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La Palma, La Isla Bonita

In search of sunshine (and to shorten a cold Dutch winter), Pieter and I decided to plan a species hunters trip to the Canary Islands. Our Main goal was to catch as much many species as possible species. After some research, we decided to travel to La Palma.

Like the other islands of the Canary Island archipelago, it’s a volcanic ocean island. The volcano rises almost 7 km (4 mi) above the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. La Palma is currently the most volcanically active of the Canary Islands and was formed three to four million years ago. La Palma has abundant plant life, which is the most diverse in the Canary Islands.

The Island has no mass tourism, most visitors come to hike and enjoy nature. It`s a beautiful Island, with relaxed people. Surrounded by the Atlantic, an ideal place for species hunters! On the day of arrival we crossed the Island from east to west, and noticed all the fishing possibilities. Therefore we couldn`t wait to unpack our rods and get to the water ASAP.

Fishing at Ports

La Palma has two ports of importance; in the capital Santa Cruz and in Tazacorte. These ports are used by commercial fishermen , yacht clubs, and for the transport of cargo and people. The port of Tazacorte was attainable could be reached by car within 30 minutes from our apartment. The first evening, we decided to visit this port. With the rods in the back of our car, we first explored the port by foot. Soon a local supervisor spotted us, and made it very clear that this was not the place to be. We were probably trespassing on some sort of construction site.

Maybe it`s good to know that in Spain it`s not allowed to fish in ports. Of course, there are local exceptions. After some research we found out that there are some specific spots where it is tolerated to fish. Most important rule, don`t disturb (paying) port visitors and keep it a low profile. With this in mind, we fished several times without any problems. Usually we started to fish at the end of the afternoon, until some hours after sunset. In most cases we took some deeply hooked fish to a nearby restaurant for our supper. Fresh fish prepared the Spanish way! All following fish were caught in the Tazacorte port:

Thalassoma pavo, these fish are largely represented all over the Island.

Abudefduf luridus, next to the Thalassoma pavo, one of the most abundant fish on the Island.

Apogon imberbis, a nice surprise, caught while fishing in the darkness.

Liza aurata, Pomadasys incisus, Lithognathus mormyrus, Spondyliosoma cantharus, Pagellus acarne
Five different species, made a good mixed bag for dinner.

Mycteroperca fusca, at first cast this fish took off a piece of the plastic lure, second cast Pieter hooked this aggressive hunter.

Dicentrarchus labrax, A nice surprise caught while hunting for Barracuda`s.

Since childhood I have a passion for catching eels and look-a-likes. Maybe it’s because of their snaky appearance, somehow they have always fascinated me. As a species hunter, the moray would be a prize catch of trophy for me. Therefore Pieter and I decided to spent one night focussed on catching a moray. We tried to catch one with a large piece of octopus between the big concrete blocks in the Tazacorte port. When this didn’t resulted in a moray, we casted further into the sea. Suddenly Pieter got a great run! This is so exciting, in the middle of the night hearing the waves and smelling the salty air, hearing Pieter’s reel screaming. The speed of the fish gave away, it wasn`t a moray. After a long fight, a big roughtail stingray (Dasyatis centroura) showed itself. Because of the toxic sting, we took no pictures. It`s a strange experience to hear the wings fins of an angry ray hitting the surface.

While visiting the port of Tazacorte, we noticed a lot of commercial tuna boats. It turned out that lots of tuna migrated and visited La Palma. The fishermen attract the tuna schools with chum. It`s very interesting to see them catching a tuna the oldskool way, using a bamboo rod and an heavy short line.

Commercial fishermen, landing their catch.

Next to the Tazacorte port, we fished in the port of the capital Santa Cruz a few times. This port is much bigger than the Tazacorte port and can be divided in separate zones. One zone is particularly for the commercial fishermen, were it`s allowed to fish (by rod). It`s a nice place to fish, and the dumping of giblets, tuna heads and fins (we noticed them on the bottom) attracts lots of fish. These fish where caught in the Santa Cruz port:

Synodus synodus, at first cast this predator hit the soft bait.

Trachinotus ovatus, beautiful little fish.

Boops boops, I used it for a bigger predator. Couldn`t believe my eyes when I saw it being absorbed by an octopus!

Boat fishing

This species hunters trip, we spend two days on deck of a small private fishing boat. The owner of the boat is a Dutchman who lives in La Palma for ten years. He is an skilled skipper and angler who fished in many different international seas. During the first boat trip we decided to focus on catching ray. The skipper made a trail of tuna leavings, nearby the port of Tazacorte, to attract the ray. Fishing for ray is very relaxed, rod in the hand and waiting for a run. But the relaxing is over when you hook one! This is the strongest fish I ever caught. Depending on its size, sometimes it can take more than one hour before you land these fish. Very glad that Pieter and I are regular gym visitors!

Double hook-up!

Gymnura altavela, biggest ray I caught, approximately 40KG.

Dasyatis pastinaca, most ray have a toxic sting, therefore always be cautious.

Pieter, testing his rod ;-)

Gymnura altavela, the battle continues on deck!

After our ray adventure, we decided to spend our second boat day to fish different grounds and depths to search for as many species possible. Catching all kinds of species was new for the skipper, but he suggested several possibilities. For example, because of the volcanic basis of the island, the shore declines drops very fast. Therefore deep-sea fishing grounds are in reach and could produce new species. Next to deep-sea fishing, drifting nearby a fish farm (in the open sea), could result in a variety of species. While navigating from different fishing spots, the skipper suggested to troll some lures.

All these suggestions sounded great, so we decided to start the trip very early in the dark. Pieter didn`t get a lot of sleeping hours, because he was nervous for it was his birthday ;-). So with a sleepy Pieter we started the day on a rough and dark sea. In the morning we tried different things, like trolling for barracuda`s, speed jigging, etc. Some hours after sunset, we still didn`t caught a fish! You can imagine that we became a bit disappointed, because the expectations were sky-high. Therefore we decided to move to a real hotspot , and troll while steaming.

Suddenly one reel screamed and after some seconds the second reel went off. Curved rods! The skipper screamed: TUNA! Are we dreaming? No! In no time we both had a rod in our hands and were fighting a tuna. This was very special, having a tuna on my own light travel rod.. After 15 minutes, a disaster happened, the tuna released itself by pulling the hook. This was very disappointing, but you just can`t win them all. Sometimes that happens.. Meanwhile Pieter was still fighting his tuna! And after a rough battle, he managed to land this beautiful fish. What a birthday present!

Thunnus alalunga, what a birthday present!

It took a while before the adrenaline decreased to normal levels. We continued our boat trip drifting nearby a fish farm in open water. Probably not worth mentioning, but while moving from spot to spot, we were trolling all the time ;-). Fishing nearby the fish farm was really an adventure, almost every cast we caught something. We really enjoyed this type of fishing and even the skipper liked our hunt for smaller species. We used light tackle and this produced lots of species:

Serranus atricauda, we caught loads of these tasty fish.

Balistes capriscus, a real surprise!

Dentex gibbosus, another surprise out of the blue followed short after.

Pagellus erythrinus, caught by a famous terrorist.

Xyrichtys novacula, handle with care, they bite (seriously).

Deep sea fishing was a new experience for me. We used large baits and strong (80lbs) rods, with big reels. We fished at depths of approximately 200/500 meter, it took a while before the large leads hit the bottom! Unfortunately, this type of fishing was not very successful, although Pieter managed to catch new species on a small shrimp:

Helicolenus dactylopterus, seduced from a dark habitat by Pieter.

Coast/rock fishing

One advantage of an island is that you are surrounded by water, not unpleasant for a species hunter. Although there are a lot of fishing spots, it’s not easy to reach them. Due to spiky volcanic rocks which make it hard to walk. Next to that, some spots are too high above sea level to fish from. But after some sight-seeing and talking to locals, we found some nice spots. One morning we arrived at a new spot, where we met some locals who were just packing their gear. They showed us their catch, which they took home to eat. This was very promising! We identified a lot of species in their bucket (even a moray!). As a species hunter I always find it very exciting to fish in a new unknown water. The first cast resulted in a nice parrot fish, which was also the last one we caught on that spot. Fishing these new spots is very exciting, because you never know what the next fish will be. The art of catching a new species, is to prevent hooking common ones. Sometimes it’s very frustrating, when you see dozens of earlier caught species greedy taking your bait!

While sight-seeing, we spotted a nice beach with volcanic stones. Although the waves were too high and the current too strong, we started to fish. Pieter and I bought travel beach rods before, and hadn`t used them yet. Therefore, we gave it a try. The first cast resulted in a broken line.. Because the beach is very rocky, when lifting up your lead, you have reel up very quickly. After some minutes, Pieter hooked something. We couldn`t believe our eyes, when we saw it was a moray.
All week we were talking about catching a moray, and now in bright day light on a beach Pieter hooked one! After a picture, quickly I casted as far as I could. After some minutes I hooked a fish too, it was a little fish, and a new species (Labrisomus nuchipinnis). Very happy, again I casted as far as I could. After some minutes, I hooked a fish. This is so exciting, what will appear out of the big waves?! When I saw it, I couldn`t believe my eyes: a moray!

High, sharp and rocky fishing spots, shaped by extinguished sharp lava.

Sparisoma cretense, first cast produced this new species.

Water and rocks, a typical volcanic beach. Under the surface you are surrounded by a variety of fish.

Labrisomus nuchipinnis, caught on a rocky beach in a strong current.

Muraena aubusti, against all odds, I managed to arrest this moray on the beach.

Used techniques

When fishing, I always use the KISS principle. This stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS). I believe that simplicity is a prerequisite for reliability. So no hassle and go for a simple rig. For the fishing in La Palma, simple rigs worked very good. Most of the time we fished with a standard rig. This standard rig (see picture) can always be adjusted to the conditions of the water and the strength of the fish. While boat fishing we also used standard feather paternosters baited with all sorts of baits. Squid worked well and is available in every supermarket and is very though so the reef fish have problems stealing your bait.

Standard rig; simple but effective.


Pieter and I caught 41 species in total, which is a stunning result. It was nice to experience different types of fishing. We caught a nice mix of big and small fishes, from tuna and ray till cardinal fish and rock-pool blenny. This Island offers plenty of possibilities to pimp your species list. Although we fished almost every day, there still are a lot of species and fishing grounds have to come back for. So when you visit La Palma, every day you have plenty possibilities to catch new species.

La Palma distinguishes itself from other Canary Islands by offering a non-mass low tourism environment. It has a beautiful nature and nice people. The prices are good and the restaurants serve authentic Spanish food. If you are planning a trip to this destination, don`t hesitate to contact us! (see below for a reply).

Cheers, Bart.

See also : Vakantiehuizen La Palma
1 person(s) like(s) this message.
replies (3)
08-05-2014 11:12:04
Ronnie van Beem says : Prachtig verslag Bart. Goh, wat zou ik daar eens heen willen.
09-05-2014 19:49:55
Marcel de Vries says : Fantastisch artikel Bart! Wie weet ga ik volgend jaar eens die kant op!
23-05-2014 22:26:22
Ton Nientied says : Good informative article, Bart. With plenty nice photos. I like the KISS principle!

# name spcs
1 191
2 190
3 170
show entire list
all times:
# name spcs
1 824
2 717
3 640
show entire list
unique species:
# name spcs
1 111
2 105
3 83
show entire list
caught on fly:
# name spcs
1 119
2 111
3 108
show entire list
# name spcs
1 46
2 35
3 35
show entire list
318 registered species hunters.
3272  species.
27 non recognized species.
20 hybrids.
421  fly caught.
631 species on target lists.
184 pictures of zwoonzels.