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Porto Santo

Holiday Fishing in Porto Santo


Last year we visited Madeira and took a ferry to Porto Santo for a couple of days. We had a lovely time on an interesting and relatively underdeveloped island and so returned this year for a package holiday at Pestana Porto Santo, an all inclusive resort on in the south of the island backing onto the beach.


We were fortunate to have a very good holiday representative who managed to organise a fishing trip for me out of the quay on a rib. I didn’t expect much as a rib wouldn’t be my ideal type of boat for sea fishing, but it turned out to be an enjoyable day.


We were picked up from the hotel by the crew of the boat and taken to the quay where we boarded the rib. The tackle was all set up, ready and waiting and was good quality being made by Daiwa. The rib came into its own then taking about 10 minutes to cross the bay which is the southern area of the island and sheltered from the wind, where we fished off Limestone Island.


The water was clear as we bait fished in 25m of water using a small lead and two hooks, one baited with prawn, the other with squid.


The skipper said it would be a good area for mixed fishing, and we would probably catch two-banded bream which are very light takers and very difficult to hook. I found the fish very keen to take prawn but these were easily stripped from the hook. This highlighted one area where improvements could be made as braid would give much better bite indication, and as we hooked probably 20% of the takes, I am sure the catch rate could have been better (and also with better anglers as the skipper put us to shame).


My first fish was a lizardfish which was really aggressive and appeared to be widespread.  We also caught red snapper, atlantic damsel fish, trigger fish, white bream, saddle bream, even a puffer fish; in fact a host of species which steadily came to the boat.


Just before we finished we had a couple of passes trolling in front of the island.  Even though this was only for a short time we managed a couple of lizardfish and a nice bluefish. As we returned to shore the tails of the fish had to be clipped as  the local fisherman are not allowed to sell the fish to the local restaurants under EU law so any that you don’t want for your own barbecue go to the skipper friends and relatives.


We were then ferried back to our hotel, having spent an enjoyable day in good company and even fed with a sandwich and a cool beer for refreshment.


 There were no massive fish, but this was not helped by the weather seeming to be a month late (as in the UK) so the water temperature was lower than normal, even the dolphins were further out to sea then normal, but don’t let this put you off. There are large snapper, barracuda, almaco jack and several other large species that could be fished for from the north of the island.


Shore based fishing


If you don’t fancy the boat fishing, you can always shore fish. I always take a travel rod in my suitcase plus an assortment of bits and pieces. If you forget something, there is a well equipped tackle shop in the centre of the island. The proprietor doesn’t speak English but we managed to converse by drawings and hand signals as fishermen and their methods are similar across the world.


I chose to fish from the end of the pier, with a sliding float being the preferred option of the locals, fishing some 3-4 metres deep. You could see an assortment of very small fish off the end such as two-banded bream, blue finned damsel fish, ornate wrasse plus the odd parrot fish and small jack.  I used prawns and squid as bait and was quickly into my first fish which I swung in to my hand. 

A word of warning here, greater weaver fish are present in those waters.
  The locals call them spider fish or logarto da costa and they have poisonous black spines so unhook with great care using pliers. Do not do as I did; I was spiked and was taken to the local health centre where the remedy to the pain was to immerse my hand in very hot water for nearly an hour.  I wouldn't have known about this fish but a local boy spotted what had happened and escorted me to the medical centre.  I left Sandy taking care of my fishing tackle as I wanted to carry on but when I hadn't returned to the quay, she arrived at the medical centre loaded with my tackle to see what had happened to me.  The hot water method eased the pain but over a week later, the swelling has only just eased.


Back to fishing; later that day after I had recouperated I also caught lizardfish and saw a local catch flatfish.  I was told that the fishing is mixed during the day but comes into its own at night when lure fishing. However, I found setting the hooks with prawn when touch legering was much better than float fishing as the extra time seemed to allow the fish to take the bait in better. 


I was shown pictures of bream and barracuda which were caught from the quay area where fishing is allowed as another venue


At the far end of the beach between the main island and limestone island, I watched locals fishing for parrotfish using a floatfished crab, so fish seem to be present wherever there is a feature to attract them in many areas.


There was still plenty of time for family excursions.

We went on a 4x4 tour of the island spending time looking at the geology which was striking. The basalt columns were unbelievable, as was the small desert area where the sand had blown over the land leaving fossilised root. I could have spent far more time there. 

We also took in bird life including red-legged partridge and a family of hoopoe, seldom seen in the UK.  All in all, the Porto Santo experience had been a good one which also included eating out at two very good restaurants. A great location for the family where you can enjoy some fishing.

Keith Armishaw