Fishing In Cuba: The Ultimate Vacation Guide

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In my eyes, there isn’t a cooler place to go fishing than in Cuba. 

Not only is the fishing in Cuba excellent but you get the added bonus of doing it surrounded by stunning natural environments and Cuban culture – we’re talking the old town of Havanna, etc. 

Sitting in slap bang in the middle of the Caribbean, Cuba is a saltwater fisherman’s paradise as it’s home to pretty much every inshore and offshore fish species one could hope to catch. 

Ernest Hemingway spent a lot of his fishing time in Cuba chasing billfish and based his book “The Old Man & The Sea” on his experiences there – it’s always nice to think that you’re walking in his footsteps whilst you’re there 

While the fishing in Cuba is fantastic, you can’t just pitch up, hop in a rowboat and start catching the fish of your dreams – you’ll need a little more preparedness than that. 

Join me as we run through everything you need to know about fishing in Cuba:

  • Learn what are the top fish to catch in Cuba
  • Learn where and how to catch them
  • Learn where are the best places to stay and the fishing regulations 

By the end of the article, you’ll have all the info you need to book a fishing vacation trip to this wonderful fishing destination. 

Top Fish To Catch In Cuba 

Isla de la Juventud Tarpon

There isn’t really any freshwater fishing worth talking about in Cuba so we are going to stick to the saltwater side of things. When it comes to the top fish to catch in Cuba, the list is very strong and it’s a mixture of both in-shore and offshore species. 

To make things a little simple, I’m going to split the top species in Cuba into those two categories. 

Best Inshore Fish To Catch In Cuba 

  • Bonefish 
  • Permit 
  • Tarpon 
  • Snook 
  • Barracuda 

If you’re into your inshore fishing then you’ll know that this list has pretty much every species you could ask for on it. Catching a “flats slam” which is a bonefish, permit, and tarpon in one day is very possible in Cuba and something anglers spend their lives chasing. 

Best Offshore Fish To Catch In Cuba 

  • Blue Marlin 
  • White Marlin 
  • Sailfish
  • Yellowfin Tuna
  • Wahoo 
  • Dorado
  • Broadbill Swordfish 

If you love offshore fishing, then this list will get you very excited as it holds pretty much every species you could want to catch in the Atlantic.

Hemingway traveled to Cuba in search of Blue Marlin and this is due to Cuba’s unique location as it’s home to deep offshore waters with structure these fish love and it’s right along their migratory route too. If you’re there at the right time, then your chances of hooking a blue marlin are high. 

Where To Go Fishing In Cuba 

While Cuba is a great fishing destination, you’re still going to need to know where its best fishing spots are if you want a chance for maximum success. After all, it’s no use flying around the world to fish on the wrong part of the island. 

The best fishing spots in Cuba differ considerably between the offshore and inshore species, so I have split them into those categories again. 

Where To Go Inshore Fishing In Cuba 

The way to fish in Jardines De La Reina

Cuba’s best inshore fishing tends to be around islands and marine parks where local subsistence fishing is either banned or very minimal and these are mainly on the south of the mainland. 

Jardines De La Reina 

One of the top inshore fishing spots in Cuba and one of the most famous at that is Jardines De La Reina. Jardines De La Reina is a marine park that is made up of a chain of small islands off Southcentral Cuba and it’s home to some incredible fishing. 

You’ll find all the inshore species listed above in Jardines De La Reina and since they live in a protected marine park, they are far more willing to eat what you show them than others. As you cruise around the networks of mangroves, sand flats, and turtle grass flats you’re almost guaranteed to encounter tarpon, permit, bonefish, snook, and more. 

The only way you can fish at Jardines De La Reina is by staying on a liveaboard since there are no lodgings there – and this is the case for most of the inshore fishing in Cuba. 

Isla de la Juventud 

​​Isla de la Juventud or the island of youth sits on the south side of northern Cuba and is known best for its excellent tarpon fishing. The tarpon around Isla de la Juventud remain in those waters pretty much all year round and you can expect to encounter fish in the 30-80 lb range on a daily basis. If you’re there during summer, you can also find larger tarpon in the 100 plus range too. 

Isla de la Juventud is just about tarpon though as it’s home to stunning sand and turtle grass flats too that is home to an abundance of large bonefish and a lot of permit fish too. 

Again, the best way to fish around the flats and mangroves of Isla de la Juventud is on a liveaboard. 

Cayo Romano & Cayo Cruz 

Sitting on the northern side of Cuba, Cayo Romano and Cayo Cruz off some of the best bonefish and permit fishing on the island. 

The area is home to huge sand flats and mottled bottoms that hold huge numbers of bonefish and permit and the great thing about it is that you can also sleep on dry land instead of on a liveaboard. 

If you’re worried that you won’t have any shots at tarpon or snook, don’t be as they roam the flats around Cayo Romano and Cayo Cruz too. 

Where To Go Offshore Fishing In Cuba 

You can pretty much go offshore fishing from any part of Cuba’s northwest coast as the best fishing grounds are in the Cuba-Bahamas Channel.

The Cuba-Bahamas Channel is an area of deep water and currents that all the pelagic species use to migrate through and it’s very much alive with fish all year round. 

It’s best to base yourself around Havana for offshore fishing as this will significantly reduce how long it will take you to get to the fishing grounds offshore. 

When To Go Fishing In Cuba 

If it’s inshore fishing for bonefish, tarpon, and permit that you’re looking for then the best time of year to be in Cuba is between November and July. 

The reason you’ll want to avoid August – September is simply because of the weather as it’s way too hot in August and the fish tend to be a lot less active, then in September and October, the weather becomes very changeable with large storms and possible hurricanes coming through. 

If you want to follow in Ernest Hemingway’s footsteps and try out the offshore fishing in Cuba, the best time to be there is between October and November. This is when the seas off of Cuba will see good runs of blue marlin, white marlin, wahoo, and dorado all at once. 

There is also another blue marlin bite between March and May plus plenty of tuna bite between July and September. 

Best Methods For Catching Fish In Cuba 

Fishing the flats at Jardines De La Reina

The inshore fishing in Cuba is best done with a fly rod or a spinning rod. When you’re inshore fishing in Cuba you’ll either be wading in 1-3ft of water on the sand or being poled around on flats skiffs by a local guide. 

It’s all sight fishing, so you will not cast until you see a fish which makes it about as exciting as fishing can get. A lot of pressure comes with sight fishing but you see the most beautiful creatures and the setting of the azure blue waters is hard to beat. 

When it comes to offshore fishing in Cuba, you’ll be trolling a mixture of lures and bait in order to raise and hook marlin and other pelagics. It’s a lovely way to fish as you’re pretty much exploring the ocean and life is very relaxed until you get a bite when chaos and adrenaline ensue. 

How To Book Your Fishing Trip To Cuba 

Booking your fishing trip to Cuba couldn’t be easier as there is just one company you need to talk to – Cuban Fishing Centers

Cuban Fishing Centers runs almost all the guides and liveaboards we discussed above and they run a top-notch service with excellent accommodations, equipment, guides, food, and more. If there is anyone who will give you the fishing trip of a lifetime, it’s them. 

While Cuban Fishing Centers also focuses mainly on the inshore side of things, I’d also recommend speaking to them about booking some offshore fishing in Cuba.

The internet and fishing in Cuba isn’t quite a relationship that has blossomed yet, so you’re best off talking to people on the ground to find the best offshore skippers to go with. 

Cuba’s Fishing Regulations 

In Cuba, all foreigners (including tourists) residing temporarily or permanently, require a license to engage in sport fishing or recreational fishing on the island. It’s easy to obtain by just presenting a passport. In addition, you will be supplied with all the information about the fishing regulations in Cuba.

You also will need to pay a conservation fee when “catch and release” fishing in the marine parks such as Jardines De La Reina. Your operator will take care of everything for you and all they need is a copy of your passport to get you a license. 

Winding Out 

Thanks very much for reading my article, I hope you enjoyed it and are now ready to get a fishing trip to Cuba booked.

Cuba has some of the best inshore fishing in the world and some great offshore fishing too plus you’ll get to see an amazing culture at the same time! 

You can read more on my fishing vacation trips around the world here!

Jamie Melvin