Having never been to Portugal before, I was really looking forward to going. Two and a bit months of incessant storms, gloomy weather and perpetual rain had dampened everybody's spirits as well as the ground, which was more like a quagmire than the firm soil we are used to. Nor did the trip disappoint. As soon as we touched down, the difference in the air temperature was immediate, a palpable relief to the lingering cold of our somewhat harsher climate. Jumpers and coats were cast aside as we made our way over to the transfer company, a brother and sister double act entitled 'Daily Tours', really nice people who were very helpful and went out of their way, on the many occasions that we used them to ferry us around, to do everything that they could to make the journeys enjoyable.
A short-spined sea scorpion - unlike ours these are venomous!
We made a mistake here though. Having read on the Internet about how easy it was to get a licence, we went straight to the villa - Casa Ignacio - which we had rented for the week. What I didn't realise was that getting a licence was not going to be anywhere near as simple as the websites suggested. According to them, they were easily available from any ATM. Just pop in your card and away you go. What they FAILED to mention was that this ONLY applies if you are a Portuguese resident with a Portuguese bank card. Foreign visitors have got to go, in person, to a DRAPA (Direcção Regional de Agricultura e Pescas do Algarve) office where they apply for a regional or national licence (about twelve pounds at the time of writing). They have to show their passport to the official that they see and, for safety's sake, check on whether they need any additional permits, such as a sport fishing or regional permit, and what regulations apply to the area that they wish to fish.
For us, staying in the Algarve at Albufeira, the nearest DRAPA would be found at Avenida 16 de Junho, Olhão. Its telephone number is 289 723 724 and, in hindsight, what we should have done was to go straight there from the airport, from which it is about a fifteen minute drive. An adult permit would then allow any child to accompany his or her parent for free and we would have been sorted. Next time that is what we will do!
From discussions I had with the locals, regulations seem to be the lifeblood of Portuguese officials. There is no fishing from the beaches - although fishing from the rocks at the end of beaches was okay, provided you cast out to sea and not towards the beach - and night fishing is not allowed under any circumstances. Some piers can be fished and others can't while the local police will rigorously enforce any and all regulations pertaining to their area. This includes maritime police boarding vessels and checking the fishing permits of everybody on board. If you are fishing without a licence then you will be facing a £400 fine (approximately) plus confiscation of all your tackle, which includes the boat, if you are afloat, and your car when you get back to shore! Somewhat draconian, I felt, so the thing to do is to make sure that you know what you are doing, get the best advice from the official at the DRAPA office and make sure that you don't inadvertently break the law. It's not worth a criminal record plus all the hassle.
Having said that, so long as you follow the rules, there are some nice places to fish, especially if you have got a bit of mountain goat blood in you! Basically, once you have your licence, talk to the locals about which rocky headlands are safe for fishing and follow their advice. The people to whom we spoke were, on the whole, friendly and obliging but we did, from time to time, face a language barrier that we could not overcome. To be fair though, the vast majority of the people that we encountered were pretty fluent in English. They certainly put us to shame. I can speak French and Latin but both of these were pretty useless in Portugal! Spanish would be good though.
In the end, I decided to go on a boat trip, just a short one, just so that I could say that I had at least done a bit of fishing in Portugal. Our target would be the fish found over the Algarve's plentiful reefs.
Spot the fisherman! There are three anglers in these two pictures though I would not recommend taking youngsters to places such as these!
There are safer places to fish. This headland was only about fifteen minutes walk away from Casa Ignacio.