Phuket Boat Fishing
Private fishing charters are really expensive in Phuket (at least 14,000 Bhat) and if you are going to take a private boat you will probably need to pay more to go beyond the nearby islands (at least to Racha Noi) to get better fish. Sommai Fishing Tour offers a relatively inexpensive (1,500 Bhat/person) fishing but with other people, a joining group. The combination of trolling, jigging, lunch, and snorkelling may not be ideal for a fishing fanatic but it is actually quite enjoyable. Sommai Fishing Tour are very professional by picking you up at your hotel and making sure you catch (so you won’t have fried rice alone for lunch). It is a bite of luck whether you catch trolling but the jigging with hand lines is fun too.
What to bring
They provide all the gear and they don’t let you troll with your own rod. The only gear to bring is for the jigging if you don’t need to use hand line.
The fishing technique
Trolling is luck. Every day is different and they use surface type bird attractors with hootchies/squid lures after the attractor. These attract smaller fish but they also have at least one line for marlin which they don’t use unless they spot one. Usually they have 4 lines out but there is option of using the 5th marlin line which you should ask for. As there is only 4 rods, it is luck whether there are enough bites for you to fish. If you are lucky to get a bite be sure to set the hook and sit the seat for action. If you are lucky you can hit a school of fish as we did with the tuna (described below).
Jigging is fun. If you are expecting your own rod and reel that is not the case unless you bring it. Nevertheless the hand line set up they have is great. There are two hooks in parallel with a large weight on the bottom which enables hitting the bottom even with current. Be careful hooking your squid to make sure that you have plenty of bait without excess hanging out and the hook is exposed. The bottom fish you catch jigging are simply fish which bite and hang on so the skill is letting them hook themselves. The captain knows the good spots and will make sure that people catch so they can have fresh fish lunch.
You want to bring your own rod so that you can get your line up and down much quicker with a spinning reel and if there are big fish around like large grouper you can catch them. The set up is a larger size hook mackerel jig which I tip each hook with squid followed by a large weight. Drop the line to the bottom and weight for a bite testing the bottom regularly and checking the line every 5-10 min as the fish steal the bait.
I think I was pretty lucky trolling both times I went. I drew card number three (third person to fish) on first day and card number one on the second day. The first day, it was slow to start but it was a good sign when a marlin started jumping. The only problem was that they did not put the marlin bait out till after. Even though we circled back it didn’t strike. However, a school of tuna came and we had 3 bites simultaneously. The first fisherman lost his but we landed the other two. We had one other bite trolling which was lost but that was it. The second day was slow with no signs of fish all morning. As we were going to give up after lunch, we trolled towards to snorkelling site in Racha Yai and something hit the line. It was a mahi-mahi which jumped in the air several times showing off its golden body. I was scared to lose the fish after the long wait and I carefully maintained tension on the line reeling hard. We brought in and what a lucky catch!
The jigging was fun and I think everyone caught and enjoyed it. Using their hand lines just throw the weight with squid to the bottom and weight for it to pull. At the good spot (right where the captain tells you to drop the line), you either catch or they fish steal your bait. It is fun because you never know what you will catch as we had grouper, snapper and even triggerfish. Some are colourful like the red grouper I caught. Using the rod was great but I underestimate the size of the weight I needed and unfortunately tangled with a few of the hand lines several times. Otherwise it was all very enjoyable as we caught and had fresh fish lunch.
How to make it happen
Thailand is full of people trying to make money so book directly from the company. Another fisherman had paid 2,400 Bhat for fishing when I only paid 1,500 Bhat. The company has office stuff who speak limited English and you can call directly to book your trip.
It is all about the number you draw trolling. You need to get top three to have any chance to catch a prized fish trolling. I asked the fish guide about the fish he caught and there were only a few marlin; considering that they go three times a week all year you have to be pretty lucky to get one. I think one should be happy to catch anything trolling. You may also be disappointed trolling but they do a good job ensuring you catch and you have fresh fish lunch so please leave a tip for them at the end.