background image

 Advice about fishing in Portugal

The lakes and rivers of Portugal's unspoilt interior offer endless opportunities for relaxed family holidays based around, sightseeing, sunbathing and fishing. We talk to the new breed of entrepreneurs who are creating a fishy niche in the holiday market.

Beyond Portugal's famous beaches, tucked away inland in the Alentejo and in the north, there is a wealth of hidden reservoirs and rivers. The Portuguese themselves prefer the beach and, as a nation, are not keen freshwater fishermen, so these rivers and lakes are seldom crowded. For the keen angler who wants to spend a week fishing every day, or for the parents who just want to organise a fishing trip as part of their family holiday, Portugal is the place to do it.

Phil Leeke, from Northampton, moved to Portugal when he was 11 and now has a lovely Portuguese wife, Fernanda, 26 years of fishing experience and counting. Twelve years ago he set up Flap Holidays and started a new venture at Chaparro Lakes seven years ago, in the Alentejo, which he says is Portugal's first true carp fishery.

"lt was only when a friend came over on holiday and pointed out the potential for fishing here that I thought about starting a business," says Phil. 'Portugal has some fantastic opportunities for fishing that tourists don't even know about.As well as groups of men we get lots of families. Fathers take their sons fishing while the women go off sightseeing. They get to see the real Portugal by being in the countryside, since it's so different to the Algarve.

"Portugal has the largest reservoir in Europe at the Algueva dam in the Alentejo, near the Spanish border. The people here are very friendly, there is cheap food a n d win e and great weather throughout the year and don't forget the cheap flights to Faro and Lisbon. You don't have to pay excess baggage for fishing tackle, if you put it in the right type of case. Fishing is classed as a sporting activity and they are regarded as your tools."

John Bate, from Lancashire, is another businessman who has seen what huge potential there is for fishing in Portugal. He has lived in the Algarve for 15 years and is married with a 16 year-old daughter. He set up his company, Tightlines, offering sea fishing holidays off the Algarve coast, ten years ago.

"l have been a mad keen angler for 40 years," says John. "l started taking people fishing in a boat in England when l was younger, so l've got 35 years' experience. I especially love sea fishing in the Algarve as you never know what you are going to catch."

John's business offers tailor made fishing holidays, especially to families.

"Sometimes the whole family will come fishing, but other times the mother will read a book while the rest fish," says John. "They often combine it with their family holiday and just spend a day or two fishing.

"Then we have the men who come on their own for a short fishing break. I offer accommodation and transport for three nights with two days of sea shark fishing for about 400 euros. We can't promise giant fish but what we can promise is miles of free fishing all to yourself in beautiful surroundings and,
of course, fantastic weather."

If you need any assistance finding the best fishing spots throughout Portugal, just ask Phil Pembroke. Author of  'The Smooth Guide to Fishing in Portugal', Phil is an expert at fishing in Portuguese waters and can also help with advice on tourist attractions in each area. There are plenty of good local restaurants, hill walking, mountain biking, swimming and nature tours near the main fishing areas, so friends and family who are non-anglers need never be bored.

"l started sea fishing in Portugal as a boy on family holidays in the Algarve, in the early 1970’s, catching sardines, wrasse and octopus, "recalls Phil.' We had some great beach barbecues afterwards. These days, though, the river Douro in northern Portugal is my favourite water because of the scenery - the picture below shows me, Phil with Nuno our expert Portuguese fishing guide, on the banks of the Douro River at Tua."

Phil, from Essex, says he is so mad about fishing he usually goes on holidays alone, as this helps him to learn the language, even if it is only the Portuguese for different types of fish...however...."l took my Dad on a fishing trip  to the river Douro a couple of years ago,' recalls Phil "We caught some trout from a lake and had them cooked that evening by our hotel chef, it was the most memorable meal of our holiday.

"When angling alone DIY-style you can be more flexible. However, when it comes to landing a large carp, it's definitely a two-man job to haul it in. They fight twice as hard as any fish in the UK.

"Portugal is such a beautiful country, it's a shame most visitors just stick to their hotels on the Algarve," adds Phil "Portugal offers the best sea fishing in the whole of western Europe, due to the Atlantic Gulf stream. lt has some of the best trout rivers in Europe and its coarse angling scene is 95 percent untapped. The fish have barely seen a hook before.

"When I’m in Portugal l fish from dawn till dusk, with a four-hour break for lunch in a local restaurant, After all, the fish need a siesta too."

To discover more about fantastic fishing holidays in Portugal - and golf holidays too, contact Phil:


Phil Pembroke’s top tips

1. Take lots of water to drink when fishing during the summer, otherwise you won't last long enough to remember the last fish you caught.

2. Best spots for angling in a place new to you are those that contain litter from local anglers e.g. empty sweetcorn tins. But clean up the litter when you leave, even if it's not yours.

3. Most fish in Portugal have never been caught before and so whatever baits and tactics work well in the UK will work even better in Portugal. I use sweetcorn, luncheon meat and nuts. Go heavier than you would in the UK. I use a 15lb braid line with a 25lb leader.

4. Always purchase a license. lt's reasonably priced and if you fail to present one to a policeman they can confiscate your equipment. An older freshwater fishing licence is shown below.

5. Pack your rods in plastic tubes from a local tackle shop, to protect them. Charter airlines may charge £30 extra to carry these large items, but there is no weight limit.


SARGO Has a bream-type shape and can grow up to 35cm and weighs up to 3kg. Silver in colour with dark blue on its head and back. Baits used to catch it include shrimp, worms and crabs. Fish for them at rocky crevices.

ROBALO Also known as sea bass, it is a restaurant favourite. Catch it in the summer when they come closer to the shore to feed. Young bass will travel up the river in shoals. They are attracted to estuaries by warmer water; better feeding conditions and the reduced risk of being eaten by another predator. Favourite baits are sardine, crab, and shrimp.

Also known as anchovy, it is the biggest fish of coastaI waters, growing 50cm
long on average and weighing up to 12kg. lt has a silver flank with a dark back and can be found in large shoals in coastal waters in the summer, mainly in the south as it arrives with the Gulf Stream. From a boat use strong tackle if the sea is choppv, with 200g weights for bottom fishing and a steel trace attached to a sardine or whole mackerel hook bait.

Also known as sole, it's a dark, mottled brown flatfish, with a maximum length of inhabits moderate depths and is found in most areas. The best times to fish for it are at night in spring and summer at low tide

Another restaurant favourite. lt is dark ash to yellow orange in colour with
matching spots and grows between 35cm-45cm. They can weigh up to 2kg. lt is caught from beaches in shallower waters. Night-time is best since it is most active at low tide and most baits are good.

Its name comes from the distinctive spot between its eyes. lt grows to 40cm and is grey/blue with a blue-ish black and silver tummy. Baits to use are sea
snail, crab and shrimp. Twilight is the best time to catch them and at night in the summer.

Grows to 30cm and is silver with a darker shade around the back and head.
Found in shoals all year, around southern Portugal. Baits to use include squid, worm and clams.

Bream-like in shape this fish will put up a fight. lt is whitish in colour with brown tones and a black patch around the head. lt grows to 45cm but the average size is 20cm.

This horse mackerel fish is long and sleek and will average 20cm in length. Silver, with darker blue on the back, head and tail, it often makes a noise with its teeth and is found in shoals aII along the coast to moderate depths. It comes closer to the shore in summer when it enters the river estuaries. An easy catch, the best way is with a float, using worms at night in the summer with sardine or mackerel hook bait, and a lamp for attraction.

Click here to download article as a PDF file                                                                            Click here to return to home page