Clown Triggerfish ( Balistoides conspicillum )

Clown Triggerfish
Common Name: Triggerfish ( Scimitar, Lei, Scythe, White-lined)

Local Name: Papakol, Pakoy (Tagalog); Pugot, Tikos (Bisaya)

Max Size: 50 cm

Biodiversity: Marine, Reef-Associated

Depth: 3 – 75 meters

Fishing Season: All Year Long

Minimum Size Limit: None

Recommended Bait/Lures: Shrimp, crabs, other small crustaceans, sand worms

IUCN Red List Status Status: Least Concern

The Clown Triggerfish is another of the brightly colored trigger fish species that can be found around the islands.  These fish are generally small and are caught by angler who are targeting other reef fish. This particular species is prized as an aquarium fish because of its beautiful coloration and patterns.  

The Rabbit Hunt

The Rabbit Hunt
By Benaiah Fogle

A mention of the word Danggit in Filipino company is usually met with grins of delight and expressions of Lami-a uy! Sarap yan! and so on. This same word in the company of expats is met with groans and expressions of disgust. This is an article about Danggit, well the live one anyway, and its place in fishing here in the Philippines.

The word Danggit is a well-known name in Visayan for one of the many species of Rabbitfish inhabiting Philippine waters. Rabbitfish are also known in English as Spinefoots, and are known by many different names around the rest Philippines. Some of the names of the more well-known species include: Samaral, Kitong, and Danggit.
These fish are primarily a saltwater fish however they can be found in estuaries and even up stream in freshwater rivers. They also range in size from small almost minnow size fish to large kilo size fish. They all are generally round and compressed in body shape with small mouth bordered by lips that look as if they are ready to kiss. They range in color from mottled brown and green to silver, spotted, streaked and ever darker with more dramatic colors.

Rabbitfish all possess painful sharp spines all over their bodies. This is the reason they are called Spinefoots. A prick from one of these venomous spines leaves a throbbing pain for a long while. Fishermen need to exercise caution when handling this fish for that reason.

The mainly vegetarian diet of the Rabbitfish leads them close to the shore line around the country in search of seaweed and other plant matter. They often come in with the tide to shallow water to harvest the seaweed growing on the tidal flats. They often travel in schools which can be easily identified by the slivery flashes of the fish as they feed in schools on the algae on the seabed.

This is a Danggit

This is a Danggit

Rabbitfish are edible and make for fair table fare. Local favourite recipes for Rabbitfish include; Grilled Kitong (stuffed with onions and tomatoes), Steamed Kitong with Sweet and Sour Sauce and Fried Kitong. Small Rabbitfish are also a popular fish to salt and dry. Known simply as Danggit, these dried fish are then deep fried and eaten for breakfast lunch or dinner. My wife calls it her Philippine bacon. :-D When the dried Danggit are fried there usually a pungent fishy smell that hangs in the air. This is usually what deters most foreigners from enjoying this Philippine delicacy.

Fishing Techniques

A Danggit float rig

A Danggit float rig

Float Fishing – The small mouths on these fish along with their sharp algae scraping teeth present a challenge that frustrates and deters many fishermen. There however is a technique for catching Rabbitfish that works and with a little practice angler both you and old can enjoy the thrill of fishing for Rabbitfish.
Making a Danggit Rig is the first step. The rig includes a float with a swivel attached beneath onto which two lengths or at least 18” of light leader line are tied. Two small split shots are pressed onto the lines near the ends and then two long shank hooks of the smallest available size are tied at the ends. The long shanks help keep the fishes’ teeth from cutting the main line. There are two favourite baits for catching Rabbitfish. The first and most popular is the boiled cooking banana (Saba) and the other is glutinous rice. Rabbitfish seem to prefer these sort of baits though than can be caught on other things. Once small pieces of banana or sticky rice are cut and placed on the end of the hooks the rig is ready to be cast.
Local fishermen often chum the spot there plan on fish both before and during the time they fish. Rabbitfish feed throughout the day and so can be caught all day long. In areas where large predator fish are present small Rabbitfish when caught can be used as live bait.
A good haul of Danggit and Kitong caught on a float rig

A good haul of Danggit and Kitong caught on a float rig

Salvage – Another less palatable way that local fishermen catch these fish is by using specialized “salvage” rigs. This rig is designed to attract the fish to a bait which has two large hooks behind it. When the fisherman feels the Rabbitfish nibbling on the bait they jerk the line in attempt to snag the fish on the large hooks. This is obviously not a method used when fishermen are practicing catch and release because it often leaves large wounds in the fish. The local sport fishing community looks down upon such a method because of that harmful result.
A Kitong taken on a salvage rig

A Kitong taken on a salvage rig

Pana – Because of their large round profiles, Rabbitfish make great targets for spearfishermen. They are also not a very shy fish and will often swim within spear distance of fishermen. Locals use homemade spearguns made of a piece of wood, a length of stainless steel bar and rubber straps. Spearmen either swim along shorelines, rocks, or reefs in search of fish or they set a bait in a good area and wait for the fish to congregate.
This is a Kitang which can also be caught when fishing for Kitong.

This is a Kitang which can also be caught when fishing for Kitong.

Now you know the basics of fishing for Rabbitfish.

Silver Pompano ( Trachinotus baillonii )

Trachinotus baillonii

Expert Angler and Fishing Guide Joseph G. with his Dart caught on Grande Is. in Subic.

Common Name:    Pompano, Dart, Swallowtail

Local Name Pampano, Salay-salay, Talakitok  (Tagalog);  Uruk (Cebuano)

Max Size:  60 cm (1.5 kgs)

BiodiversityMarine, Brackish, Reef Associated

Depth:  Surface  – ?? m

Fishing Season:  All Year Long

Minimum Size Limit:   None

Recommended Bait/Lures:  small minnow lures, flies, and shrimp

IUCN Red List Status:  Not Evaluated (NE)

This species of Pompano is a member of the Carangidae family of jacks and pompanos.  It is found around the Philippines often close to shore near reefs, lagoons, and along sandy beaches.  These fish travel in pairs or small groups and often feed near the surface on small fish.

Like other jacks and pompanos this species makes great table fare.  The elongated shape of this species along with its small spots on the sides help identify the fish.

Joseph caught the fish above on a small lure while casting from Grande Island near Subic.

Indong Eel


Most bait fishermen here in the Philippines have experienced catching a slimy, squirming eel of some kind.  This particular eel is in called Indong in Cebuano and is shorter and stockier in length than some others. Small eels of this and other species are called Bacasi here in the Visayas.

Eels are most often caught at night on a variety of bait.  Usually something smelly attracts them and they often gobble the bait down whole.  Anglers fishing for other species of fish are often annoyed at catching eels because they twist their slimy bodies in a attempt to escape.  This action is however often caused the line and leader to twist and wrap tightly around the eels body.  It is not uncommon for the eel to strangle itself this way on the line.  Anglers usually have to cut off their leaders when they catch an eel that tangles their line.

Eels are generally considered good eating.  This particular species is desired because of its thick flesh which contains fewer bones than some other eel species. Some local Cebuano dishes for Indong include; Sugbaonon (Grilled), Inun-unan (vinegar/ginger  based dish) and Larang (another sour soup dish).

Vencio holding an Indong

Vencio holding an Indong

Boomerang Triggerfish ( Sufflamen bursa )

boomerang triggerfish

Common Name Triggerfish ( Scimitar, Lei, Scythe, White-lined)

Local Name: Papakol, Pakoy (Tagalog); Pugot, Tikos (Bisaya)

Max Size:   25 cm

BiodiversityMarine, Reef-Associated

Depth:  3 – 90 meters

Fishing Season:  All Year Long

Minimum Size Limit:  None

Recommended Bait/Lures:  Shrimp, crabs, other small crustaceans, sand worms

IUCN Red List Status Status:  Least Concern

This is yet another of the many small species of triggerfish found around the Philippines.  This species can be identified by the boomerang shaped markings over the eyes along with a fairly plain colored body.  Notice the stunning blue eye shadow like color over this fish’s eye.

Like most triggerfish the boomerang is oddly shaped and has a thick leather-like skin.  The make good eating once this skin is removed.  This particular species has quite a depth range in which it can be caught from shallow water all the way to 90 meters.  Angler’s are most likely to catch these when using small baits like shrimp or squid on small hooks.  These are one of the many species of small fish that can be a bother fishermen who are using large bait for larger fish.  The small triggerfish with strong jaws and sharp teeth can cut larger baits to pieces while  evading the hooks.

The triggerfish in the picture above was caught on small pieces of shrimp off Mactan Island in Cebu in around 50 meters of water.

Lobed River Mullet ( Cestraeus plicatilis )

Cestraeus plicatilis

Lobed River Mullet

Common Name:  Mullet, The President’s Fish

Local Name:  Banak, Ludong (Tagalog);  ?? (Cebuano)

Max Size:  32.5 cm ( 2 kg)

Biodiversity: Marine, Brackish, Freshwater; Endemic

Depth:  0 – ?? m

Fishing Season:  Closed Season October to January

Minimum Size Limit:   6 inches

Recommended Bait:  Flies, bread, algae

IUCN Red List Status:  Data Deficient(DD)

This mullet  is well known throughout the country as being the country’s most expensive fish.  They are most common in the Cagayan River of northern Luzon, however they are also most likely present all around the country in estuaries and rivers.  These plant feeders like most mullet species are a challenge to catch on hook and line.  Anglers targeting this species and others are likely to have success fly fishing with small bread, algae, and shrimp pattern.

Ludong are one of the few freshwater species in the Philippines to have a strict fishing season.  The months of October to January are when these fish migrate to spawn and fishing for these fish during those months is now illegal.  This is most likely due to the reputation this fish has as being one of the best tasting and rarest freshwater fish.  It is said that this was the former president Ferdinan Marcos favorite fish.

If you have caught Ludong on hook and line send us your pictures and we will post them here.



Banded Archerfish ( Toxotes jaculatrix )


Toxotes jaculatrix

Aeds Archerfish caught on a lure

Common Name:  Archerfish, Riflefish

Local Name:  Kataba (Tagalog);  Ataba, Bang-ga (Cebuano)

Max Size:  30 cm

Biodiversity: Marine, Brackish, Freshwater

Depth:  0 – ?? m

Fishing Season:  All Year Long

Minimum Size Limit:   none

Recommended Bait:  Insects, Poppers, small lures, flies

IUCN Red List Status:  Least Concern (LC)

   Archerfish are native to the fresh, brackish and saltwaters of the Philippines.  They are most well known for their ability to shoot insects from branches into the water where they can eat them.  They are most commonly found in estuaries around mangrove forests however they can also be found far up freshwater rivers and also in the sea.  Taal Lake in Laguna which a freshwater lake is full of these fish.

  Anglers can catch these fish on lures and they are said to readily take small poppers.  They are also a great fish to target with fly rods.


Streaked Spinefoot ( Siganus javus )

Java Rabbitfish

Streaked Spinefoot caught in Cebu

Common Name:  Java Rabbitfish, Spinefoot

Local Name Samaral, Alama, Barangan (Tagalog);  Danggit, Kitong (Cebuano)

Max Size:  53 cm

BiodiversityMarine, Brackish, Reef Associated,

Depth:  0 – 15 m

Fishing Season:  All Year Long

Minimum Size Limit:   none

Recommended Bait:  Banana, Rice, Seaweed

IUCN Red List Status:  Least Concern (LC)

  This is one of the many species of Rabbitfish that inhabit Philippines waters.  They are primarily on algae and are not targeted as a sport fish in the country.  Instead they make a good food fish and subsequently are targeted by anglers using bait.  Local angler have two main methods of catching these fish; one is with small hooks attached to a float that are baited with cooked Saba (cooking banana, similar to a plantain) or glutinous (sticky) rice.  The other method used involves a rig designed to snag the fish with big hooks that are positioned around the bait which is usually a piece of banana.

  Rabbitfish are also known as Spinefoots because of their venomous spines.  Care is needed when handling these fish because a small prick on the finger from the spines on a Rabbitfish can leave a throbbing pain for quite a while.

   These fish are a good food fish and have a firm though somewhat soggy texture. In Cebu they are often stuffed with onions, tomatoes and spices and grilled.  Their thick skin helps keep the fish from falling apart while grilling.  Rabbitfish have been successfully cultured in ponds and though not an ideal culture fish.

    Small Rabbitfish make good bait for large reef associated predators such as Giant Trevally.

Longnosed Lancetfish ( Alepisaurus ferox )

Scan 1

Common Name:   Lancetfish, Handsaw Fish, Wolffish 

Local Name  Tokey, Diwit, Aswang (Tagalog); ?? (Cebuano)

Max Size:  215 cm (9 kgs)

Biodiversity:  Marine, bathypelagic, oceanodromous  

Depth:  1 – 1900 m

Fishing Season:  All Year Long

Minimum Size Limit:   none

Recommended Bait/Lures:  Fish, Squid

IUCN Red List Status:  Not Evaluated (NE)

Lancetfish are a unique strange looking fish that are capable of handling great extremes in pressure and temperature.  They are able to feed at the surface all the way down to almost 2000 meters.  They can also be found from the tropical seas all the way to the arctic.  Their diet consists mainly of squid and fish and they are primarily a nocturnal fish.   They resemble both Snake mackerel and Scabbardfish however they have noticeable differences than both.

  The fish in these pictures was caught at around 300 meters depth off Paluan, Mindoro Island by Doc and was 3.8 kilos.  He described the fish as having soft skin, two inch long long teeth and being called Tokey or Tukey by the locals there.  They caught this fish while deep sea fishing for large squid.

longnosed lancetfish

Alepisaurus ferox

wolf fish

The ferocious teeth of the Lancetfish



Amberjack ( Seriola dumerili )

deepwater jigging philippines

Nino’s 7.55kg amberjack caught jigging

Common Name:   Amberjack, Yellowtail, Rock Salmon

Local Name:   Talakitok, Tonto (Tagalog);  Marang, Dorado  (Cebuano)

Max Size:  190 cm (80.2kgs)

Biodiversity: Marine, Reef-Associated

Depth:  1 – 360 m

Fishing Season:  All Year Long

Minimum Size Limit:  18 inches

Recommended Bait/Lures:  Fish, Squid, Jigs

IUCN Red List Status:  Not Evaluated (NE)

This is one of the primary targets of deep water fishermen in the Philippines, these fish are plentiful around the country though they are somewhat difficult to target because of the depth they are usually found.  Sport fishermen target them with heavy deepwater jigs while the traditional way to catch these involves using a large stone as a weight.


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