So you want to go fishing in the Maldives and you want to charter a boat and catch some fish. You’ve heard it’s a tropical paradise, but don’t have a clue about what fishing looks or works like over there. Or, you’ve already been there and have decided to give fishing a go. Worry not! This guide will cover everything you need to know.
Intro to the Maldives
The Maldives is Asia’s smallest and lowest country, with an average elevation of just over 1.5 meters above sea level. It’s also one of the ‘fishiest’ places on earth, because of the variety and amount of marine life and its role in local culture. Fishing and tourism are the two primary economic branches, with about 30% of the population working in the fishing industry.
The country consists of 1,192 coral islands which are grouped into of 26 atolls, spread from north to south. The atolls are made out of live coral reefs and sandbars that form a 900 km ridge spanning the entire length of the country, rising steeply from the Indian Ocean, and creating an ideal place for nutrients and marine life to gather.
Is fishing allowed in the Maldives?
Since so much of their livelihood depends on fish stocks, Maldivians have developed strict fishing regulations that the local authorities widely enforce. Reef fishing is not allowed on reserves, with penalties from ranging from $500 to $2000. You might be thinking “What does this mean for me? I’ll just fish my resort’s house reef”.
The problem is that most resorts want to protect their house reefs, and have so secured a status of ‘reserve’ for their house reef. This means that you can’t go shore fishing there, unless the resort management explicitly allows you to.
The inhabited islands (villages and towns) and remote, uninhabited islands are ok to fish.
Here are a few Maldivian fishing regulations that you should know: (You can read the entire document here).
- If the distance from the beach to the reef edge of the inhabited island is greater than 1000m, fishing beyond 700m boundary of the reef is open to all,
- As long as you obtain permission from your tourist resort, you can fish from the resort’s reefs,
- You may fish the individual reefs that are not part of an island, or sandbank or any other dry area,
- You may not use nets to fish from the reefs of Male.
What You Can’t Do When Fishing in the Maldives:
- Use dynamite or any other explosive to catch or kill fish,
- Use any kind of gun to catch or kill fish,
- Catch or kill fish by using poison,
- Use nets to catch Mushimas (Mackerel) – schools or small reef fish that live in the lagoons of inhabited islands,
- Kill any form of sharks for any purpose.
Now that you know the rules, let’s get to the fun part.
Types of fishing in the Maldives
Considering the immense biodiversity of the Indian Ocean, you never know what you can get in these waters. Nevertheless, here are a few common methods for catching the most popular local species:
There are literally thousands of species you can hook into, from reef fish to Barracuda, Bonefish, Bream, small Grouper, Snapper, and Jacks/Trevally. The most common methods are live bait fishing, fly fishing, and beach casting.
The fish in these tropical waters are very strong, which is why we suggest using a strong braided line and wire for lure fishing. Also, don’t use expensive lures as they will get destroyed or snagged on the coral within minutes.
With shallow flats filled with large predators, jigging/popping is what you’d consider the main attraction of sportfishing in the Maldives. You will go after similar species as with shore fishing, with the addition of Tuna, large Barracuda, Red Bass, Amberjack, and his majesty, the GT. People book 7-day liveaboards just to have a go at landing a big GT. You’ll need heavy duty gear to pull these beasts out.
This is the main commercial method for reef fishing. Live bait, cut bait or deep drop jigging are popular. Bottom fishing will get you mostly Red Snappers, Groupers, Jacks, Scarlet and Job Fish, but Breams, Dogtooth and Yellowfin Tuna are also common.
You will leave your resort at sun down and the Dhoni (boat type commonly used for night fishing) will anchor at the outskirts of your nearest atoll. Expect Emperors, Snappers, Squirrelfish, Mackerel, Jacks, and other reef fish.
Big Game Fishing
If you’re in for a real adrenaline rush, the Maldives are among the best big game destinations on earth with dozens of top-notch big game charters available for day trips. Heavy duty trolling can land Marlin, Sailfish, as well as Tuna, Dorado, and Wahoo.