So you want to go fishing in the Maldives and you want to charter a boat and catch some fish. You’ve heard it’s a tropical paradise, but don’t have a clue about what fishing looks or works like over there. Or, you’ve already been there and have decided to give fishing a go. Worry not! This guide will cover everything you need to know.
Intro to the Maldives
The Maldives is Asia’s smallest and lowest country, with an average elevation of just over 1.5 meters above sea level (according to Wikipedia). It’s also one of the ‘fishiest’ places on earth, because of the variety and amount of marine life and its role in local culture. Fishing and tourism are the two primary economic branches, with about 30% of the population working in the fishing industry.
The country consists of 1,192 coral islands which are grouped into of 26 atolls, spread from north to south. The atolls are made out of live coral reefs and sandbars that form a 900 km ridge spanning the entire length of the country, rising steeply from the Indian Ocean, and creating an ideal place for nutrients and marine life to gather.
Is fishing allowed in the Maldives?
Since so much of their livelihood depends on fish stocks, Maldivians have developed strict fishing regulations that the local authorities widely enforce. Reef fishing is not allowed on reserves, with penalties from $500-$2000 to offenders. You might be thinking “What does this mean to me? I’ll just fish my resort’s house reef”.
The problem is that most resorts want to protect their house reefs, and have so secured a status of ‘reserve’ for their house reef. This means that you can’t go shore fishing there, unless the resort management explicitly allows you.
The inhabited islands (villages and towns) and remote, uninhabited islands are ok to fish.
This is an excerpt of the Maldivian fishing regulations that could be of interest to you: (You can read the entire document here).
- If the distance from the beach to the reef edge of the inhabited island is greater than 1000m, fishing beyond 700m boundary of the reef is open to all,
- Fishing from the reefs of a tourist resort shall only be carried out after obtaining permission from the tourist resort,
- Fishing from individual reefs that are not part of an island, or sandbank or any other dry area is permitted,
- Fishing other than by use of nets is permitted from the reefs of Male.
The Following Activities are Banned When Fishing in the Maldives:
- Using dynamite or any other explosive for fishing or killing of fishes,
- Using any kind of gun for fishing or killing of fishes,
- Using any kind of poison for fishing or killing of fishes,
- Using nets to catch Mushimas (Mackerel) schools or small reef fish that live in the lagoons of inhabited islands,
- Killing any form of sharks for any purpose.
Now that you know the rules, let’s get to the fun part.
Types of fishing in the Maldives
Considering the immense biodiversity of the Indian Ocean, you never know what you can get. Nevertheless, here are the most common methods used to target popular species:
There are literally thousands of species you can hook into, from reef fish to Barracuda, Bonefish, Bream, small Grouper, Snapper, and Jacks/Trevally. The most common methods are live bait fishing, fly fishing, and beach casting.
The fish in these tropical waters are very strong, which is why we suggest using a strong braided line and wire for lure fishing. Also, don’t use expensive lures as they will get destroyed or snagged on the coral within minutes.
With shallow flats filled with large predators, jigging/popping is what you’d consider the main attraction of sportfishing in the Maldives. You will go after similar species as with shore fishing, with the addition of Tuna, large Barracuda, Red Bass, Amberjack, and his majesty, the GT. People book 7-day liveaboards just to have a go at landing a big GT. You’ll need heavy duty gear to pull these beasts out.
This is the main commercial method for reef fishing. Live bait, cut bait or deep drop jigging are popular. Bottom fishing will get you mostly Red Snappers, Groupers, Jacks, Scarlet and Job Fish, but Breams, Dogtooth and Yellowfin Tuna are also common.
You will leave your resort at sun down and the Dhoni (boat type commonly used for night fishing) will anchor at the outskirts of your nearest atoll. Expect Emperors, Snappers, Squirrelfish, Mackerel species, Jacks, and other reef fish.
Big Game Fishing
If you’re in for a real adrenaline rush, the Maldives are among the best big game destinations on earth with dozens of top-notch big game charters available for day trips. Heavy duty trolling can land Marlin, Sailfish, as well as Tuna, Dorado, and Wahoo.
While there is no off-season, Big Game fishing is best November – March.
List credit: http://www.mgfa.org.mv
All resorts have boats that will take you ‘Deep Sea Fishing’. Unfortunately, when they say ‘Deep Sea’, expect 15 meters depth, a few hundred meters from the house reef, or trolling for Wahoo from a watersports boat or Dhoni with third-grade rods and lures.
The equipment on these boats is often in a poor condition. Also, it’s not uncommon to get a crew consisting of snorkeling instructors. The resort operated charters are cheaper than professional charters or liveaboards, charging around $150 per hour.
Our suggestion is don’t wait to arrive at your resort before searching for a charter. Check out our boat listings to make sure you get the best deal.
Have you been fishing in the Maldives? What fish did you catch? Did you have any issues figuring out the local fishing regulations? Let us know in the comments below!