So, you love the beach. You love the island. You love to travel, meet new people, and you have a fondness for surfing. You found our website because you want to make Siargao a super special place for your wedding, and you want to have all your friends and family come to the island to see what all the fuss is about. They may wonder, "If I don't surf, would I even want to come to Siargao?" The answer is YES because there is so much more to this place than its iconic Cloud 9 surf break.
We watch as the birthday girl takes a few lessons from Mauro, the man behind Hook Pro Siargao
The last time I went on a completely new experience was more than a decade ago. My first surf experience during college was incredible, and more than a decade later I am still here enjoying the waves. I am hesitant and excited to claim that Jigging may be the next thing I want to start doing! Why should you learn about jigging? Read on to find out about all the fuss I've been making lately!
What is Jigging?
Other than a type of dance move, to jig means to fish with a certain type of lure. The lure is called a jig, and it consists of a lead sinker with a few hooks and something that resembles a fish. A jig is sent down to the bottom of the ocean and the fisher must reel the jig up in a manner that resembles prey swimming through the water. It may swim as if it looks injured or "unaware" of the predatory fish you want to catch. There are several techniques for how the jig moves through the sea as it gets reeled up, so in my opinion there is a more "active" role you have when it comes to capturing fish. If you move the jig correctly and happen to be in the right spot where a hungry fish may be swimming around, you may be in luck and have a bite that you can reel in!
So is Jigging harmful to the ocean environment? Most online sources say that jigging is an environmentally responsible method of fishing, since most recreational jigs have only a couple hooks and fishermen are quite selective with what to keep. There is minimal bycatch and some industrial jigging operations rarely have their lures damage the ocean floor. Jigging may also be referred to as "hand-lining", where it's possible to have one commercial fisherman operate several jig lines with 20-30 hooks on each line. Jigging operators like this can use a computer and machine called "gurdy" to reel in the lines and detach the squid or fish as they get pulled into the boat. Using a machine and a computer to make your catch this way is completely different from jigging with your own rod and reel, so the fishing label of "hand-lining" can be a bit misleading to the fish consumer. Thankfully, jigging is not even close to being as damaging as those kilometer-wide nets that fishing vessels use to capture everything out of the waters and seafloor.
Mauro explains some information about the jigging lines and depths we reach when fishing.
I've never been jigging or had any interest in fishing before I went on a most spectacular experience with Hook Pro Siargao. It was my friend's birthday and she invited me to go with her! All I knew was that we were going to be fishing until sunset, then we'd have a Japanese Chef cut up our catch. I had no idea there was going to be an elaborate dinner, mangrove exploration trip, and epic fishing lesson included! I went into this experience with no expectations, only joy to be invited to a new friend's birthday activity. I had never even understood jigging at all beforehand, I've only been fed rumors that it's physically challenging! True enough, jigging was physically taxing, even when I couldn't catch anything!
Captain Neil demonstrates his jigging technique for the ladies as we take a dip.
The Fishing Trip Day's Itinerary
I left Punta Dolores at 9:30 to meet up with my friends at Alon Resort right in front of Cloud 9. We were due to be in Pilar before 11am. Pilar is a town up North where Hook Pro Siargao is based, and it hosts a very popular annual Game Fishing Tournament. From 11am to around 4:30pm we would be fishing and then proceed to tour around the massive mangrove forests along the Maasin river which bisects Siargao Island. After witnessing a beautiful sunset, we docked back to Pilar and freshened up before dinner. A delicious birthday dinner was served and then we were free to return to General Luna whenever we chose. We hung out for about 30 minutes in a most charming wooden building overlooking the mangroves and night sky. After everyone was done eating, we returned to General Luna around 8pm. To sum up, our schedule looked like this:
Leave Punta Dolores at 9:30
Head to Pilar from Cloud 9 in General Luna at 10am
Board the Boat at 11am
Fish until 4:30
Explore the Mangrove Forests of Maasin River during Sunset until 6:45
Back to General Luna around 8:30
Return to Punta Dolores around 9pm
That's a whole day trip for you, 12 hours!
Birthday Girl Chloe and Organizer Rafu. He planned the whole day for
Sunset views heading into the mangrove forests- simply stunning!
Glassy, quiet, and peaceful mangrove forest. This photo is a bit blurry because we were in motion, but you can clearly see the sky reflected in the waters. Magical!
We were able to book a boat trip with Mauro and Captain Neil. As a former golfing athlete, I found jigging to be a fine challenge to master. All the mechanics and motions required to get that jig flitting and floating about in the water was a wonderful activity for me to try grasping. I learned that our lines were about 600 meters long, but the waters we were fishing were about 150-200 meters deep. The day we went out was a day after a storm had passed, but there was so much swell in the water it became an extra challenge to stay steady on the boat. Looking at Mauro and Captain Neil made it clear it was just me having trouble staying steady though. They've got their sea legs already grown in and I was just sprouting my own!
The vessel we used was a R.I.B. , which is short for Rigid Inflatable Boat. It has a low center of gravity on top of the water, which makes it ideal for speedy trips and even rescues. Because the sides of the boat are made of inflatable material, it is easily utilized by coast guard groups to rescue and sweep people up from the water. I love this type of boat because its fast, comfortable, and heard it was very economical in terms of gas consumption. I want one so bad!
As far as I am aware, Mauro has two Captains for each of his vessels. Our RIB allowed for up to 4 jig lines simultaneously, so if you have a bigger group of people wanting to fish, you can book Hook Pro Siargao's second boat.
Mauro navigates the seas. We had to avoid a few rainstorms that day
I really enjoyed the instruction received from Mauro, he made Jigging seem very accessible and easy to do. He spent time and watched each of us jigging newbies do our thing and gave insightful corrections and advice. He was also able to jig the entire time too, so seeing him demonstrate the proper technique was a gift. It also helped me lots when he was able to reel in the bait from the depths of the ocean; he said it was to help conserve our energy for the next fishing spot! As a newbie, my wrists and arms were a bit tender, but as the day wore on I was able to adjust to my rod accordingly and got more adept with the motion of reeling and pulling.
Jigging is not your typical lazy-day-fishing trip! It takes a measure of coordination and strength, so if you have friends or relatives who are ill, disabled, or not physically strong, I would not recommend a Jigging trip for them. I would still highly recommend booking a trip with Hook Pro Siargao though, because they offer fantastic mangrove trips which is a smooth ride and an experience all on its own.
What to Bring for your Jigging Trip
The following are my recommendations and tips for how to prepare for a successful fishing trip with your friends and family:
Bring a waterproof windbreaker jacket, and a light, warm sweater.
It can get cold after the sun sets, so be extra prepared for cooler winds and damp clothes by keeping your body warm.
A neck gaiter or "neckerchief" as I like to call it
Neck coverings help keep you warm and prevent the wind from disturbing your sinuses and vulnerable parts of your head.
Wear a bathing suit or trunks on the boat.
Taking a dip in the ocean was so refreshing after all that effort learning how to jig. Swimming in the deep blue was also very cool!
Bring your favorite finger food and fizzy drinks on the boat.
Mauro was kind enough to gift the birthday girl some spicy Carcar Chicharron. He also had water and ice ready for all of us on the boat. I made my Mom's Chicken Sandwich Recipe to pair with Kawayan Gourmand's fresh baked Croissants and it was possibly the best sandwich I've made in the Philippines (I've been here since 2012 so that's saying a lot about how much I enjoyed my boat trip!). I also brought some of Abe's homemade Ginger Kefir...poppin' bottles on a boat! I was sparkling!
Bring extra sunscreen, Lip SPF, and Zinc
You're basically exposed to the elements all day on that boat, so make sure you cover up so you can avoid those itchy burns the next day. I like to use SunZapper sunscreen and Zinc stick. You can purchase them from Fat Lips Surf Shop before you head out. For my lips, I use Vanicream SPF 30 lip protectant . It's so creamy, moisturizing, light, absorbs well and clear, and definitely offers that SPF protection since I never have chapped lips anymore.
Visors, headgear, hats, and Sunglasses
Mauro and Captain Neil were wearing visor caps (the kind golfers wear) because it fits snugly on your head and won't fly off as the boat cruises. Both also protected their eyes from the ocean glare by wearing dark shades. I brought my favorite, all-time Kavu Chillba hat, and it was also a super hat to wear fishing, but I had to hold onto it as the boat was moving from place to place.
Earplugs, Shoes, Clothes
For this boat trip I basically wore my surf outfits, which were long sleeves and pants that are UPF rated. I saw that Mauro had earplugs to protect his ears from the intense winds. We didn't wear any shoes while on the boat, it was just barefoot luxury for all of us.
Be sure to bring your favorite seasickness and motion sickness medicine, because if you have trouble with that you will definitely feel it on your fishing trip. Mauro was suggesting to our other friends who were suffering a bit of motion sickness to go for a swim and simply "relax". Motion sickness may be related to anxiety and the mind racing towards the next moment, so if it helps you to relax and do some meditation before the trip, I would recommend doing that! If there is a lot of swell in the water, you will definitely experience lots of bumps and jumps from the boat which may make some people nervous or "on their guard".
I don't have an issue with motion sickness and I love the ocean so I did not suffer out at sea. In fact, I was invigorated by the entire experience! To ride a sleek, functional, speedy craft like Hook Pro Siargao's RIB along the Philippine Deep was, in a word: MAGICAL!
The Birthday Dinner Lineup
I am a firm believer that people make the place. Having wonderful hosts and guides can make or break any experience and location, so it's imperative to choose your friends and location wisely! When it comes to food, the chef is the heart of the operation. It still blows my mind that we came across a Japanese chef here in Siargao! He has been living in the Philippines for 37 years and speaks English, Tagalog, and some Bisaya. Chef Oshima-san loves to talk about his pride, which is the art of cooking! Of all the places in the Philippines, how did a Japanese Chef with one of the few coveted licenses of cutting butete (blowfish) end up in Siargao? If you don't know how to cut and handle raw butete fish as a chef, you could kill a person after a few hours of consuming it. Allow me to claim that I would trust Chef Oshima -san's cuts of butete if he ever served it to me. He says that fine dining experts believe it to be the best tasting fish in the world.
I'll say it again, the people make the place! I can't wait to see what else Mauro and Chef Oshima-san come up with.
After I freshened up in the bathroom on the ground floor right next to where we docked in Pilar, I climbed up the stairs to the second floor to find a very cozy living room and dining space. The structure was made of reclaimed wood and the roof was paneled with natural materials. The walls were painted a lovely green that appeared blue to my eyes.
We were seated on quaint, low, wooden chairs on top of woven dried-grass rugs that were made in that very same town of Pilar. Our open deck view was a dark expanse of mangrove and ocean with a glint of light in the sky from Venus. It was such a calming and welcome experience to have a dark view of the ocean beyond the dimmed coziness of the room. I'm sure on a clearer day we may have seen more, but it was certainly enough to absorb the quiet sounds of the fishing village and watch the rushing waters move past us with the tide down below.
For our special birthday dinner menu, Chef Oshima personally made:
Buta Shogayaki (Japanese Ginger Pork) with Lettuce and Mayo Dressing
Crispy Sweet Dilis
Chinese Style Steamed Siomai
Fresh Octopus Stew
Seafood Udon Noodle Stir Fry
Sashimi with Wasabi and Mustard
Japanese White Rice
Special Miso Soup
Chef Oshima-san explains what's on the table! Delicious food, wonderful dining experience.
It was one of the best meals I've had in a very long time. I am a huge fan of Japan and its cuisine. The octopus was cooked perfectly and the Buta Shogayaki was, of course, divine. The miso soup was something else entirely, I believe I was told it was made with two different shios, which is a type of soy which offers a salty taste. I loved listening to the chef tell us about his cooking career over the decades. He said I should ask Mauro for the next time I can go and try his seafood curry!
Planning My Next Trip
Jigging was a magical experience for me. I became that annoying friend who cannot stop talking about what they went through. My husband Abe was teasing me saying that I left the house an anti-fish person, and then suddenly comes home a fisherwoman.
Me, the fisherwoman practicing the timing of the reel and pull. I'd like to say I got much better than this clip by the end of the trip. Can't wait to try it again
Truth be told, I had big reservations about the ethics of fishing in a world where fish are being threatened to extinction causing untold damage to ecosystems and worsening the planet's climate crisis.
While I was watching Mauro fish, I shared my concerns and conflicted mind about fishing, and asked him what his thoughts were. He understood my viewpoints clearly and told me that going on trips with Hook Pro Siargao actually increases the value of fish caught. By increasing the value of the fish we consume, we help to create more consciousness and preservation of our oceans. When one actually experiences the act of catching fish by their own hand, you open up more opportunities for people to care and value that experience. This translates into more people doing things to push for cleaner oceans, healthier habitats, community monitoring, and protecting critical fish populations.
So why is jigging different? It's different because you're only taking one fish from the sea at a time. Compared to industrial fishing which uses kilometers-long net that basically wipes everything out on the seafloor, Jigging can be considered a more responsible way to fish our oceans. It's a lot of fun too! Although I did not catch any fish on my maiden trip jigging, I have a feeling my luck will change next time. Now that I've got some basics down, perhaps it will be my technique that brings a big one home! Just kidding. I've got such a long way to go. And I think that's what makes me so excited; there's a chance and a will to get good at something new!
What else is there to do in Siargao other than Surf?
The next time someone asks what else there is to do in Siargao besides surfing, the first thing you should ask is, "Do you get seasick?" if they reply, "No, not really" then you should tell them to book a trip with Captain Neil, Mauro, and Hook Pro Siargao! For newbies and experienced fisherfolk alike, this activity will leave a deep impression on the wonder and grandeur of the Pacific Ocean and the Philippine Deep. With the lovely views of jutted reefs, Magpupunko, cliffs, mangroves, and white sand beaches and coves, you won't miss out on much else Siargao has to offer if you book with Hook Pro Siargao. Even though I wasn't able to catch anything, I still can't wait to go out and jig again!