Discover 5 Ways to Enjoy Miyakojima and Okinawa Fishing
20 April 2017
Fishing in Okinawa
Tourists come from all over the world to partake in what the oceans around Miyakojima have to offer. Whether it’s surfing, diving, swimming in sparkling emerald waters or just combing the powdery sands, this tiny sub-tropical island has something for everyone. One pastime in which visitors of all ages and levels of experience can happily participate is the ever-popular sport of fishing, which in Japan’s southernmost archipelago, can mean anything from casting your line off the pier to hauling in prize marlin from the chair at the back of a deep-water Okinawa fishing charter. Here are a number of ways visitors can grab their poles and get in on the action.


Okinawa Fishing from Shore to Spear, Deep Sea and More

Line Fishing from Shore
Visit just about any spot on the Okinawan coastline any time of day or night and you’ll be sure to see locals of all ages casting their lures into the ocean. This is certainly the least expensive way to approach fishing in Okinawa and visitors are allowed to partake. Fish species caught from shore tend to be snapper and other reef-dwellers, but it’s not impossible to hook the odd barracuda or even a baby shark. Just remember that while there is no licensing system in place, you should pay attention to Okinawa fishing laws. There are catch limits in effect and some species are off limits entirely to non-professionals. Also, since fishing is prohibited in some places and the warning signs are generally posted in Japanese, tourists are well advised to go with a guide. An experienced guide can also show you where the best Okinawa fishing spots are, what lures or bait are the most effective and where to cast to avoid catching the bottom.

Spearfishing is a popular alternative to line fishing in Okinawa. Spear fishermen tend to be the type who like to get up close and personal with their quarry, and who like the idea of returning with their dinner after only 10 minutes of effort. As with most of Okinawa, the reefs around Miyakojima are home to all manner of fish, but be warned that in the most popular areas, the fish are known to be wary of free divers. Once again, an experienced local guide can suggest places where the fish are a bit less reclusive and even take you underwater to point them out.

While anyone is free to go try their hand at an Okinawa spearfishing excursion, there are some Okinawa fishing regulations that tourists need to be aware of. First, while spearfishing itself is perfectly legal for locals and visitors alike, the use of any kind of mechanical propulsion device is strictly prohibited. This includes improvised devices known popularly as “Hawaiian slings.” Visitors who have had the opportunity to peruse one of the many Okinawa fishing stores often question why, if mechanized devices are illegal, there is always such a rich selection of spear guns for sale. The answer is that specially licensed members of the local fishing union are permitted to make use of such devices under certain circumstances and, Okinawa being an island with deep roots in fishing culture, a large number of locals qualify. So, as tempting as the prospect of fishing with a spear gun may be to some, the rule of thumb for tourists is to “look but don’t touch.”

The second regulation relating to Okinawa spearfishing is that the use of a spear of any kind while scuba diving is strictly prohibited. This may come as a bit of a disappointment to enthusiasts of both scuba and spearfishing, but visitors must be aware that the law is strictly enforced. But please don't let these warnings deter you from enjoying spearfishing in Okinawa where and when it is allowed. Just be very careful to observe all the national and local rules.

Payao Fishing
For tourists, Payao fishing is one of the most satisfying Okinawa fishing tours available. A payao is a man-made pier located far from shore, built for the express purpose of creating fish habitat. In payao fishing, the boat drives up to the pier, starts to drift, and when the sencho (‘captain’ in Japanese) gives the signal, tourists cast their hooks with small whole baitfish attached. It isn’t usually long before the fish start biting. Yellow-fin tuna and skipjacks, mostly around 15 to 20 pounds seem to form the bulk of the catch, with numbers often totaling more than 10 fish per person. Ice is available for purchase at most marinas and the majority of Okinawa fishing charters will have coolers in which tourists can store their catch. It isn’t uncommon for restaurants to offer to cook the fish you caught (for a price, of course) and many tourists will happily donate some of their catch to the chefs, who will often receive them with ear-to-ear smiles.

Deep Sea Fishing
Tourists aiming for bigger game can hire a charter boat to take them out to deeper waters in the hope of landing wahoo, Mahi-Mahi (the Hawaiian name for the rather strange looking ‘dolphinfish’) and skipjack, just a few of the spoils possible during deep sea fishing in Okinawa. While ‘deep sea fishing’ conjures images of trawlers and commercial long-line vessels, the term actually refers to any kind of fishing deeper than about 140 ft. This kind of fishing is the most technical, requiring special tackle and lots skill on the part of the captain and crew. It’s also the most expensive, but for die-hard anglers, the prize fish that are routinely hauled in are more than worth it. While true deep-dropping is not common in Okinawa due to the relatively shallow depths of the waters, a day of trolling at depths of 200-300 feet can produce amazing results. Credible stories of reeling in large marlin after a two-hour fight are not uncommonly heard.

Traditional Fishing in Okinawa and Miyakojima
Not surprisingly, fishing in Okinawa in general—and Miyakojima in particular—has a deep and proud history. Tourists who want to take a look back through time can visit Katabaru-Ino Bay, near Sawada Beach on Irabujima, one of the two small islands north of Miyakojima linked by causeway. A fish trap, made with stones piled into a wall, can be found in the shallows. Called a ‘katsu’, this kind of trap is designed to allow fish to swim over it at high tide, but as the waters recede, unwary fish find themselves trapped where they can more easily be speared. While this is not a sort of fishing in which tourists can participate, it makes for a remarkable way to understand some of the unique cultural history of the island.

Another type of traditional Okinawa fishing technique also popular in Miyakojima, known as ‘ishimaki otoshi’ (literally, “wrapped stone drop”) is still best left to the captain—but tourists who come along are more than welcome to indulge in the spoils of his catch! A local bait fish is placed atop a stone before being wrapped continuously with a fishing line and tied with a slipknot. The captain does his magic with the line after throwing everything overboard; the slip knot comes undone and the package is released, leaving the unsuspecting fish to (hopefully) take the bait. After catching several varieties of local fish, top your day off by having it cooked and served for you with a local brand of awamori, a famous sake variety that Miyakojima is also known for.


Book your Okinawa Fishing Charters from Miyakojima

If hauling in prize catches surrounded by the most stunning ocean scenery to be found anywhere on earth sounds like a good way to spend a day on Miyakojima, fishing charters can be booked from just about any marina on the island and, especially if you’re staying at a hotel like The Shigira or Hotel Breeze Bay Marina, the staff would be thrilled to help arrange an excursion. Just remember, fishing is only one of the many unforgettable ways to enjoy a day on the crystal waters of Okinawa’s southern paradise. And Miyakojima is more than just a beautiful ocean. With numerous tours, shopping and an impressive array of local restaurants and bars, the island can truly satisfy all tastes.


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