Whatever your angling ambitions, you’re going to find your match when you go fishing in Thailand. Huge Black Marlin, one of the world’s most prolific Sailfish populations, freshwater monsters such as the Giant Mekong Catfish and Arapaima… it’s all here waiting for you. Leave the touristy beaches behind and prepare for an experience (and a vacation photo or two) that will really make a splash.
The best news? With plenty of Thailand fishing charters to help you along the way, all you have to do is decide where to start. Will it be the lakes, or will it be the ocean?
Thailand looks out onto two bodies of water: the Andaman Sea to the west and the Gulf of Thailand to the south. Each one is visited by an assortment of pelagics and bottom fish that rivals any other serious fishing destination in the world.
Fishing The West Coast
The bulk of Thailand fishing charters start their journeys in or near the popular tourist destination of Phuket
in southern Thailand. With some of the best deep sea fishing in the country easily accessible in a day trip from here, it’s no surprise why.
Fish from Phuket, and you’ll usually be heading south past the stunning Koh He coral island towards the Racha Yai and Racha Noi Islands, or west to the Drop Off. Go for the first option, and your potential targets include Sailfish, Dorado (Mahi Mahi), Wahoo, Spanish Mackerel, Giant Trevally, Barracuda, and much more. Head out west, and you’ll be in for even bigger (but slightly less varied) game fish. The talk of the town round here is Black Marlin, with Yellowfin Tuna also making an appearance.
This is a great introduction to the local fishery, but hard-core anglers will benefit from taking an overnight trip. This will most likely take them out to the Similan Islands. 70 miles northwest of Phuket in the Andaman Sea, these islands are a hotspot for Yellowfin Tuna, Wahoo, Cobia, Giant Trevally, and some of the biggest Barracuda you’ve ever seen.
Head to Koh Ha and Koh Rok for big schools of Sailfish or fish to the west of the islands for Black Marlin over the Drop Off. And if you really want to escape the commercial fishing pressure, the Burma Banks (180 km northwest of the Similan Islands) have one of the best populations of Black Marlin and Sailfish anywhere in the world (for experienced anglers only!)
The Gulf of Thailand
The Gulf of Thailand is a protected enclave of the Indian Ocean that’s embraced by Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. The waters here are generally warmer and less salty than they are in the Andaman Sea. The star of the show here is big Sailfish, which is best out of Pattaya
, Trat, and Koh Kut.
As this water is more protected, you’ll usually be focusing more on species like Queenfish and King Mackerel than Marlin. This can be a great test of your angling skills when you head out with jigs and ultra light tackle.
Take a look at the IGFA’s world record book, and you’ll find Thailand features heavily… and for some surprising species. For instance, the all-tackle record for Alligator Gar (an enormous, toothy fish native to the rivers and swamps of the Gulf of Mexico) was set and broken in Thailand four times in a row before finally returning to Texas in 2016. Weird? Well, not so much.
In this part of the world, the inland waterways are naturally warm all year round. This has made them the perfect foster home for exotic species from across the planet. For decades, fishing fanatics have been creating their very own man-made lakes across the country, making this the perfect place to stock a whole variety of weird and wonderful fish.
As well as that huge Alligator Gar we mentioned, go to almost any fishing park in Thailand and you can expect to find Red Tail Catfish, Pacu, and Arapaima, which are all native to the Amazon. You might also meet species such as the Common Carp (originally from the Danube in Eastern Europe) and Mrigal Carp (from India). Welcome to the land where your freshwater fishing bucket list is looking healthier than ever—and it's all covered by a single plane ticket.
But fishing here isn’t all about the imports—the indigenous crowd is more than worth the trip, too. This is the birthplace of some of the largest freshwater fish in the world. Look out for the world's largest freshwater fishing, the Giant Mekong Catfish (which has been known to exceed 350kg/750lbs), Snakehead, Giant Siamese Carp, and Giant Freshwater Stingray. You got it—this is a country for heavy tackle and nerves of steel. And that’s before you even head out into the ocean.
Where to fish
One of the most popular Thai fishing parks is Exotic Fishing Thailand
. Based under two hours away from Phuket in Phang Nga, this well-equipped resort has everything you need for a fishing holiday like no other. Surrounded by mountains and rich jungles, its lake is stocked with over 66 species, with new fish always on the waiting list. The main attraction here is its giant Arapaima, weighing up to 150kg (330lbs). This is joined by Giant Mekong Catfish over 120kg (265lbs and still growing), hefty Giant Siamese Carp, Amazon Redtail Catfish, and a whole lot more. The on-site restaurant provides excellent Thai and Western food, and accommodations are available.
But you can get some excellent fishing in close to Thailand’s capital, too. IT Monster Lake
is just two hours’ drive from Bangkok and is about as good as it gets when it comes to predator fishing. This is one of the best places in the word to catch big Amazon Redtail Catfish, which can reach sizes of over 40kg (88lbs).
If you’re more a “Trout on the fly” kind of angler, don’t despair: Thailand has something for you, too. You may need to go a little more out of your comfort zone for this, though. Our advice is to go to the area around Khao Sok National Park, where you will be in with a chance of catching wild Mahseer—Thailand’s Trout alternative. This agile fish is spooky and will hit a lure with all the enthusiasm as any wild Brown Trout back home.
Jungle fishing for this wild species is something we promise you you’ll never forget. With leopards, wild elephants, and water buffalo all inhabiting this unspoiled nautral world, this is an experience that you’re going to want to treasure for the rest of your life.
When you go fishing with locals in Thailand, you’ll notice that squid plays a big part in the saltwater fishing scene (no surprise there). In general, though, saltwater techniques are as varied as they are in any seriously good fishery, with the majority of big game fishing being done by trolling skirted lures, strips of tuna belly, and live bait.
Jigging is super popular among avid saltwater anglers around here, too. Saltwater wrecks and reefs in areas such as Koh Tao and Koh Phangan in the Gulf of Thailand are the perfect setting for jigging with light to ultralight tackle for saltwater heavyweights such as Wahoo, Spanish Mackerel, and Queenfish. If you’re looking for a challenge… well, here it is!
When it comes to freshwater fishing for Thailand’s world famous exotics, you’ll find a surprising number of people say that the best bait for fishing in Thailand is chicken. It turns out the biggest freshwater predators like it just as much as we do! Usually, presenting the bait near the surface or close to the bottom will have the best effect, and fishing late in the afternoon or in the early evening will give you the edge.
Need to know
Permits aren’t required for fishing with rods in Thailand and most fishing packages will provide you with all the gear you need to catch the best local species. If you’re taking a long-range saltwater fishing trip to the Similan Islands, you may need to pay a fee (approx. $20 per person) to enter the Marine National Park. This is sometimes covered by the charter, but make sure to confirm this before your trip.
Almost all fishing lakes in Thailand operate on a catch and release basis only and don’t allow you to take the larger fish out of the water. So make sure to bring a change of clothes and a towel with you whenever you’re looking to catch exotics.
No matter what kind of angler you are, you're going to find something for you here in Thailand. The most difficult thing to decide is what you want to catch first!