The Algarve in the South of Portugal is known as one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations.
Its favourite climate guarantees sunshine and warm temperatures early and late in the season. What is less well known is the fact that the coastline is an excellent destination to target European sea bass with a fly rod.
A coastline of more than 130 miles holds opportunities to target a number of other saltwater species such as mullet, mackerel or bream as well. If you want to combine the search for sea bass with freshwater species, no problem! There are several rivers and reservoirs that hold barbel, carp and bass.
Sea bass and its sub species however, is certainly one of the most exciting species to target on a fly rod down here at the Algarve. It is a voracious predator that has different names wherever it appears around the globe. In the United States it is called striper (Morone saxatilis). Over here in Portugal we fish for sea bass (Dicentrarchus Labrax) or spotted sea bass (Dicentrarchus Punctatus).
Fishing in Portugal: Casting off a rock to catch sea bass
Spotted sea bass are easily identified by the black spots on their upper body, they are even more aggressive than regular sea bass. They grow up to 50 inches and can weigh in at over five lbs. Regular sea bass are beautiful silver-colored fish. They grow up to 70 inches and can reach 25 lbs (record registered weight). Of course a fish of these dimensions is very rare.
Catching sea bass fly fishing in Portugal, especially in the Algarve, is not an easy task. The Portuguese have always been a people living off the sea, a land of sailors and explorers. Sadly in modern times commercial fishing has expanded greatly and the pressure on the ocean has increased dramatically.
Since sea bass is sought after for the quality of its flesh, it has a significant commercial value and the demand from restaurants is very high. However, slowly but surely people start to realize that change is necessary so that a sustainable saltwater ecosystem can be maintained for many years to come.
Fly Fishing Portugal: A nice fly caught sea bass in the Algarve
This being said, do not get discouraged. In the south of the Algarve you can fish estuaries where the conditions are less rough. Fish here are smaller but are around in larger groups increasing chances of landing a sea bass. And of course there’s always the possibility for a cracker to inhale your streamer, especially during the winter months when boats when the coast gets almost deserted and the sound of the water becomes predominant.
Where to catch sea bass
In the western part of the Algarve, around “Costa Vicentina” and the southern Alentejo region you have the highest chance of landing a big sea bass. Rough seas will generally present the angler with powerful waves, strong winds and strong currents. To be successful around here you need to be a more experienced fly angler and in good physical shape as the conditions will test you. The elements are rougher but that also increases your chances for a big sea bass. Fish in excess of 10, 15 or even 20 lbs can be caught in this part of Portugal.
A proper sea bass caught on an #8 fly rod
Out here your casting needs to be consistent. Generally long casts are required using big streamers that often have to be cast into the wind. Bass can be caught on poppers, subsurface or flies fished a little deeper. It all depends on the weather and light conditions. The best time of day is generally around sunrise and sunset. Plan your trip carefully hence, especially if you want to have a shot at trophy fish.
Fishing in Portugal: Making a long cast using a shooting basket
Choosing your tackle
Make sure to bring an #8 fly rod. A floating, intermediate and/or sinking line will allow you to cover most fishing scenarios and adjust accordingly to increase your chances of success. A fast action rod is generally advised since fast casts with heavy streamers into the wind are constantly required.
Fly Fishing Portugal: This sea bass took a streamer pattern
Clouser minnows, EP baitfish streamers and shrimp are patterns that should be in your fly box if you’re targeting sea bass. A shooting basket can often be a helpful tool! A solid rain jacket should always be at hand depending on the location and season. The most important question: should you wear waders or a wetsuit? Some might argue with me but I recommend using a wet suit when fishing in heavier surf since waders can become a safety issue if the waves get too big. You can use waders when fishing in the estuaries.
A sand eel fly pattern to target sea bass in the Algarve
If you want to fish the Algarve for sea bass or other species get in touch with Marco de Sao Vicente of Fly Fishing Algarve. He knows the Algarve waters like few others and is an absolute sea bass expert.