night sky ranks among the top experiences in the Maldives . Most resorts organise fishing excursions after dark and offer you the chance to reel in barracuda, snappers, emperors and squirrel fish, to name but a few.

Several tours enable you to experience fishing using traditional Maldivian methods, such as using hand lines with raw fish as bait. The use of fishing nets is forbidden in order to preserve fish stocks, hence why islanders have perfected the art of using hand lines – a tradition passed down through the generations.

Fishing for sharks and whales is forbidden in The Maldives, as is the use of harpoons. The emphasis is very much on preserving the thousands of aquatic species which all play a part in the diverse ecosystem of the coral reefs.

Fly Fishing

The Maldives have plenty of inhibited islands, sandbanks, flats around your resort or guest house where you can explore and experience the fly fishing during your holiday. The local guides have great knowledge on marine species and locations that you may find great number of bone fish, groupers, giant trevally and a lot more. Fly fishing the Maldives is a mix of flats and reefs. Low tide on some flats mean opportunities for trevallies, triggerfish and the occasional bonefish. Other flats can produce shots for cruising GTs, always looking for an easy meal, and the reefs or surf will mainly hold GTs, bluefin trevallies, snappers and sometimes sharks or barracudas. Sooner or later, you will get the cast just right and hook your GT. A tug-of-war that can be both heart and line breaking follows, and if your reel doesn’t give in, your rod doesn’t break or your hook doesn’t open – then you might just find yourself in pure paradise, holding the fish of any saltwater fly fisherman’s wildest dreams!

Where to Go

The most of resorts are usually expensive with a limited fishing experience but provide you amazing accommodations, food and services. Resorts want to protect their reef, and in order to protect it, shore fishing is absolutely forbidden. The only fishing allowed when staying in a resort is by booking “sunset/night fishing“or “big game fishing” excursion arranged by the hotel. The sunset/night fishing excursion is a Maldivian style usually last for 2-3 hours and cost around USD 50/ person. Some resorts have boats who can take you for Big game fishing (check with the resort before arrival to make sure they can arrange Big game) . Unfortunately the gear on these boats is usually not in the best condition and the price usually pretty high ( Half day USD 700 – Full day USD 1200 )

Fishing on the inhabited islands is a more affordable option. Let the locals take you to grounds with great abundance of fish ! By booking a guest house on a local island you will discover the real Maldivian culture and taste an authentic Maldivian experience. Most of the guest house arrange fishing trip just the like one proposed in resort. Rates are generally lower than resort price and the experience more authentic. Also on the local islands there are guest houses built specifically for anglers. However, you can always ask your guest house to arrange tailor made fishing trip according to your wishes and depending on your fishing mood. Your fishing guide is generally someone from the island just as passionate as you about fishes.

Another way is renting out your private cruise boat with friends or family and spend your entire vacations fishing! The boat's team will guide you and take you to the best fishing spots in Maldives ; Crew will prepare your lunch or dinner with the catch of the day on an uninhabited island or on board the cruise boat. Fishing cruise is by far the best solution for all fishing addicts. Prices are generally low, you are provided with a private boat with crew and fuel for you and your friends/relatives, 3 meals a day +cordials included, private cabins, alcoholic beverages available on board (extra), you will travel the country and visit some of the most beautiful places in Maldives, fishing in the most abundant and remote areas is guaranteed.

Meeru Island Resort & Spa

Good to Know

With more than 1,000 coral islands to choose from, it’s hard to pick a bad place to fish in the Maldives. Malé Atoll is one of the most accessible destinations, with international flights and world renowned resorts at your disposal. Many charter operators based on other islands offer pickup service from Malé for your convenience.

Liveaboard charters are a great way to explore other atolls and the deep sea beyond. For those with less time to spare, casting a few lines from shore can also be very rewarding, so long as it’s allowed in that location.

If you plan to fish alone, make sure you’re familiar with local regulations ahead of time. Strict rules apply to specific areas and types of fishing. In some cases, there are protected areas where you cannot fish at all. In general, fishing inhabited and uninhabited islands is allowed. You may fish from individual reefs that are not part of an island, or sand banks, or any other dry area.

The first UNESCO biosphere in the Indian Ocean was founded at Baa Atoll in 2011, and marine conservation is taken very seriously throughout the Maldives. Always be aware of where you’re casting lines, since reef fishing is prohibited on marine reserves and can lead to penalties ranging from $500-$2,000. It’s best to refrain from reef or shore fishing at resorts unless explicitly permitted by the resort management.

The best way to fish responsibly is to book your trip with a professional Maldives fishing charter operator. You do not need to purchase a fishing license when you book a charter.

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