Category Archives: Needle Fish (Balao)

Needlefish ( Balo )

spearfishing in philippines

Had a successful morning spearfishing, landing my largest Needlefish to date.  This monster weighed in at 2.4 kilograms! Needlefish are abundant here in the waters of the Philippines and can grow to enormous size.  Here in Cebu we see schools of them in shallow water especially following around schools of small bait fish.  Here in Cebu they have a reputation of being a dangerous fish because of their tendency to leap out of the water when spooked or when chasing bait fish.  Their hard bony bill acts as a sort of spear head as they hurtle through the air and can inflict serious damage and even death on unsuspecting fishermen or boaters.  Their teeth as well are incredibly sharp.  It is not uncommon for needlefish to snap at your hand when you handle them.  That is one of the reasons I started using cut resistant dyneema gloves when spearfishing, to avoid bites and scratches when I place these guys on the stringer.

Needlefish are actually a pretty good food fish.  They have a strong fishy smell when caught which can be a turn off,  however their meat is a white and flakey and is quite delicious when grilled, used in Kinilaw (something like ceviche) or used in soup. Larger needlefish can be filleted and the skin removed, this produces fillets of flakey white meat similar to mackerel.

needlefish fishing

Slender Needlefish ( Strongylura leiura )

Strongylura leiura

Common Name:  Grouper, Hind 

Local Name:   (Tagalog), Balo, Bao (Cebuano)

Max Size: 

Biodiversity: Marine,


Fishing Season:  All Year Long

Minimum Size Limit:   none

Recommended Bait/Lures:

IUCN Red List Status:  Least Concern

Here is a picture of a small needlefish I caught recently while fishing from the Navy Pier on Corregidor Island.  I believe this is a Slender Needlefish.  This species is quite common all over the country.  If can often be seen patrolling the shorelines and reefs.  This species can grow over a meter in length. I caught this fish while fishing a pink sardine pins minnow.  I had strikes from large Crescent Grunter (probably around .5 kg each) but was not able to properly hook them.  There are also many Jacks patrolling the piers.

Strongylura leiura Philippines

For anyone visiting Corregidor Island, it is an excellent place to fish.  You can fish anywhere on the island and even rent bankas on the island to take you trolling around the island.  The only downside is the garbage which collects on the side of the island that faces Manila Bay.

Needle Fish Surf Fishing

A little friend of mine caught this needle fish with my Yo-Zuri Pins Minnow while surf fishing:

The Bisaya for this fish is Balo.


I have caught these on minnow lures in Batangas and in Mindoro while surf fishing.  The largest I caught was over 20 inches.