By Phil Thompson
For travelers to Cuba, Havana is a must see. Narrow stone streets separate magnificent monuments to architecture in this former colonial capital; it exudes old world charm. At night, except for the tropical aromas and reggaeton beat, it could be Seville or any number of European enclaves. Take heart fishing junkies. Even if you fall under the city’s spell of scent and sound, an angling fix is close.
Fifteen minutes west of the bustling city sits Marina Hemingway. A port of entry, it’s home to a five boat charter fishing fleet. Modest priced half and full day trips seldom venture out of sight of land.
Most half day excursions troll the cobalt waters east to the mouth of Havana Harbor where the view is spectacular and captains work the tide line. Full days often continue east to the deep waters off Cojimar where a Tim Tebow pass from shore would land in a thousand feet of water. This small, sharp-cliffed seaside village—made famous by Hemingway—is also known for its broad-bill swordfish population.
Marlin, sails, dolphin, wahoo and tuna are the primary target species. According to captain Jose Enquries—a man who eats and sleeps marlin—early summer and fall are best for bill-fish with larger blues showing up in September.
Jose adds that fall is also the time for wolf-packing wahoo. These predatory packs prowl close to shore between Marina Hemingway and Marial Harbor to the west. So close in fact that captains often blow horns to alert inner-tube floating fishermen and free divers, hunting in the path of the trolling boats. Four rods down at a time is not uncommon, most fish are in the twenty to forty pound range.
The marina is also host to the early summer Hemingway marlin tournament, now in its sixty-second year.
It’s a wise to pack a few of your favorite lures as the supply is limited. Most Cuban charter captains would prefer the gift of a modern chugger-head to a tip at the end of the trip.
For the inshore fisherman there are alternatives to hand lining snapper off the Malecon, Havana’s famous seaside esplanade. Snook and a few tarpon are found in the brackish river mouths west of the city along the seaside Marial autopista. In the beautiful beach town of Playa Baracoa, snapper, jacks and barracuda are within casting distance of shore.
Unusual bone fishing may be an option. Native guide Chino claims very large bones are caught off both the mouth of the Jaimanitas River and the adjacent town of Santa Fe. After digging small red sand worms, Chino wades waist deep and shuffles his feet creating a mud that attracts the fish. Then he backs away and casts the bait into the cloud.
So pack a rod anglers. Even if an extra couple evenings in Havana are desired, it doesn’t mean you can’t fish, and still dance the night away.
Next, we’re off to the country, to the Bay of Pigs.
Outdoor writer Phil Thompson divides time between Ruskin and Key West Florida and Cuba. He is the author of the new book, “97 Miles South” captphilthompson.com