Madeira is hands down one of the best places in the world to go fishing. Located some 500 miles off the coast of Morocco, this Portuguese island features in bucket lists for gander Blue Marlin fishing all over the internet. Madeira fishing, quite simply, is epic.
What makes fishing in Madeira so great? For starters, the fish get really big. Blue Marlin aside, everything from Bigeye Tuna to Bluefish hit incredible sizes here. You don’t have to travel far to find them, either. Even on a half day trip, you have plenty of time to turn your arms to jelly. And if you’re just out for a fun day at sea and a few fish to show for it, you can catch a boatload of delicious table fare with the dramatic cliffs of Madeira as your backdrop. There’s something for everyone on “the Pearl of the Atlantic'.”
Types of Fishing
The big game fishing Madeira is famous for draws in the world's top sportfishers. The seafloor drops almost vertically from beach to bedrock, so you can catch bluewater species just a couple of miles from land. And there are plenty to choose from. Blue and White Marlin, Bluefin, Albacore, and Bigeye Tuna, Longbill Spearfish, Mahi Mahi, and Wahoo all show up over the course of the year.
May through October is the peak Billfish season. Show up in September, and you can catch the full range of big game species on offer here. But you can catch huge Wahoo even in the middle of winter and Albacore live here all year round. There’s never a bad time to fish offshore in Madeira.
There’s never a bad time to fish the reefs, either! Huge Snappers are reeled in every month of the year, and resident Amberjack hit incredible sizes on the island’s deep-water reefs. Grouper, are always around, too, although they’re not nearly as common as Snappers. If you want to add some extra fight to your day, monster Bluefish hunt around the island’s rocky nearshore waters.
More interested in variety than size? Shore fishing in Madeira can be a great way to bag a variety of fish. You can hook Bluefish and Barracuda from shore in many spots, alongside weird and wonderful species like Ornate Wrasse and Canary Damselfish. If you’re fishing from the rocks on Madeira’s north shore, you should watch out for the high winds and swells that batter the island during much of the year.
Madeira Marlin fishing focuses almost exclusively on trolling. Fast-trolling with lures is the most popular tactic here as it lets you cover more ground on the hunt for big fish. Most boats use heavy trolling rods and reels, hoping for the island’s next grander. You can sometimes find kites flying above bigger boats, especially when they’re targeting big Tunas.
Up for something with a bit more finesse? There are a few specialist charter companies which offer everything from saltwater fly fishing for White Marlin, Tuna, and Almaco Jacks to spinning and popping for monster Bluefish. You won’t find much finesse on bottom fishing trips, though. Not with the size that Amberjack and Snapper reach here!
If you’re fishing from shore, you can pick up great baits at the local fish market. If you prefer artificial baits, be careful–Pufferfish can and will take a chunk out of anything that comes their way, so leave your favorite soft plastics in the box.
Need to Know
Most charters operate out of the region’s capital, Funchal, or the beach resort of Calheta, a 40-minute drive up the coast. Flights from London take around 4 hours and can cost as little as €110 return, even in the middle of Marlin season. Flights from Lisbon take less than half that and cost about the same. You can get direct flights from cities all over Europe, but you’ll need to change in London if you’re flying from the US.
Madeira fishing prices vary greatly depending on the style of angling you’re after. A half day on the nearshore reefs will bag you a ton of tasty fish for around €350-400. Full day trips targeting Marlin, Tuna, and other deep sea species cost anywhere from €1000-1300. Boats vary from center console-style vessels to large sportfishers with outriggers, tuna tubes, fighting chairs–the works. If you’re looking to land a grander Marlin, it’s well worth the extra money to get a good boat.
Rules & Regulations
Anglers planning on fishing from shore will need to buy a Sport Fishing License (Licença de Pesca Desportiva) before they can even think about making a cast. Get these by contacting the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. By all accounts, this can be a bit of a nightmare as a foreigner. The good news is that you don’t need a license to fish aboard Madeira fishing charters, as you will be covered by the boat’s operating license.
Madeira is the ultimate island escape. Stunning scenery and great weather meet deep waters and some of the world’s best sportfishing. This is a popular vacation spot for people in Europe, even without the angling. Throw in the chance of a grander Marlin or a record Amberjack, and you wonder why you’d go anywhere else!