Cuba – Cayo Cruz: Historically the forbidden fruit for American fly fishermen, Cuba is finally open to American tourism and most importantly it’s relatively untouched and fabled fishing grounds are as easy to access as ever. With it’s close proximity to the United States, it’s protected saltwater fishing and fascinating history and culture, Cuba has been at the forefront of American fly fishing interests for decades. Dating back to 1952, when Ernest Hemingway first published his final major work “The Old Man and the Sea”, Cuba and fishing were forever intertwined in the imaginations of American outdoorsmen and women. In 2014, President Obama announced the reopening of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba. With that announcement, every avid saltwater fishermen in America individually thought about when or if they would be able to see Cuba for themselves.
Fly fishing in Cuba is quite different from other destinations in the Caribbean. The flats fishing is relatively new to the country and for the last 20 years has been limited to anglers from countries excluding the United States. All of the waters fished by Avalon Cuban Fishing Centers have not seen commercial fishing for nearly fifty years. Cuba has given these pristine coastal areas protection as Cuban National Marine Parks, where no commercial fishing is allowed other than for lobster. Flats fish like Tarpon, Permit, Bonefish, Snook, Mutton Snapper, Barracuda, and a variety of Jacks are found in incredible numbers and since the fishing pressure is so light in these areas the fish rarely encounter sport fishermen. The lack of fishing pressure is actually unimaginable: fishing grounds that are virtually the size of the entire Florida Keys with less than ten boats per day! That being said, these are still saltwater fish with amazing ability to sense predators and threats. This may be some of the best saltwater fishing in the world but it is by no means EASY. A realistic set of expectations can make or break an angler’s first trip to Cuba.
Despite heavy commercial fishing pressure before the ban, Cuba’s remote archipelagos have remained unspoiled. They are often situated 50 to 100 miles off the Cuban coast and are not easily visited, even by the Cuban lobster fishermen. Under the tutelage of several famous guides and anglers, the Cubans have become excellent guides and good fly fishermen. Give them a fly rod and they’ll double-haul a 100-foot cast or show you just how to work a fly to make a bonefish charge and inhale it. They spot fish as well as any of the Caribbean’s best guides and direct your casts from the poling platform. These guides enjoy enthusiastic anglers and love to work long days, allowing you to fish as hard as you want.
As the largest island in the Caribbean, Cuba has numerous fishing destinations that are operated by Avalon Cuban Fishing Centers. For many reasons, we decided to host our first trip to Cuba at Cayo Cruz. This location is most noticeably the newest fishing destination in Cuba with the least amount of historical pressure, but also accessed by a Mothership, thus controlling more variables than the ground based operations in Cuba.
Located on the north shore of the eastern province of Camaguey, the Cayo Cruz fishery is an enormous system of flats, lagoons and pristine estuaries. Located in Jardines del Rey, commercial fishing within this designated area is strictly forbidden and rigorously enforced. The sportfish-only area is 366 square kilometers in size, which means that on the average day, each skiff has over 50 square kilometers to itself. The fishing area is virtually untouched and represents one of the cleanest and most biologically diverse ecosystems Avalon has ever fished. It is still pretty much untouched and has only seen anglers for three seasons! The fish are plentiful and aggressive. Most other Cuban destinations are now heavily fished and have been fished that way for over 15 years.
The fishing at Cayo Cruz is what many would expect from a newly founded location: large numbers of good sized fish that are still not accustomed to human behavior, specifically leaders and flies. The Bonefish and Permit fishing are what make Cayo Cruz a truly special destination. The average size Bonefish is 4lbs with opportunities at 8+lbs fish each week. The Bonefish are plentiful and typically very hungry. When it comes to Permit, there may not be a better place in all of Cuba. Guests can expect daily encounters and shots at multiple fish ranging from 8lbs to 30lbs each day. There are not many places in the world where you can consistently target feeding bonefish with daily shots at Permit all but guaranteed. There are also two spots within the Cayo Cruz fishing grounds that offer excellent Tarpon fishing to complete the legendary Grand Slam!
To access and fish Cayo Cruz efficiently, WorldCast Anglers’ 2017 Hosted trip will utilize Avalon Fleet I, the live aboard mothership. Click here to see more details on the boat and all of it’s amenities.