All fishes can be caught by hook and line if one follows
fishing’s greatest tenet and best well-known secret:
‘Find what the fish feeds on and use it for bait’.
This applies to all forms of bait, from natural to artificial, from
exact copies to simulators, from hard to soft baits. It is doubly
important when one is exploring a new fishing area because fish feeds
on available forage items, and what is available locally may not be
what you have been using.
This tenet is thus naturally applicable to fishing for milkfish, Chanos chanos. Depending on where it is found, milkfish may be caught using various baits and different methods. For example, we have been successful using fish roe as bait because that was the most common food in the area we fished before. So therefore we caught not only milkfish but all other fishes as well, including mullet, croakers, snappers and an occasional gar or two. The area was near a fish processing facility, and all natural trash is dumped into the shallows. Fish entrails, gills, fins, skin, and scales abound in the area collecting all kinds of sea creatures that feed on them.
The technique was to impale the fish eggs with a small hook, and use no leaders, sinkers or swivels that will make the bait move unnaturally. Lob the bait among the fish refuse near the milkfish if you see them, and let out a very slack line. Wait until the line runs briskly, and then just pull the fish in. Do not strike as this may spook the others. It is not always, however, that what you catch is milkfish.
The same method works if you see milkfish moving over sand, though here the bait of choice may be tiny live shrimps. It is extremely rare that this happens, though, because most milkfish move into the shallows only during the night and at incoming tide, such as during full moon days. The large milkfish move into the shallow areas to lay their eggs, often in places where a creek or river is nearby.
If, however, the milkfish is in a fishpond, bread is most often the effective bait. Pinch off a small piece of any soft bread, press-mold it around the hook to hide it completely and lob the thing some distance from the levee. The hook should be tied to a short leader, maximum six inches, and a small float. The idea is for the bread to simulate a just-thrown in feed pellet. Strike when the float runs or dives.
Best fishing times are major or minor solunar times especially when coinciding with early morning and late afternoon hours. They bite all throughout the year, but maybe less during rainy season due to stress of pH imbalance caused by new rainwater in the ponds.
Two things though: what is effective in fishing for mullet and bonefish may also be effective in fishing for milkfish, except, very probably, fishing with flies as you do bonefish. Milkfish eat mostly algal bloom when kept in ponds, or, like bonefish, tiny crustaceans and forage items in the sand. But though extra-tiny flies are doable, you will never see milkfish in shallow water, or, most probably, you will not see any milkfish at all in the sea during the day.
Milkfish are strong fighters though not for very long, especially pond-grown fish. They move very similar to bonefish (just compare their tail designs) so hooking them is an experience. That is, if you see and hook them in the wilds.