Monday, January 19, 2009

Fishing in Israel Part 1: Salt-Water

I had the great pleasure recently to interview Italo Labignan host of the popular television show Canadian Sportfishing.  Italo filmed a 10-day fishing expedition in Israel, covering many fishing sites in the Holy Land from the Red Sea to the Sea of Galilee.

In this week’s article, Italo described why he chose to fish in Israel and his salt-water fishing adventures there:

The Fly Fishing Rabbi: Italo, it is such a great pleasure to speak with you. Thank you for being here. Why did you choose Israel as a fishing destination?

Italo Labignan: Well, my wife and I personally have a real love for Israel and Jews in general. I’ve been to Israel five times now and my wife about twenty. I’ve travelled throughout the world producing our fishing shows and also other productions for the last 23 years. Many of the shooting I have done has been international in nature, like fishing in Africa, South America, Alaska and so on. But I had a desire for the last seven years to film in Israel.

Pictures: Jerusalem, Haifa and the beach at Tel-Aviv

A friend of mine suggested that it might be a good idea if I did a fishing show with the Consulate General (of Israel) in Toronto, Amir Gissin. So I ended up doing a couple of fishing shows in Ontario fishing for walleye and other species of fish. And during our conversation, Amir said to me “You know, is there anything you would like to do?” I replied: “Well, you know, I have really had this desire to film in Israel and to do shows because a lot of people know different aspects of Israel but no one has ever heard about fishing there.”

Amir said: “There’s fishing in Israel? I’ll have someone get back to you and see what arrangements need to be made.” Within probably four months we were filming in Israel, working with a wonderful crew. We had a husband and wife team that was our liaison from Canada and working with up to 12 to 15 individuals in Israel.

We travelled about 2500 kilometers starting in Tel Aviv, went north to Haifa, and then East to north of the Sea of Galilee right up to the Lebanon border and then straight south to Eliat and then coming back up northwest to Ashdod and then back to Tel Aviv. And you know what, Israel has some of the best fishing in the world!

Rabbi: I’m so thrilled to hear that! I never thought of Israel as a great place for fishing. You visited a number of places in Israel during your fishing expedition. Can you tell me exactly where you fished on your trip?

Italo: The first location that we fished was on the Mediterranean. The day that we got there the weather was not good to go to the beaches in Tel Aviv as it was quite windy. Instead, we went North to Nahariya, also located on the Mediterranean, near the Lebanon border and we went out and we fished about five or six kilometers offshore and we caught some of the bottom fish like trigger fish and blowfish there.

One thing that I noticed right away in Nahariya was the number of anglers fishing from shore. Wherever there were any rock spits, there would anglers fishing from shore. Many of them used the traditional longer rods almost like the bamboo rods, but made of graphite, sometimes 15 to 20 feet long, using a small float and small hooks to catch pinfish for eating. But there were also many angers, I would call educated, who were using surfcasting rods, high-tech spinning outfits and using plugs, jigs and spoons, targeting bigger fish.

Pictures: Italo with a blowfish and beach casting in Nahariya

Even as we were leaving with the boat from the beach, you could see bait fish exploding on the surface and larger fish probably jacks and species of mackerel chasing them and the anglers casting to them and trying to catch them.

About three years ago, I observed very few people fishing along the Mediterranean and anyone fishing in Caesarea or south of Caesarea, they would be using the long rods with the line catching the small fish. I didn’t see anybody casting plugs or using more high tech artificial lure techniques but on this trip I saw many. I would say there is at least a ten-fold increase from shore-fisherman fishing along the Mediterranean.

Rabbi: Where did you head next after fishing the Mediterranean?

Italo: From there, we went all the way down to Eilat, on the Red Sea. In Eilat we went out and tried catching some squid at night, right on the Jordanian, Saudi Arabian and Egyptian Border, just inside Israeli waters, fishing quite deep, in about 70 to 100 meters of water. There were lots of species of squid and cuttlefish, which tells you that it was a pretty healthy fishery. We were catching those with sardines and then trying to use the squid to catch swordfish. There is quite a swordfish fishery out of Eilat. This past season, the anglers, and there are quite a number who fish there, caught about 600 swordfish. This is an impressive number considering that the anglers only knew about this fishery for a couple of years. Most of the time it is a nighttime fishery so they use the glow in the dark sticks with the squid to catch the swordfish.

We fished that night and also fished during the daytime. We trolled for King Mackerel and jigged for Giant Trevally . I caught one Giant Trevally that was about 15 kilo, in the 30 to 35 pound range. Almost everyday on the seas we were dealing with winds because of the time of year. Anytime other than November or December is best because the weather changes and goes from warm to cooler and that is when you get into your rainy season in Israel.

Pictures: Italo with Giant Travelly from the Red Sea

From Eliat we went to Ashdod where we trolled for King Mackerel. I think it was the first time in my 23 years of trolling in salt water that we had 5 King Mackerel hook up at the same time and we landed all of them! Not a double or triple but a quintuple-header! There was chaos in the back of this beautiful sport-fishing vessel. We did a trophy show there for King Mackerel.

Pictures: King Mackerel and Ashdod

Italo Labignan is the host of Canadian Sportfishing on The Sports Network. You can read more about Italo’s adventures on his website:

My interview with Italo is divided into three articles:
1. Fishing in Israel Part 1: Salt Water
2. Fishing in Israel Part 2: Fresh Water
3. Fishing in Israel Part 3: Tackle Shops, Fishing Boats and Highlights

For more information on Fishing in Israel, visit:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Israeli Consul General Amir Gissin was interviewed about fishing in the Bay of Quinte with Italo on "The Lorne Brooker Show" CJBQ AM - a clip is available on the CIC Scene Blog