The Philippine Islands are not a prime destination for globe-trotting anglers, and very little is heard in most quarters about sportfishing opportunities, facilities, or services there. The waters of the western Pacific in and around the Philippines, however, have produced at least five line-class saltwater world records, and big Pacific sailfish and great barracuda are known to frequent its tropical waters. Numerous yellowfin tuna, dolphin, wahoo, and assorted jacks are here as well. To the surprise of many anglers, largemouth bass have been introduced in the country’s freshwater resources.
Any country that covers roughly 115,830 square miles is bound to offer some angling opportunities. Sandwiched by Taiwan to the north and Indonesia to the south, and bordered by the South China Sea on the west, the Celebes Sea on the south, and the Philippine Sea on the east, the Philippines comprises more than 7,100 islands, only 460 of which are more than 1 square mile in area. The largest of these is Luzon in the northern Philippines, bounded by the Babuyan Channel on the north. Along Luzon’s irregular western coastline is the well-known harbor of Manila Bay.
The northeastern region of Luzon is locally known as sailfish country, and in the months of May and June it hosts national and international billfish competitions. Sailfish are the main quarry here, but this species is found in many areas throughout the islands. A 93.75-kilogram 30-pound line-class record Pacific sailfish was caught far to the south of Luzon at the Tubbataha Reefs in the Sulu Sea in May 1990.
Dolphin, wahoo, and yellowfin tuna are among the offshore catch as well. Philippine anglers are fond of drift fishing for yellowfins at night. Tuna in the 60- to 90-kilogram range are commonly caught, and anglers use 30- and 50-pound outfits, which occasionally also bring in a swordfish.
Two spots in particular are favored for this fishing. One is off the island of Palawan, where sportfishing is based out of the city of Puerto Princesta. The ecologically compelling Palawan is reached via a 1-hour plane trip or a 20-hour ride on a modern air-conditioned ferry. The other is off Surigao on the northern part of Mindanao, the second largest of the islands. There, fishing is often done from local outrigger boats called bancas. Powered by reconditioned diesel truck engines or 16-horsepower inboard engines, the bancas are an adventurous way of pursuing tuna, as well as sailfish and marlin, although they are cramped.
The bancas are used for nearshore lighter tackle angling, too, and various species are enjoyed along the irregular shorelines throughout the islands. Barracuda are prominent in the Philippines, and some are huge; Scarborough Shoals produced a line-class world-record 38.5-kilogram specimen in March of 1991. Jacks from 1 to 10 kilograms provide the majority of inshore interest, however. They are especially prominent and popular near the resort area of Matabongay, a three-hour drive from Manila, where locals hire out their bancas for anglers who cast with live shrimp.
Inland, the bigger islands are mountainous, some with navigable rivers. On Luzon the larger rivers include the Cagayan, Chico, Abra, Pampanga, and Bicol. The longest river of the Philippines, the Cagayan flows northerly for about 354 kilometers. The Río Grande de Mindanao (also called the Pulangi in its upper reaches) and the Agusan are the principal rivers of Mindanao. On Luzon, south of Manila, Caliraya Lake hosts largemouth bass that were brought to this island as bass fry evidently from the U.S. The two largest lakes on Luzon are Laguna de Bay and Taal, but it is unknown if they contain bass.
The Philippines possesses some modern sportfishing vessels, but most angling for the visiting tourist is rather adventurous and unorganized. The Philippines are within the Tropics and experience a lot of rain. In most of the region the rainy season lasts from May through November—the summer monsoon. Typhoons sometimes occur from June through October.