The most popular place to visit in Indonesia, Bali, is famous for its sandy beaches, colorful reefs, and iconic surfing. Vacations to “The Island of the Gods” revolve around the sea. It’s surprising, then, that the fishing Bali has off its coastline is relatively undiscovered by tourists.
There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that the island does a great job of promoting its other holiday pursuits. Another is that, while tourists don’t think much about Bali’s fishing, commercial trawlers and residents do. The local seas have been filling the world’s plates and aquariums for decades. That means that trophy fish are now relatively few and far between.
So is it still worth going fishing in Bali? Absolutely. The entire island is surrounded by coral reefs, housing a huge variety of marine life. Reeling these fish in from a traditional jukung boat shows you a side to the local culture that you’d never experience in a resort. And there’s a good chance of catching pelagics and larger reef dwellers if you know where to look. So read on and get ready to explore the best of what Bali’s seas have to offer.
What fish can you catch in Bali?
Bali is in the Coral Triangle – the most diverse marine ecosystem in the world. That makes it the ideal home to nearly a thousand species of reef fish. On top of that, all sorts of pelagics swim past Bali’s shores throughout the year. From Clownfish to Billfish, you can find almost everything here if you have enough patience. Here are a few of our favorites.
GTs are some of the most exciting fish you can catch in sight of land. The undisputed kings of the Indo-Pacific reefs, they attack almost anything that swims – and even some things that don’t!
You can catch GTs across Bali all year round. While the fish closest to the mainland are usually quite small, you can find monsters around the islands to the southeast. Casting large poppers around Batu Abah, off Penida Island, is one of the best ways to catch a big one.
A variety of Tuna species swim past Bali on their annual migrations. The most common is the hard-fighting Mackerel “Mac” Tuna. Sometimes referred to by locals as Bluefin or Black Tuna, they’re actually much smaller than their cousins, Pacific Bluefin Tuna. Don’t let the size put you off though – these fish offer very enjoyable sportfishing, particularly on light tackle. Come around June for peak Tuna fishing nearshore.
Other local Tuna species include ferocious Dogtooth Tuna and delicious Yellowfin Tuna. Dogtooth Tuna hunt around the reefs close to shore, but jigging in deeper waters around reef drop-offs is the best way to land a big one. You’re most likely to find a Yellowfin, on the other hand, around the Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) to the north of the island. They congregate here from August to November.
“Snapper” is probably the fishing world’s biggest catch-all name, encompassing a huge variety of species across the planet. But when people go out to target Snapper in Bali, they’re usually looking for Ruby Snapper, a delicious – and quite large – reef fish. These fish respond well to deep water jigging and you can find them here all year round.
Some of the world’s favorite game fish make their way onto Bali’s boats throughout the year. Mahi Mahi and Wahoo give sportfishers a run for their money from October to January. Amberjack and Barracuda are also quite common around the FADs and offshore islands. Sailfish and even Marlin show up around here occasionally, although not regularly enough to make it worth targeting them specifically.
Closer to shore, most fishing trips result in a whole array of smaller reef fish. From Leatherjackets and Triggerfish to small Snappers and Groupers, you never know what you might find at the end of your line. Most of these cook up a treat, particularly when you eat them shoreside at the end of a trip. That just adds to the allure of fishing in Bali!
How to Go Fishing in Bali
Thanks to all the reefs around the island, Bali is a great place for beginners to hook their first fish. But if you travel slightly further offshore, there’s plenty to entice more experienced sport fishers, too. Whether you’re looking for a couple of hours’ respite from the crowds on the beaches or you’re coming here specifically to fish, here’s what to expect…
Bali Fishing Charters
The easiest way to up your fishing game is by chartering a boat and heading out into deeper waters. Bali fishing charters often use traditional jukung boats, which are tailor-made for the local seas. These small wooden vessels provide a smooth ride over Bali’s famous surf – but they’re fairly basic. Expect to get wet in choppy conditions, and bring plenty of sunscreen! More conventional modern boats are also an option, providing a little less local flavor but a lot more comfort.
Whatever your ride, most fishing trips will involve either bottom fishing or sportfishing. These are quite different experiences, so make sure to set your expectations with your guide before you set off.
Also known as “coral fishing,” bottom fishing is a low-key way to catch small reef fish for dinner. You’ll drop a weighted line and a baited hook over the reef, wait for a bite, and reel in your catch. This is always a guessing game. With so many reef fish in Bali, you can end up with multiple different species in just a couple of hours. Many Bali fishing trips start with bottom fishing before taking you to a secluded local swimming and snorkeling spot.
Looking for an adventure? Try sportfishing. These trips usually take you trolling the open waters for speedy pelagics like Tuna, Mahi Mahi, and Wahoo. This can be really exciting, as long as the fish are playing ball.
More experienced anglers will get the most out of fishing Bali’s deeper waters by jigging and popping. Jigging weighted lures over deep drop-offs can land you Ruby Snapper, Dogtooth Tuna, Wahoo, Amberjack, and more. Meanwhile, popping around coastal areas is the go-to technique for Giant Trevally fishing.
Look for charters that specialize in these techniques, as you can’t guarantee that everyone has the appropriate gear to put you on the larger fish.
Shore Fishing in Bali
If you’ve packed a rod and want to keep your feet on the ground, you’re in luck. Locals fish extensively from shore, and so can you. Expect to catch a variety of relatively small fish and be ready to be inventive about bait – you’re unlikely to be able to purchase this on the island. Gilimanuk Harbor in the east of the Island and Jimbaran in the south are particularly popular shore fishing spots.
Ultralight fishing is becoming ever more popular in this part of the world, too. Super light tackle adds an enjoyable challenge to catching even the smallest of fish, making it a great choice for shore-bound anglers in Bali.
Where to Go Fishing in Bali
No matter where you are on the island, you won’t need to go far to find fish. Most Bali sea fishing trips start in the south, where golden sandy beaches attract the majority of the region’s tourists. But the FADs to the north and the narrow Bali Strait to the east also provide exciting fishing action. Make sure to check out these hotspots:
- The Nusa Islands. The imposing limestone cliffs of Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan are just as attractive from the water as they are from land. These beautiful islands southeast of mainland Bali are a popular daytrip for people looking for relaxation beyond the resorts on the mainland. But don’t get too comfortable. These iconic cliffs are a prime hunting ground for large Giant Trevallies, while a host of other hard-fighting species live deep below these choppy waters.
- The Lombok Strait. The area that separates Bali from its sister island of Lombok is one of the main passing points for water going between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. This also makes it a major highway for game fish. These waters can be very choppy, but the rewards both in the strait and around Lombok itself are well worth it. Anything from Tuna to Wahoo can intersect your path through here, so hold on tight.
- Amed. Possibly our favorite fishing spot in Bali, Amed is a string of fishing villages on the island’s eastern coast. The local waters drop to over 200 feet (70+ meters) relatively quickly and man-made FADs attract all sorts of game fish. You have a higher chance of catching Tuna, Mahi Mahi, Kingfish, and Wahoo locally than in most other parts of the island. Not only that, the beaches are much quieter here than in the south, meaning you’re likely to get a good deal on a local fishing trip.
Inland Fishing in Bali
Although most of Bali’s fishing opportunities are in saltwater, freshwater anglers will find plenty to keep them busy inland. Lakes Tamblingan and Buyan are both fishable and contain Tilapia and Catfish, as well as large numbers of invasive Zebrafish. 1,000 meters above sea level, they offer absolutely beautiful views away from the main tourist spots.
Bali also lets you fish in a number of inland fish farms. These usually operate on a “pay-per-fish” basis, where the price varies depending on how many fish you catch.
Bali Fishing Regulations
There are relatively few restrictions for fishing in Bali. This is both a blessing and a curse, as the lack of minimum size limits means many fish are removed from the sea before they get the chance to spawn. But it also makes the fishery very accessible. You don’t need a license to fish in Bali and there’s no limit to the number or types of fish you can catch.
There are some restrictions to other fishing techniques, though. You can only spearfish when freediving – spearing with scuba gear is not allowed. There are also two official marine protected areas where destructive fishing techniques such as trawling are not allowed.
Bali Fishing FAQs
Fishing in Bali: A Taste of Local Tradition or a Sportfishing Paradise
Depending on how you go about it, fishing Bali’s reefs and coastlines can result in two totally different experiences. Handlining and bottom fishing over the coral reefs from a jukung offers a relaxing insight into how things have been done here for decades. Meanwhile, popping and jigging for fast ocean predators can get even the most seasoned sportfisher’s heart rate up.
Yes, it can be hard to find big fish around Bali, but don’t give up. Fishing is about more than catching, and going out with a rod and some bait is a unique opportunity to understand the real Bali.
Have you been fishing in Bali before? Where did you go and what was your top catch? Let us know in the comments below!
Cat Tyack spends almost every spare moment she has outside. Whether it’s hiking, horseback riding or fishing, she’s always looking for her next adventure in the great outdoors. Having been fishing on several continents, her most memorable fishing moment was casting poppers to Mahi Mahi in the shadow of enormous oil barges in the Arabian Sea.