Portugal has been the gateway to the Atlantic since the earliest voyages of Christopher Columbus. People have been fishing in Portugal since they first invented boats, and some trade routes pre-date the Roman Empire. They’ve have had a long time to perfect the art of working these waters and they sure have gotten the hang of it!
Portugal is best known for its beautiful beaches, fine wine, and ancient architecture. But among those in the know, there’s one big, blue reason to visit the country: Marlin. Grander Blue Marlin are caught every season in the deep blue waters around Madeira and the Azores and they’re joined by a huge range of top big game fish.
They’re only part of the picture, though. Food fishing can be productive for anything from Cod and John Dory to Snapper and Amberjack. You can also find freshwater fisheries as rewarding as anything the open ocean can throw at you. There’s something for everyone.
Where to Go
“The Pearl of the Atlantic” really is the crowning jewel of Portugal’s many great fisheries. Sitting north of the Canary Islands, around 500 miles off the coast of Morocco, it has some of the best deep sea fishing Portugal can offer. More than that, Madeira regularly ranks alongside Kona and Cabo as one of the best Billfishing spots on the planet.
The bluewater season runs throughout the summer months, with Blue and White Marlin, Longbill Spearfish, Bluefin, Bigeye, and Albacore Tuna, and so much more. During the rest of the year, the island has productive reef fishing for delicious Red Snapper, Amberjack, and Grouper. You can also find big Barracuda and Bluefish here, which can even be caught from shore.
Almost all Madeira charter boats launch from the towns of Funchal and Calheta on the island’s southern coast. Funchal, the region’s capital, blends ancient gothic and Romanesque buildings with a bustling bar scene and some great museums. Calheta is essentially a harbor with a town attached, but it has some of the island’s only sandy beaches and access to the stunningly isolated north of Madeira.
Not to be outdone by their southern counterpart, the Azores also offer unbelievable big game action. The season doesn’t last as long here, peaking in August and September, but when it’s good, it’s really good. Three grander Blue Marlin were once caught here by one boat in a single day and the island is home to the same mix of Marlins, Tunas, Swordfish, Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, and more that you’ll find in Madeira.
Longbill Spearfish are something of a local specialty in the Azores. This is one of the few places in the world that they show up in big enough numbers to actually target. Add them to the awesome Marlin bite, and throw in some swordfishing as the sun goes down, and you’re looking at a Billfish Super Grand Slam. Even if you’re not in town during Billfish season, you’ve still got a huge range of bottom fish to target!
You have lot more options of where to fish in the Azores. The island of Sao Miguel has the majority of the charter boats, especially in the capital, Ponta Delgada. Faial and Pico islands also have some great boats, though, and most of the larger islands will have at least a couple of quality captains happy to take you out.
We haven’t forgotten the country’s heartland. In many ways, we’ve saved the best for last. Mainland Portugal doesn’t get the same Billfish bite you’ll find elsewhere but it’s still good enough to put most anglers through their paces, especially when combined with the Bluefin Tuna and Blue Sharks which show up every summer.
These waters hold a real who’s who of Europe’s best food fish. Dusky Grouper, John Dory, and Dentex meet Seabass, Seabream, Cod, and Mackerel to make for one of the tastiest fishing trips you could hope for. The mainland also has hands down the best freshwater fishing Portugal can offer. Salmon and Shad run in the rivers in spring, while Trout, Carp, Barbel, Perch, and Largemouth Bass can be caught year-round.
Most fishing charters leaving from Lisbon go after coldwater species like Cod or Blue Sharks, while towns along the Algarve target Marlin, Tuna, and warmwater reef fish. Both of these places are on every tourist bucket lists, out there. Now you have even more reasons to visit! Freshwater fishing is excellent in lakes and rivers throughout the country. The northern rivers are best for Salmon and Trout, while the south has Shad, Perch, and much better Bass fishing. Carp and Barbel can be found everywhere.
Need to Know
You don’t need a license to fish aboard Portugal fishing charters. If you want to fish from shore, or explore the country’s freshwaters, things get a little more complicated.
For saltwater, you need a Sport Fishing License (Licença de Pesca Desportiva), for freshwater, you need an Inland Waters Fishing License (Licença de Pesca Desportiva em Águas Interiores). These can be National, Regional, or Local, depending on how many different places you’re planning to fish in. To buy one as a foreigner, you need to email the email the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
From family groups out to catch some dinner to die-hard sportfishers looking for the world’s top predators, you can find the fish of a lifetime fishing in Portugal’s rich and varied waters. So take some time out from sightseeing and working on your tan and climb aboard for a day of adventure!