The thing about Goa is that it wants to make a man put his roots down. Even an essentially rootless person like myself. It is laid back (almost horizontal at times) and compared to the rest of this money mad country, a haven for the senses. Yep, I could almost feel myself putting my roots down. But that is another story.
Being a coastal town you can’t get away from the seafood. Beautiful, shimmering, fresh seafood of an unbelievable variety, redolent of the taste of the ocean. I have a friend who visits this town only to spend all his afternoons eating fried mussels washed down with a cold beer at the various beach shacks. He loves Goan seafood because there is always someone catching it for you, gutting it for you and cooking it for you in ways only Goans could have imagined. Personally, I prefer to catch it myself.
Goa has always been an exciting destination for every foreign or domestic angler. It’s sun-kissed coast, 2 big rivers, and numerous coves gives the fishing a picture perfect look, but you would need more than that to catch a decent size fish as I discovered in my stint with this beautiful paradise. A fishing spot is of paramount importance to an angler visiting a new place with a limited amount of time. I have often spent days on the wrong side of the river or in the right spot with the wrong bait or have got the timing wrong, displeased a local deity and so on. I have had to learn by trial and error ( with a few good souls pointing me in the right direction).
But all this has been part of the learning curve and yes all these experiences have taken me a long way in my fishing career with many a good memory to bring a smile on in pensive times. I hereby endeavor to make a visiting angler’s task easier by describing a few accessible fishing spots and techniques. This information I hope will help them produce a decent catch (though I do believe that a “decent catch” is a very subjective topic). But remember, every spot has its day and time – what it produces depends on that.
In & around Panjim
Since Panjim is the heart of Goa I will start off here. Firstly Panjim has a decent tackle shop called “Champs” which is close to the famous “Big Panjim Church” white in colour and in the heart city. The Tackle shop offers you a range of Lures, spinning reels, rods, hooks and other fishing accessories. A good place to stop by in case you need to stock up some basic tackle and lures at the last minute.
The Mandovi River flows through the heart of Panjim diving it into 2 parts, for reference we shall call it the Panjim city side and the opposite side Betim.
Old Goa Jetty (the Art of Live baiting)
To get to the jetty take a cab or drive down to the Old Goa Church – the famous St Francais Church (about 1/2hr for Panim via Ribandar). As soon as you reach the church take the first turn off to the river. There are 2 jetties a small one and a larger one little further off. The catch includes barramundi, snapper, bream, tarpon, catfish, and grouper. Note, the jetty has been well fished for years and in turn the fish have become wary. I have only caught fish here on live bait. Live shrimp and small bait fish called “pittioes” locally. I have caught quite a few barramundi, snapper and bream on shrimp and once caught a few tarpons too. The place has to be fished early in the morning, it’s a day spot. The tide has to be slack turning to high as that is a time when the water is perfectly still. Cast close to jetty with live bait, as most of the fish are either under the jetty or come up close too feed. Arm yourself with braid 30 lbs and good stiff rod, preferably a 13- 30lbs test, as when hooked up most of the fish head underneath the jetty and you would have to play it hard to keep it from snagging or cutting your line on the jetty structure. Now the other trick in live bait is that the fish in the river are very sensitive to visibility of line, heavy line like braid and fire attract far lesser hits and hence I usually front with a foot or 2 of flora carbon 25lbs. Use a small hook and work it lightly into the shrimp in the far end of the tail as this does not kill your live bait. Let the shrimp swim around a bit, weighed down with a small bit of lead to give it some depth. When u get a hit do not strike immediately but let the fish take some slack line this will enable the fish to swallow the bait, strike too early and you will miss it. Strike when the fish is on the run and set the hook in well. Remember a snapper will gobble up your bait the instance it hits it but a barramundi or tarpon will need some time. I have lost a few barramundi with early strikes and seen tarpon spit the hook out. If you wish to obtain live bait you need to talk to locals, especially to the owners of the prawn farms that are close to rivers, u will see them on your way to Old Goa via the Ribandar road. The live bait has to be kept in a plastic container with holes on the top half for water and air to enter in and out freely. The prawns will die fast (about 15 mins) if not immersed in the river to replenish the oxygen supply in the container while the “pittioes” bait fish will stay much longer (1hr). When fishing, tie the container well to a good holding and immerse it into the water attached by a strong rope. Remember to tie it well as quite a few containers have been lost in strong currents.
I have found dead bait (dead mackerel or sardine) practically useless on this jetty; the only fish caught in plenty on dead bait is catfish. I have met with limited success with lures too. On the whole, the old Goa jetty is easily accessible, scenic and safe place to fish with friends and family. An easy days fishing.
Reis Magos Jetty & Rocks.
You need to take the ferry across from Panjim to Betim or use the bridge, and take the road to Resi Magos. The road winds beautifully along the river side with the hills on the other. The first landmark is the small White Light House facing the river and immediately after lies the jetty. The jetty being is close to the mouth of the river makes this a fairly good spot to fish but seasonal, you can catch a variety of fish depending on the season and the migration patterns of these predators. November to January is the best season to fish for barramundi. Other species include snapper, Grouper, Sea Bream ( called Palu locally, caught aplenty towards the end of monsoons) and in the old days, it used to be a favourite haunt for Ravas (Thread fin salmon). Try to get to the jetty at about 5 am on a receding tide, stand at the edge of the jetty and cast straight out, the most effective plug to use here is the Red & White Rappal. Remember the barramundi will strike very close to the jetty, and the fight has to be quick as the side towards the light house has plenty of submerged rocks and this is where you fish will be heading for once hooked. If the fish gets into the rocks there is a little chance of landing it. Live bait (prawns) and dead bait (mackerel, sardine) is also very effective, especially in the night. The best time to work the jetty is night or early mornings. The light house too is a good spot to fish from but you may suffer from heavy tackle loss due to the submerged rocks. It is preferable to use 30lbs braid or fireline. A steel trace is recommended but I am not a big fan of traces because in clear water the trace is easily visible and this would seriously effect your strike ratio. One can use a mono or fluorocarbon leader of heavy line weight.
Down the road a little further from the jetty is a restaurant called “River Rays”. The rocks in front are an excellent place to fish for snapper and grouper on bait, of course, there are plenty of rays to be found here. When fighting a ray, keep the rod tip up and continuously play with the fish. Do not let the Rays sit as you will have a hard time getting them back up from the river bed.
The Fort Aguada
Continue up the Sinquerim road, ask for Fort Aguada. You will eventually pass Sinquerim and the road will wind upwards. The Sequirm jetty is another place one can fish at, but the tourist boat traffic is heavy here during Nov to March which keeps most of the game away. Climb the road up and follow the directional signs to the fort. Your landmark is the light house on the top beside the fort. Remember before we start, the fishing spot is at the base of the hill. Getting to it entails a bit of walking and a bit of hiking back. So carry a light nap sack, plenty of water and wear a pair of shoes with a steady grip.
Follow the dirt track that winds it way pass the lighthouse, round the bend you can avail of the beautiful view of the Panjim bay. The placid blue waters stretch out towards the horizon and drop to the sea is frighteningly beautiful. One can imagine why the Portuguese build this massive fort at such strategic point to defend the city. On a clear day with a good pair of field glass on can look down to watch shoals of dolphins gamble along playfully in the blue waters of the Bay. The track continues pass the lighthouse and about 300 meters you will come to a vertical drop. Look for the path leading to the base. Now carefully negotiate your way down through lose gravel. At the base you will find small ruins of the fort and on the other side you will see a tongue of rocks heading out to sea while behind you looms the massive walls of the fort and the hill. This tongue of rocks is your fishing spot. Walk towards it along the base of the hill, passing a dark cave (worth exploring with torch light). Once on the fishing spot you will find the water deep and a greenish blue in Nov – Dec. Fish species range from Big grouper, snapper, Giant Treville, barramundi and Threadfin (during season, but rare). Early mornings and late evenings is the best time for casting. A strong rod with line weight of 30lbs and above preferably braid is recommended. Live bait works excellent here, but you would need to get your hands on some large white prawns. The walk down with live bait is practically not feasible, hence your next option would be dead bait – a fillet of mackerel works best on a large hook. I have been hit by huge Malabar rock cods (20lbs- 25lbs) that dive into their rocky lair almost immediately on striking; the stopping power of your gear makes the difference. Casting with rubber shads work quite effectively, attracting snapper of 6 – 12 pounds. If you happen to camp here for the night (which by itself is not a bad spot and considering the long walk for an early morning session) work with dead bait, on a rotten bottom rig. The idea here is to tie your weight (generally a stone) with light gauge line or some strong thread, which you will attach to you mainline and hook. If your line gets stuck and in most cases this is probably because of your weight, pulling hard will break away the thread and you will retrieve at least part of your rig intact along with your hook. This limits your tackle loss when fishing rocky bottoms. On a moonlit night casting out with plugs may land you in some explosive action with barramundis and snappers. Cast out and limit your splash, a slow retrieve, keep your rod top down making sure that lure is swimming deep. Be sure you have a strong footing, because there is no guarantee on what my be lurking down in those deep waters.
The Fort extends right around the hill lock leading to the Taj Hotel on the other side which also boasts of a fairly good fishing spot (which will be covered in later chapters). The Fort is a decent spot to fish giving you access to open deep water, which could sport some fairly good game in the 20-30lbs class. But the difficulty is in getting there. All in all Aguada can provide you with a bit adventure and isolation, but on the other hand, it can prove quite disappointing and tiring if the fish don’t bite. I have had average success, lost most of the big groupers in the rocks, landed a few GTs while spinning and 6-12lbs snappers on bait and lure.