Where to Find Big Fish
Schooling scads over a coral reef

While everyone loves snorkeling over pristine reefs with all the colorful fish that explode out of it, there’s still nothing quite like schools of big fish. Despite what movies and wildlife documentaries might covey with their their careful selection of images, big fish can be tricker to find than you might imagine. For example, on a five kilometer stretch of reef full of what look like the perfect habitat for big fish there may be one point or ridge where the big fish collect, or you may see a lot of big fish but they are deep and well out of snorkeling range. If you’ve spent any amount of time snorkeling in the tropics you will surely understand what I’m talking about. So, with all of this in mind, here are a few tips for finding the big fish!

 Depth 

Depth does play a small role in being able to find big fish in that you need to be snorkeling in an area that has access to deeper water. What I mean by this is that if you are snorkeling right up in the shallow reef flats you are not likely to encounter many big fish. However, if you swim to the point in the reef where it turns into a wall or starts to slope off, then you’ll increase your odds of finding big fish as they like to have unlimited access to the open blue water.

Diagram of where to find big fish on a reef

Current

Current plays a big part in where big fish congregate and when. Generally speaking, when the tide is slack—that time between rising tide and falling tide where there is no current—most big fish will sort of just scatter into the blue water away from the reef. When the current starts to run again the fish will come back into their schooling formations on the up current side of the reef

DIAGRAM

Topography 

Topography and current sort of work together in that schools of big fish will generally congregate around ridges and channels, or basically any topographic feature that helps accelerate or funnel the current and bring in food. The fish will almost always be on the up current side of that particular feature, which is why your Snorkel Venture guides are always paying attention to which way the current is running.

Specific Destinations 

School of Mobula rays in cablo san lucas

One of the biggest tips for finding big fish is to figure out which destinations are well known for having big fish. By destination I don’t mean countries, I mean specific snorkeling destinations within a country like Komodo or Raja Ampat in Indonesia and the Sea of Cortez in Mexico. While a country like Indonesia may be famous for having lots of big fish, it will be these specific snorkeling destinations that have made it so. Before booking a snorkeling adventure it’s really important to know which places offer the best chances of big fish.

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)

school of batfish in coral reef

Destinations like Raja Ampat and Komodo who have had their waters protected as an MPA for years will offer the absolute best big fish encounters for a couple reasons. First reason being that there will just be more big fish as fishing is restricted or prohibited within the MPA boundaries. Second reason being that fish know when they are being fished and will descend to deeper waters. If you’ve ever snorkeled in places where they are still actively fished you’ll no doubt find that all the big fish will be deep, and in much smaller numbers. In successful MPAs like Raja Ampat you’ll find that almost all the schooling fish will be in the first fifteen or so feet of water and in very large numbers, perfect for snorkelers.

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Alex Lindbloom