Spear Fishing

Spear fishing is another fishing technique used here in the Philippine that has been round a long time.  Filipinos spearfish in both fresh and saltwater using different types of guns and spears.

Sling Spear – The most basic spear fishing devices used around the country are what are known in the west as a Pole Spears and Sling Spears.  They both employ rubber to sling a spear from hand to impale a fish.  The difference between the two is that the pole spear is simply a stainless spear with the rubber tied to the end while the sling spear employs the use of a hand-held sling shot in order to launch the spear.  Both have limited range and are generally used at night when the fish stay more or less motionless around the reefs and rocks.

Spearguns – The more technically minded fishermen usually build their own guns which range in complexity from very basic and somewhat dangerous guns to very nice well built guns that are capable of handling large fish and with good accuracy and distance. Typically the smallest guns are used in freshwater in streams and lakes, whereas the larger guns are used in the ocean.  Guns that used for daytime spearfishing are called “pang adlaw” (for Day) guns and are long guns with powerful bands to be able to hit skittish fish that flee fishermen in the day.  The guns used for night fishing are generally shorter and more maneuverable because the fish move a lot less at night.


Rubber – Local spearfishermen have a couple limited options for rubber for their guns.  First there is rectangular rubber strips available at hardware or fishing supply shops.  This rubber works but is not uniform in size and is quite hard to rig.  Another options that is used by fishermen that are more concerned with cost is bicycle tire tube.  They cut the tube into strips and fasten them to the guns.  More recently, latex rubber tube has become available and many fishermen are switching to this type of rubber.







Badjao – The Badjao, also known as Sama people and Sea Gypsies, are well known for their skill of spearfishing. The often use large guns and a hunt larger fish around the reefs with small boats. A diver will spot fish and the boat and diver will stalk the fish until it tires.  The divers then free dive down and spear the fish.

Attire / Gear


wooden fins

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Pamakay / Panuntun (Bottom Fishing)


This is a common fishing technique used by local subsitence fishermen around the country in the sea.  The names Pamakay (from Bakay, the name of a small fish often caught) is what this technique is called in Negros (in bisaya speaking areas) and the name is Panuntun (from the word tunton, or ‘drop to the bottom’) around Cebu.

The technique involves bottom fishing around reefs and walls generally in depths of 5 – 50 meters.  The fishermen use multiple tiny hooks on a relatively small main line with a lead or stone tied to the end to weight the line.  Baits such as squid, shrimp, hermit crabs and shellfish are cut into small pieces and baited on the small hooks.

Small hooks are used and generally small fish are caught with the occasional larger fish taking the tiny bait.  This is done because the largest volume of fish around the shallow reefs is the small colorful species of wrasse, triggerfish, damselfish, lizardfish and many others.

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Rentex / Sprikitik


Rentex, also known as Sprikitik is a synthetic microfiber hair-like material available locally which is used by local fishermen around the country.  This material which is available in a multitude of colors is most often trolled slowly behind pump boats or outrigger canoes.

The Rentex is tied to the main line of the handline and trolled without hooks.  The length of the Rentex is approximately 10 inches and it is quite effective for catching large needlefish and even sailfish.  Both of those species become entangled in the small strong fibers of the Rentex and cannot escape.  Many other species strike at trolled Rentex and so an alternative way to troll this material is with one or two hooks attached so that other species such as tuna, mackerel and others cannot get away when they strike.

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Danngit Rig (float rig for Rabbitfish)


Rabbitfish are plentiful in the Philippine waters especially in the shallow limestone reef ledges of the Visayas.  These fish which range in size from tiny minnow sized fish to larger fish over 1 kilo in size can be frustrating for anglers because of their difficulty to catch.  Fishermen in Cebu have come up with a way to catch these schooling fish using a float and small hooks:



Leader with multiple, tiny hooks

Bait: boiled Saba (cooking Banana)

Technique: Chum with rice; sight fish

Notes:  Rabbitfish tend to feed all day and so can be caught regardless of tide and moon.

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Las-Las ( Traditional Chum Rig )


Las-Las is the Visayan name for a technique used for deep sea fishing.  It is used to create a chum ball around the bait which is set at the desired depth.  It is used for many kinds of fishing from smaller fish around reefs or for large pelagics such as tuna.

The fishermen use a hand-line with a weight (usually a rock) and a short leader line tied off the main line.  The bait is set on the hook and then wrapped with a banana leaf along with other pieces of fish (chum).  Once the bait and chum are wrapped the main line is wrapped around the banana leaf in order to hold is shut.  It is wrapped around six times and secured with a slip knot.

The weight and bait/chum wrap are then dropped to the desired depth.  Once the bait reaches its destination the fishermen yanks firmly on the main line to release the slip knot.  The bait and chum are released in a small cloud which attracts the fish to take the bait.

Fishermen use a variety of materials today for the chum wrap.  The traditional banana leaves can be substituted with canvas, or another fabric which can then be re-used.  One tuna fisherman I interviewed said that this is a popular technique used by fishermen who fish for tuna out around the Payaw (Fish Aggregation Devices).  He said that the trick when doing this is getting the bait to the right depth.  Too shallow and the small tuna take the bait; too deep and the bait is below the fish.

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Pa-anod (Drifting Gill Net)


Pa-anod is name given to the type of fishing where a nylon gill net is let adrift down a river to ensnare fish that are either moving upstream or swimming in the current.  This technique is typically done from a Banka with one side of the net being attached to a float and the other to the banka.  The net is stretched across the river, usually around 100m from the river mouth, and let adrift until it reaches the river mouth.

There are a variety of fish caught using this method most of which are estuary or brackish water species such as grunts, mullet, snapper, trevally, croakers, and many others.  They size of the gill net used depends on what particular size and species fish the fishermen wants to target.

This method of fishing is done by fishermen fishing for commercial sale rather than for subsistence.  This method can be detrimental to the river system in which it is done if the net is used often.  Species that spawn in the rivers or in the ocean that pass through the estuary are caught thus reducing the number of fish that will spawn.

This method is practiced all around the Philippines however it is most common in large estuaries where the river conditions allow for drifting the net.  Rivers with many snags and rugged bottoms pose a problem for this fishing method.


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Ali (Barricade Gill Net)


This is a technique used by fishermen in rivers.  It involves a gill net, chosen for a specific size or species of fish, which is stretched across a stream or river as a barricade.  Fish that are swimming upstream will hit the net and become ensnared in the thin nylon strands of the net.

Ali is practiced by fishermen who fish for personal consumption and also to sell fish in local markets.

The Ali fishing method has the potential to harm the river system if the nets are used often.  Fish that migrate from the ocean up streams to spawn are caught and therefore the fish population may consequently be reduced.

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