There are plenty of exciting activities do whilst on holiday in Phuket, but perhaps not many people realise that it also boasts some of the best sea fishing in Asia, especially for big game fish and billfish as this part of the Andaman Sea has deep warm blue water, hundreds of tiny islands and coral reefs, and near perfect conditions in which to land a monster specimen. There are many more islands fairly close to Phuket that are also excellent spots, and the nearby continental shelf drop-off provides another opportunity to catch some real whoppers. The fishing is very good all year round in Phuket, with different fish species more prevalent throughout the year at specific places. For example, the wetter southwest monsoon period is a particularly good time to catch the beautiful and impressive Sailfish, which can be found around Phuket in massive numbers in the right season.
Fishing is brilliant fun for all the family no matter whether complete novices, keen amateurs or experienced anglers, and the waters are packed with fish making it relatively easy to catch some large creatures that you’ll remember for years to come. Many decent fishing tours and private charter boats are available in Phuket, which mainly leave from the southwest of the island near Chalong. The tours offer day trips and longer multi-day and live aboard programmes around Phuket, the Similan Islands, the Surin Islands, and even further afield to the unspoilt and unbelievable Andaman Islands.
It’s also possible to go fishing by hiring a long tail boat anywhere in Phuket (either barter with a local fisherman or organise it through a tour company) and do some simple line or bottom fishing during the day or even better at night. Just dropping a line into the ocean and waiting patiently for a bite is an exciting way to fish, especially if you’ve never done it before, and you might be surprised just how many fish you can catch this way. You can even cook or barbecue your catch later on and enjoy the fruits of your labour. Most anglers in Phuket tend to be tourists and keen amateurs that want to try something new, but it’s also becoming a popular destination for experienced and skilled anglers that have a list of target fish and sizes to catch.
Phuket also hosts the annual Phuket International Sportfishing Tournament, which is a fantastic opportunity for anyone interested in the sport to compete locally.
Big Game Fishing
Big game fishing around Phuket is absolutely superb and has vastly increased in popularity in recent years. Now that the word has spread, more people are discovering the amazing variety and abundance of extremely large and exotic fish in the waters around Phuket. The island happens to be on the migration path of many big fish species such as Marlin, and many others can be found throughout the area including Wahoo, Barracuda, Sailfish and extremely large Giant Trevally. The sailfish are especially sought after and are available year-round in large numbers, so it’s not uncommon to catch several huge ones in just a single outing. Phuket is steadily earning an enviably reputation as one of the best places in Asia to catch big game fish, but it’s also one of the best places to be based in to enjoy all the other fun and varied attractions that make it such a complete experience.
The best way to participate in big game sports fishing is either to join a tour or charter a private boat which has all the equipment and facilities needed. The boats typically visit nearby islands such as Racha Yai and Racha Noi, and the crew knows the best times, locations and types of fish that can be caught. The normal catch and release policy for large fish helps to ensure that the stocks are maintained and they have a chance to survive, perhaps to be caught again the next time by another lucky angler.
Fishing Sites Around Phuket
There are many splendid sites to fish near Phuket. The Racha Islands are very close by and make an ideal and easy day trip, whilst the Similan Islands to the north are superb and the Andamans are simply a dream come true and a joy to behold. There really is nothing else quite like the area.
Fishing in the Racha Islands
The Racha Islands comprise Racha Yai (which means large) and Racha Noi (which means small), and being very close to Phuket are easily reached in just hours. Racha Noi Island is quite uninhabited and as a result its marine life is relatively undisturbed. The northeast corner of Racha Yai definitely has the best and largest sailfish near Phuket, and these magnificent creatures are frequently spotted in the afternoons leaping out of the water, which is a breathtaking site. In the mornings the sailfish are not very active, so it’s best to target other fish until later in the day.
Besides sailfish, the Racha Islands host Tuna, Dorado (or Dolphin Fish), Giant Trevally, Mackerel, Barracuda, the ferocious Wahoo and sometimes even Black Marlin make a welcome appearance. There is also some excellent bottom fishing to be had at night around the Racha Islands.
Fishing at The Drop Off
The continental shelf drops away near Phuket to a depth of around 200 metres just 25 nautical miles from Phuket, and this is probably the favoured place to catch large Black Marlin, possibly several hundred kilograms in weight mainly between October and April. There is also medium sized Yellowfin Tuna, Wahoo, Dorado and Skipjack Tuna. The most common technique employed here is simply trolling behind the boat with big artificial lures and live bait (tuna belly strips in most cases).
Fishing in the Similan Islands
The stunningly beautiful Similan Islands can be reached from Phuket on a live aboard trip for between three to five days, as they are around 100 kilometres northwest of the island. These nine islands are already famous due to the world class diving but the fishing is also great, helped in part because the area is a marine national park and the sea life has a chance to thrive undisturbed. All fishing is banned within about 5 kilometres of the shoreline, but outside this limit it’s just man against enormous fish!
There are nine jungle-clad tropical islands in the park which stretch for around 16 kilometres in total length. They nurture very healthy and diverse coral reefs, and it’s a very beautiful location in which to catch Tuna, Wahoo, Barracuda and Dorado in really exceptional numbers. At night, you can bottom fish for Grouper and Snapper. Near to the Similans is the diminutive Ton Mai outcrop where you can experience great trolling action to catch Tuna, Wahoo, Dorado, Rainbow Runner and more.
Fishing in Koh Rok and Koh Ha
The speciality at Koh Rok is without a doubt the Sailfish as there are an impressive number here, mostly active late afternoon and most easily caught by slow trolling with lures or even live tuna bait. The islands are uninhabited and just 100 kilometres to the southeast of Phuket. The waters here are exceptionally clear and it’s got lovely white beaches making for excellent snorkelling and diving. Fairly close by is the Hin Daeng (meaning red rock) reef where Wahoo, Rainbow Runners and King Mackerel can be snapped up. Within a stone’s throw is Koh Ha, a cluster of five tiny islands 30 kilometres south of Koh Phi Phi. Besides the ample fishing, it’s a serene place to swim and snorkel.
Fishing in the Andaman Islands
The fantastic and secluded Andaman Islands lie between Thailand and India and are surely one of the last tropical paradises left on earth, with unspoiled pristine waters and no commercial fishing. Since the islands are heavily protected by the Indian government, this makes them ideal havens and superb for large game fishing. This area can be considered one of the greatest fishing spots in the world due to the variety, numbers and massive size of the fish available, and its really an unbeatable place for any serious angler.
The Andamans are 650 kilometres from Phuket and contains 372 diverse islands, many of which are still unexplored and still home to some quite primitive indigenous tribes. Consequently it’s strictly forbidden to go ashore on many of the islands. The fish in these waters can grow to record sizes and include Black Marlin, Sailfish, Yellowfin and Dogtooth Tuna, Wahoo, Giant Trevally, and Mackerels, as well as many different shark species. The perfect way to explore and enjoy fishing in this vast area is to charter a decent boat and travel in style with all the best equipment and experienced guides.
Fishing in the Surin Islands
Another 80 kilometres north of the Similan Islands, the Surin Islands also offer excellent angling opportunities. As well as popper fishing for the ubiquitous Giant Trevally, it’s an ideal location to troll for Sailfish in the late afternoon, as well as Blue Marlin and Black Marlin. From Phuket it’s best reached by an overnight live aboard trip, but once there the fishing is very rewarding indeed.
Local Fish Species and Seasons
There are so many varieties of fish around Phuket that some people might be pleasantly surprised. The Barracuda is a fearsome predator and can be found all year round in high numbers. Another year-round fish is the beautiful and multicoloured Dolphin Fish (also known as the Mahi-Mahi or Dorado) which is in plentiful supply from June until February, and fairly abundant between March and May. The Giant Trevally is another local favourite which is consistently found in high numbers and produces fantastic, challenging fishing. It’s particular prevalent between October and December and from March to April, and can be frequently landed at other times of the year.
King Mackerel mostly appears between July and January, and swims fast thus making it a good challenge to catch. This fish also exists in moderate numbers in the other months. Probably the most desired fish around Phuket has to be the Marlin, mainly due to its large size, power and reputation. These are best caught by using artificial lures trolled through the water, especially between October and March when the numbers peak. The females of this species are considerably larger than the males but between May and July the availability of Marlin is quite poor. Phuket is quite rightly known as the Sailfish capital of Asia and these attractive, brightly coloured fish can be spotted making incredible jumps between November and March, and from June to August during the southwest monsoon. They are still around the rest of the year however, and a good catch is almost guaranteed.
The aggressive, sharp-toothed Wahoo is a real fighter and one of the most popular fish to catch especially between August and January. Come April however, there are a few months when it’s out of season and it’s best to look for other species. This also holds true for Yellowfin Tuna (May and June are normally the worst months) but numbers increase markedly between October and May. There are also other tuna varieties about such as Dogtooth Tuna, Skipjack Tuna, Mackerel Tuna, Eastern Little Tuna and Longfin Tuna.
Fishing Tours in Phuket
Phuket is fortunate to have numerous professional fishing tour operators with high quality modern boats, and experienced crews that have local knowledge about the best fishing spots and the optimum times to look for a particular species. There are a variety of tours and boats of all sizes that can take you on day trips either as an individual or as part of a group, with normally up to 8 or 15 people on each boat. Most tours also include meals, snacks and unlimited drinks, and of course they provide all the equipment. There are also tours that go fishing around Phuket in traditional long tail boats with the local Sea Gypsies.
To join a typical full day’s game fishing tour individually, you can expect to pay around 2500 baht, which also includes hotel pickups and meals onboard. There is usually the opportunity to snorkel at various idyllic spots too so they can also be fun trips for anybody that wants to accompany a fishing partner. A small charter boat with the cost split between four people could cost a fairly reasonable 12000 baht in total, but it’s also possible to find slightly cheaper as well as much more expensive trips.
Besides the more common day trips, there are very comfortable live aboard vessels that can get to the aforementioned destinations farther from Phuket. Most of the fishing tour companies can be found easily through the local agents that are all over Phuket, which have leaflets and information on the available tours.
A few companies are listed below that offer fishing tours and charters.
The Big Blues
Tel: +66 (0) 87 834 5293
Tel: +66 (0) 81 893 3650
Fishing in Phuket
Tel: +66 (0) 89 586 1098
Game Fishing Thailand
Tel: +66 (0) 82 839 7701
Gottcha Big Game Fishing
Tel: +66 (0) 81 367 7765
Phuket Fishing Charters
Tel: +66 (0) 81 370 3181
Tel: +66 (0) 76 281 510
Freshwater Fishing Lakes in Phuket
Phuket has at least one artificial freshwater fishing lake. Such places are very popular and can be quite inexpensive in Thailand, giving you a chance to catch some big fish (such as Catfish, Carp and Red Tails) in a convenient location. All the equipment and bait can be provided, and they tend to have small shelters and an onsite restaurant. Fishing this way can be great fun and an enjoyable day out, especially for anyone who is just learning the sport. Taking your own gear can usually save a bit on the cost.
Phuket Fishing Park
Address: 48 / 3 Moo 4, Thepkasattri Road, Phuket Town
Tel: +66 (0) 85 573 8881