Best Spots for Fishing in Cuba
Fishermen on the Malecon in Havana
Do you crave the competitive serenity of fishing? Learn where to get the biggest catch
Largely unspoiled and mega-diverse, Cuba is one of the most fascinating destinations for fishing in the Caribbean. Although located in the heart of the Caribbean, Cuba is also right next to deep oceanic trenches, which hide hundreds of different species.
No wonder the legendary writer Ernest Hemingway ended up staying here for over 20 years: fishing in Cuba is something else! During this time, not only did he write some of his masterpieces, but he also explored the coast aboard the Pilar, his very own custom-built fishing boat.
Cuba’s waters, rivers, and lakes are full of Atlantic tarpons, bonefish, pomfrets, Atlantic bass, and trout. However, if you want to find the biggest banks and the rarest species, make sure you check out the places on the list below.
First, Some Advice
Fishing is always more fun when we safely return ashore. If fishing is in your “must do” list, avoid booking your expedition between June and November. This is Cuba’s Hurricane season, and sailing can get a little treacherous.
Also, remember that independent fishing is not allowed in Cuba, so make sure to apply for all of the relevant permits beforehand, and hire a professional local guide who can point where you’ll find the perfect catch.
Let’s get the journey started!
On the Southern edge of the island, in the province of Matanzas, lies the largest wetland space in the Caribbean. The boot-shaped Ciénaga de Zapata National Park covers a vast area of approximately 300 000 hectares.
In the middle of the reserve - wrapped in the sharply-contrasting colors of tropical birds, clear blue skies, and the dense vibrant-green vegetation - lies Las Salinas saltwater lagoon. Here, beneath the twisting mangrove roots, you can find bonefish, pomfrets, barracudas, and even the occasional tarpon.
To fish in this area, rent a speedboat or skiff. Make sure you bring a wide hat and lots of repellent – after all, the Ciénaga de Zapata is a swamp, so mosquitos are abundant and unavoidable.
Hanabanilla lake, Villa Clara
With a total surface of 192 square kilometers, this lake is formed between the Guamahuya or Escambray mountain range, and it empties just east of Cienfuegos and Trinidad. Small boats constantly cruise its waters, often ferrying visitors to its nearby waterfalls. However, the main draw for adventure-minded tourists is the large banks of trout that reside in the lake.
If you want to visit Hanabanilla, your best option is to stay in the Hanabanilla Hotel, which has its own dock. You can even rent a full-featured bass boat right next to the hotel!
Caribbean reef shark at Jardines de la Reina
Jardines de la Reina (Queen’s Gardens)
Once again, we continue down the island’s southern coast to reach one of its most unspoiled archipelagos. These “queenly gardens” comprise 661 small keys, warm waters, and small reefs that create uniquely balanced ecosystems. These islets provide one of the best backdrops for deep-sea fishing and scuba diving.
The region is allegedly full of dolphins and sharks, which adds a bit of adrenaline to fishing tours. The full expedition can take up to a week, in which you can take differently-sized boats to hunt for the best-hidden spots. The reward? That will depend on your skill and luck but may include anything from oversized tarpons, manta rays, and colorful sea breams.
Coral- reef by Isla de la Juventud
Isla de la Juventud (Youth Island) and Cayo Largo del Sur (Long Key)
The two most important islands in the Canarreos archipelago offer well-equipped resorts, white sand beaches, and postcard-worthy coral reefs, making them an irresistible spot for any nature-minded visitors. In the designated fishing areas, you can find abundant bonefish, as well as barracudas, wahoos, and blue or white marlin – some of which can cross the 2 kg benchmark.
Fishing boat at Cayo Coco
Cayo Coco (Coconut Key)
If you’re after high-tech fishing, then your best bet is to head North – specifically, to Cayo Coco. This is Cuba’s unofficial capital for fly fishing, jigging, spinning, or even ledger fishing. The experience is augmented by the abundance of low-depth spots, where you can visually track your catch before you shoot your lines.
One key point to consider: in this region, only “catch and release” fishing is allowed. This means you won’t be able to keep anything you fish here, as you will have to release it a few minutes after you catch it. This way, we’ll be able to keep this gem’s biodiversity intact for future generations.
Finally, our bonus track: a still-unknown spot with spectacular potential. The Huatiganico river houses the largest population of red mangroves in the Caribbean, which offer shelter for many migratory species. This river is also part of the Zapata Swamp reserve and gives life to its vast array of small tarpons. Bass fishing is also exceptional in the area, which you’ll likely catch just a few minutes after throwing a popper into the water.
Written by Lorena Sánchez.
Published October 2022.
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