By Mayté Solano Gómez

For those who like sport fishing, Cuba is an exceptional destination. Once access to the keys is open to foreign tourists again, the option of sport fishing, among many other nautical activities, is a real attraction.

Why is fishing so great in Cuba?

Fishing in Cuba is not limited to leisure or tourism, but it is an important economic activity. It is currently legally regulated, under the principles of conservation and sustainable use, a preventive approach, the implementation of scientific-technological criteria and the protection of ecosystems.

Cuba has thousands of kilometers of different types of coasts, from mangroves to rocky deep lowland areas, inlets and bays. The rivers that cross the island have been very important for Cubans, even for the aborigines that inhabited the island before the colonization by the Spanish. Initially vital for the survival of the island’s inhabitants, this activity acquired a recreational character in the 19th century. Later it became a sport, big-game fishing for competitive and non-profit purposes.

In general, it is favorable that the island is surrounded by ocean waters whose strong currents connect with the routes of migratory species and with those that live at medium depth or near the surface. These fishes limit their contact with the seabed or the coast as much as possible. Cuba has a privileged location between the Florida Straits and the Bahamas. Its watersheds and underwater trenches constitute natural barriers and protect the passage of hundreds of species of fish.

Opportunity and accessibility

Fishing for local consumption is practiced almost in all the coastal areas of the island. That is why, if you stay in a private house in these regions, you can enjoy this entertainment with ordinary Cubans. The solidarity and camaraderie of the Cubans makes the experience more complete. Fortunately, the fishing regulations currently valid, establishes that if fishing is practiced freely by natural persons, nationals or foreigners, from the coast, with rods or reels, ropes and hooks and without the aid of floating means, authorization is not required, except in those areas under special regimes.

Fishing in Cuba
Fishing in Cuba for local consumption

Foreigners residing temporarily or permanently in Cuba, as well as tourists who wish to practice sport or recreational fishing on the island, require a fishing permit or license. They can obtain it by simply presenting their passport and will be offered all the information about fishing regulations in Cuba. Those who participate in international fishing competitions or tournaments organized by the Ministry of Tourism are excepted.

Sport fishing, also known as big- game fishing or offshore gamefishing is very widespread in Cuba, so you can find information and equipment in stores specialising in this sport. Another positive aspect is the possibility of capturing species of all kinds, such as sawfish, lobsters, crabs, sailfish, tuna, among many others.

The catch limits allowed by the authorities are 15 kilograms in reservoirs and 30 kilograms in the sea, with no minimum size specifications or species differences.

The best fishing season, when is it?

In general, the best months for fishing in Cuba are between April and September, taking into account the favorable temperature of the waters, as well as the lower intensity of cyclonic activity.

However, the prevalence of different species varies throughout the year. Between April and May the white marlin is found in the southwest of the island, while the blue marlin is found between July and September in the northwest. The most favorable season for fishing common marlins is between October and November. Large tuna species migrate from June to October in the Havana littoral region, while small ones do so at different times of the year. Trout is a very common freshwater fish in Cuba and is found, starting in November, during the colder months.

Many other species of fish can be caught, including barracuda, red snapper, yellowtail, lemon shark, tarpon and bonefish, among others.

International Marlin Fishing Tournament “Ernest Hemingway”

The International Fishing Tournament of the Marlin “Ernest Hemingway” is allways an intense and enjoyable experience.

It is known that in the first decades of the 20th century the marlin was already fished on the coasts near Cuba. Among the followers of this practice was Ernest Hemingway. Starting in 1938, marlin fishing in Cuba was organized as a tournament, but it was not until May 1950 that the first official edition of the tournament was held. It started with a cannon shot, with 36 boats taking part in order to win the trophy under the name of Ernest Hemingway.

Ernest Hemingway, the popular American writer, initially refused to accept that the competition bear his name, for reasons of superstition, but he finally accepted.

Between 1953 and 1955 Hemingway won the first place and was the winner of the cup on 3 occasions.

After the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, Ernest Hemingway and Fidel Castro, leader of Cuba and also lover of sport fishing, met each other during the XI tournament. On that occasion, Fidel obtained 2 second places and the first-place trophy.

During the following 2 years the fair was not held and resumed in 1963, but only for nationals until 1977. Since 1978 it has been an international tournament again.

Both before and after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, the “Ernest Hemingway” International Marlin Fishing Tournament of the Marlin has taken place in the coastal waters of northern Havana.

The Ernest Hemingway International Marlin Fishing Tournament allows you to accumulate points because the International Federation of Sport Fishing recognizes it as part of a global circuit.

Where to fish in Cuba? Marlin Marine

In Cuba, the practice of sport-recreational fishing is possible not only in coastal waters, but also in rivers, reservoirs and dams. Concerning these last options, the inhabitants of the island will help you to find the most favorable places and they will even enjoy this moment with you. Among the most popular places today are:

• In Havana, the Canasí and Jibacoa dams.

• Another option is the Jaruco dam, in Mayabeque province, a deep reservoir with very clean waters, so the fish is of very good quality.

• In the center of the country, the Hanabanilla dam, near the city of Santa Clara, is recommended.

• Laguna la Redonda, in Ciego de Ávila, is a lake of about 5 km² in area, with the most abundant trout populations in Cuba. Here is the headquarters of the International Fishing Center.

• In Gibara, in the eastern province of Holguín, the fishing area is located off the Guardalavaca beach coastline, between Bahía de Samá and Gibara. Here trolling and deep-sea fishing are carried out.

• Laguna de Leonero, in the provinces of Las Tunas and Granma, is a lake with natural waters that have cays of eggs that move with the wind. Its waters are shallow. Ideal for trout fishing.

Casa Carlos y AnaMaria, in Cienfuegos. A nice place to stay and practice sport fishing in Cuba
Casa Carlos y AnaMaria, in Cienfuegos. A nice place to stay and practice sport fishing in Cuba.

Sport fishing in maritime waters for tourists in Cuba is mainly organized by Marlin Marine, which offers to customers a wide and variety range of its services. The high quality of its services, the proven professionalism of its staff and the variety of its specialized proposals allow to satisfy the most diverse demands.

It is possible to find Marlin Marine throughout the island. Among the main options they offer are diving, sport fishing, excursions and walks, life on board, beach activities, adventure and safe harbors. Some of the most popular places for sea fishing are the Jardines de la Reina keys, Cayo Largo del Sur, the Isla de la Juventud keys, the northern keys of Villa Clara, the Cienaga de Zapata, Cayo Romano and the Guanahacabibes peninsula.

The most important marina in Cuba is located in Havana and is none other than the Hemingway Marina. Located about 9 miles west of Havana Bay, or 25-minute drive from José Martí Airport, it has four channels with the capacity to dock almost 400 boats. The optimal draft for anchoring is 3.5 to 4 meters.

Marlin Marine can provide the equipment and other resources necessary for your experience. In any case, the recommendation will always be to enjoy the island’s beautiful places and the gratifying experience of fishing in the company of the Cuban people, happy and always helpful.