Fishing trip to Cuba: between tourism and exotic fish with lures

Known for its unforgettable historical and cultural sites and for its wedding tourism, Cuba is also famous among fly fishermen. It was actually during our 10 year cohabitation that we and my partner decided to fly to Cuba Libre! I was, of course, able to negotiate a few excursions at sea with a fishing guide. Story. Text and photos by Eduard Ayuso Lopez

I am passionate about travel, and with my partner we have already marked many destinations on the globe: Costa Rica, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean, the Seychelles, Mauritius, Australia, Thailand, and every time I had the opportunity to fish for one or two days to discover native species. We therefore agreed last May on Cuba, the highlight of which was Cayo Santa Maria, a small island off the north coast.

Before you go fishing, discover Cuban life

Havana, Vinyales, Cienfuegos, Trinidad and Cayo Santa Maria were our various resorts during this Cuban stay.

Left: the author and his companion and THE emblematic car from Cuba: a Chevrolet Bel Air Taxi from the fifties. Right: Hotel Habana Libre, General Castro’s stronghold at the beginning of the revolution.

Our journey begins with the capital, Havana, with a visit to the heights of the “revolution” in a Chevrolet from the 50s, not forgetting the obligatory passage of “la bodeguita del medio”, this little inn where the first Mojito was created .. .

Left: La bodeguita del Medio, the inn where the first Mojito was born. right: Ernesto Che Guevara, “hasta la vistoria siempre!”, translate – Always until victory.

The following days we went to rural areas where we would discover the production of the famous “Habanos”, Cuban cigars. Two days in Vinyales gave us the opportunity to meet tobacco and sugar cane producers who still use traditional means. A trip that I can highly recommend.

Coffee and tobacco plantations for Habanos (Cuban cigars) are legion here in Cuba.

To conclude this tourist passage on our trip were Cienfuegos, whose history and architecture are closely linked to France, and Trinidad, the last two host cities where time seems to have stalled in the middle of the last century. The next day we went to the mountains to visit the coffee plantations and swim in natural pools with crystal clear water.

The Cuban hinterland is definitely worth a detour!

Cayo Santa Maria, destination for fishing and leisure

Cayo means “island” in Spanish, and in the Santa Maria region, several islets are connected to the island of Cuba via a bridge, which simplifies the transport of fishing equipment by car.

Also note that all our transfers to the various locations were made with Cuban taxis booked by the travel agency Enjoy Cuba.

Provided in seaside resorts, Santa Maria corresponds to the perception of classic idleness: beaches, excursions, cocktails, but also to any fisherman’s fantasies, especially for fly fishermen who come specifically to track down tarpon.

To tell the truth, I did not unexpectedly go to this corner of paradise without first figuring out the fishing opportunities. It was on the advice of a Spanish colleague that I contacted Ictiandro Celorio, a fishing guide that I recommend. To spend a full day aboard your skiff you will need around 350 euros to enjoy a varied program between the coastal areas and the mangroves.

The primary purpose was above all to track predators with surface decoys, poppers, sticks, and if the activity was not there, to go down in depth with a jig to find cuberas.

Mangrove fishing in Cayo Santa Maria

The first day we stayed at the mangrove sites because the sea was too harsh for the guide’s skiff (flat-bottomed boat). It was therefore preferable to ensure everyone’s safety and especially the pleasure of fishing.

Right: Barracudas were the first to throw themselves over surface caps! Left: hippos and big-eyed trevalies are very voracious.

The mangrove is dotted with rocky shoals where predators can hang out. Here I could catch five barracudas with pops and jerkbait.

Then, with bucktail jigs, we prospected the piles of the famous bridge that connects Cayo Santa Maria with the main island. For the anecdote, finding equipment on site is a challenge, so local fishermen make their own bucktails, which they call “pollos”, which means chicken in French.

The sorbet snapper or pargo in Spanish is a magnificent fighter.

Local fishermen especially use doll hair to make these teasers. Under those bridge piers, we made snappers, and our biggest catches were snooks. We certainly did not expect this species because it can usually be found on these spots.

Still on this day, and with bucktail jigs, I stabbed a magnificent trevally and two beautiful tarpons, which unfortunately fell off by candlelight.

Even the guide did not expect this snook to be taken not far from the bridge of the bridge, which forms the junction between Santa Maria and the island of Cuba.

Fishing off Santa Maria, Cuba

The second day the weather got better so we concentrated on the spots along the coast. Following the same procedure as the day before, I stuck barracudas and Spanish mackerel on the surface.

Spanish mackerel are nerve balls!

A little later in the session, a bird hunt erupted over a coral zone about ten feet deep. The guide then decides at this point to approach the broth discreetly to launch our first lures. In the wake, I hooked several hippopotamus trevallies, and incredibly, a shark (lemon or bull, hard to say) stood on the edge of the chase, following my popper to the boat, proudly showing off his fin to impress us.

By the way, we stayed in this area of ​​coral to fish deeper with jigs for cuberas, snappers, hippos trevallies and big eyes and another snook with a jig. Note that GT connectors do not inhabit this part of the Caribbean. Eventually I was overwhelmed by the diversity of species and especially their receptivity to the lures offered!

A beautiful hippopotamus trevally, it is better to be well armed to meet these specimens.

My equipment for fishing trips

On the material side, and as usual, I carried everything necessary in my suitcase. To do this, I bought multi-stranded rods that fit in a standard suitcase. In this case, I took an S-craft Maguro Renegade Expedition jig bar, equipped with Twin Power 10000PG in PE6 braid, a versatile S-Craft Furia 73/3 Expedition bar with Twin Power 5000XG with a PE6 braid PE3 and a more powerful Hearty Rise Skywalker pops with a Daiwa BGMQ 18000 equipped in PE8. In terms of lures, the ones that have really had the most success are: Feed Popper, Rapala X-rap, powerline sanagi jigs and of course bucktail jigs.

Why fish in Cuba

Contrary to many people’s beliefs, Cuba is a safe country. As in any destination, specific areas should be avoided. But overall, we were pleasantly surprised, especially since people are extremely accommodating. During this trip we wanted to combine overnight stays in hotels and homestays, in “casas particulieres”, a trip organized by Enjoy Cuba, a Cuban agency. Public transport here is the tendon of war because there is a lack of resources / organization. So it is better to rely on agencies that manage this whole part.

Cubera and pargo, two gladiators to aim for in Cuba!

On the fishing side, I could not have asked for better: a wide variety of species and large fish were caught in just two days. Summary of the trip? Sun, leisure, good music, good fishing, good food, all good value for money …

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