Madeira: Funchal Offshore Fishing

Madeira - Portugal

Madeira Funchal Offshore Fishing 1

It takes quite a magnet to draw anglers from Australia or the USA all the way to a remote island off Portugal in the Atlantic Ocean. Madeira is just such a magnet, due to perhaps one of the most consistent suppliers of 1000lb blue marlin in the world.

Where Is Madeira?

The Island of Madeira is situated in the Atlantic Ocean off the southern tip of Portugal and the northern tip of Africa. Madeira is about 1000km from the Portuguese capital of Lisbon.

What Is The History Of Madeira?

Madeira was discovered by sheer accident in 1419, when a fierce storm and huge seas pushed a Portuguese square rigger sailing vessel exploring the coast of Africa towards the island. The vessel was operated by captains Joao Concalves Zarco and Tristao Vaz Teixeira who, remarkably, were able to seek refuge from the bad weather by the island’s lee-shore. The following year, at the instigation of the King of Portugal’s son, Prince Henry (the Navigator), an expedition was sent to the island and it was claimed for the Portuguese.

What Is Madeira Famous For?

Madeira is famous for its fabulous fruits grown in the island’s rich soil. The grapes, in particular, produce some of the best wines and ports in the world. These days the island is a very popular tourist destination for many Europeans. For sportsfishermen, Madeira has become famous for its giant Atlantic blue marlin. Many Atlantic blue marlin records were smashed during the early to mid-1990s. The amazing thing about the place is that the blues are all big females and rarely are any of these marlin seen or caught under 500lb.

Madeira Funchal Offshore Fishing 2

Target Species

The main species targeted here are giant blue marlin – primarily on 130lb tackle. The techniques used are mostly trolling lures, but teasers are used at times in conjunction with bait and switch. Throughout the year plenty of other gamefish such as dolphinfish are also caught. Record-size wahoo are targeted here on light-tackle when the big blues are gone. White marlin and Atlantic spearfish are also caught in the warmer months. During the cooler months of the year albacore, bigeye tuna and huge bluefin tuna often show up in good numbers.


Madeira is a sensational place to fish and the fishing grounds are close in along the mostly calm, lee-shore off the island’s capital Funchal. This bustling township offers exceptionally cheap local produce and duty free goods, as well as great hotels, bars and restaurants. The small, but adequate, harbour that the local charter fleet operate from is right in the heart of the town’s amenities. The good thing is it’s only a stone’s throw out of the harbour to the fishing grounds. The vessels here put the lures out in very deep water as soon as they leave the harbour breakwall, and 1000lb blues have been hooked many times within half a mile of the island.

Getting To Madeira

Getting to Madeira from Australia or any of the South Pacific regions is a very long flight. Both times I have flown there I have gone through London, from where you can get a direct four-hour TAP Air (Portuguese Airlines) or British Air flight to Madeira. Other than the UK, there are direct flights from Paris, or you can go from a number of other European cities via Lisbon, Portugal. From Madeira’s airport, which I might add is one of the most amazing structures built along the ocean cliff face, it’s only a 25 minute coach or taxi ride to the main city of Funchal.

Charter Boats

Katherine B, skippered by Aussie legend, Capt Peter Bristow.
Balancal, Capt Anibal Fernandes.
Freedom, Capt Mark Lee.
Lara Jade, Capt Joao Santos.
Margarita, Capt Januario Santos.
Our Mary, Capt Jose Serrao.

Where To Stay In Madeira

Funchal offers many magnificent places to stay, from the luxury 5-star Reid’s Hotel ( to the more affordable and charming 4-star Quinta da Penha de Franca Hotel ( The latter establishment is only a five-minute walk to the harbour. Many visiting anglers tend to stay there as the owners, Jo and Roberto Ribeiro, are anglers themselves. Their great ‘game-bar’ is where the evening’s fishing stories usually get blown out of all proportion!

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