Cayo Largo Cuba Hosted Trip Report – January 22nd – 29th:
Cayo Largo Cuba Hosted Trip Report – January 22nd – 29th: Sometimes, things do not go according to plan. This is an accepted reality in the world of fishing and especially in the world of destination travel fishing. This variable is only magnified when you travel to a country such as Cuba, during the height of a Covid wave however; in many cases when trips require unforseen flexibility and adaptation, the end result is not alway disappointing. In fact, sometimes it can be quite amazing.
We traveled to Cuba at the end of January as a group of 10 anglers with our sites set for Cayo Largo, situated off the southwestern coast of the island. Cayo Largo is well known for two things in particular: white sand beaches that have long attracted European and Canadian tourists and Cuba’s most prolific Permit fishery. After two years of covid related postponements and a cumulative travel itch that was quickly approaching unbearable, we were finally within reach of those famed white flats and black tailed devils. As our group boarded the Jardines Avalon I mothership in a tiny marina carved out of the Zapata coastline and began our beautiful five hour southerly crossing of the Bay of Pigs, the conditions were immaculate, the rum was flowing and the excitement was intoxicating.
As is the case with all Avalon fishing programs, there is a meeting with the “fishing manager” before dinner on the first evening to run through the plan for the week. After a beautiful Cuban sunset, a few cigars and of course some divine mojitos, we sat down as a group to hear about the epic week ahead of us. This is when the “plan” started to change…. Our fishing manager informed us that naturally Covid had derailed most of our best laid plans for the week: three of the guides we had requested were quarantined, there would only be five rather than six available guides and skiffs for the week (no single fishing), two of the five guides would be coming from Isla de Juventud (IDJ) and thus we needed to move the mothership between IDJ and Cayo Largo to ensure all the guides knew the water which meant we would essentially not be fishing Cayo Largo, there would be a half of day fishing on the first and last day to accommodate the additional logistics and lastly, a dreaded northern front was anticipated to arrive the following day. Talk about a special series of bad news to start a trip! The one piece of good news – we were the first group to fish this area between IDJ and Cayo Largo since March 2020.
The next six days were a confusing blur of spectacular, blue ribbon fishing for Tarpon and Bonefish and an equally frustrating and disappointing attempt to find and successfully target Permit. We came to Cuba in anticipation of primarily targeting Permit at Cayo Largo and all of a sudden, we were fishing a completely different destination and experiencing some of the best resident Tarpon fishing any of us had ever seen. To say these fish were fresh is an understatement. I have never seen Tarpon swim to fly like we did that week and coupled with the fact we were encountering larger than expected fish on a daily basis – we were in Tarpon paradise! Every day, there were opportunities to target fish in the 50lbs+ class and on the week, we landed half a dozen fish between 60lbs and 80lbs. Between these enthralling climactic, physical and visual encounters with bigger fish on the flats, we targeted small schools of juvenile Tarpon between 5lbs and 20lbs in a seemingly endless maze of lagoons and mangroves with as many as 20 fish being jumped in each boat during a single day of fishing.
The Bonefishing was equally as impressive, with daily sessions spent casting to tailing singles, doubles and triples over white sand in the shallow, intimate pockets between immature mangroves and the islands. The quality of these fish is unparalleled in the Caribbean with the average prize being a very well fed, thick 3-5 pounder but many caught over the 6lbs mark including a couple special fish approaching that trophy 10lbs mark. Sprinkle a few quality Snook into the mix and it quickly became apparent why Cuba has such an amazing reputation for being arguably the healthiest, most well rounded flats fishery in the world.
We got very lucky with our weather, seeing multiple northern fronts come through over the course of the week but none of them sticking around for long or having a palpable effect on our Tarpon, Bonefish or Snook fishing. As far as it affected the Permit fishing, we will never know as there could have been any number of reasons that we didn’t see much on that front. For starters, we fished Cayo Largo proper for only a handful of hours total during the week, focusing mostly on the westerly islands, lagoons and channels that comprised Isla de Juventud’s fishing grounds. Secondly, the guides were less than eager to spend most of the day targeting Permit as we were surrounded by some of the best Tarpon and Bonefish water in the world. I am sure the colder temperature snaps and inconsistency across the wind direction and general weather patterns through the week played a part in the underwhelming Permit fishing but in the end, we were participating in an ever changing fishing plan that was reacting to covid, logistics, weather and any number of variables beyond the control of us, the anglers. The highlight of our group’s Permit fishing experience was our good friend, Chris “Super Slam” Simonds landing a truly beautiful 20lbs+ specimen en route to a very memorable Super Slam, which took until the bottom of the ninth inning and no less than ten jumped Tarpon to complete – a testament to Chris’ and our guide Osmani’s unwillingness to head back to the mothership without the feat attained.
What stood out to everyone in the group, regardless of their specific fishing interest or specie pursuit, was the beauty, cleanliness and pristineness of the water and flats that we saw on a daily basis. There is practically zero sign of mankind even as you fish and motor upwards of 20 miles in a single day. The occasional lobster fishing boat and the infrequent piece of floating trash provide the rare reminder of modern humanity and what this immaculate fishery would look like if it was not in Cuba, under the careful watch of a very uniquely controlling government. To think we were less than 200 miles as the crow flies from Florida was surreal. I have been lucky enough to experience a few environments like this in my travels but it usually involves 40+ hours of travel by air, land and sea. As we jumped off the mothership each evening for our daily swim, it was hard not to cherish such a special example of an unspoiled and healthy, fully intact marine ecosystem.
We may have traveled to Cuba with Permit in our minds but we left with memories of Tarpon soaring five feet through the air and line ripping through our fingers, magical Bonefish tails knifing through the slicked out surface of a flat in pursuit of a scurrying shrimp, a concerning obsession with cuban cigars and mojito cocktails and above all else, a renewed appreciation for the flexibility required when traveling the world in hopes of catching fish.
Avalon Outdoors has access to pristine fishing areas and Cuban National Marine Parks, where no commercial fishing is allowed other than for lobster. Cuba also boasts magnificent white sand beaches with clean, sparkling turquoise waters. If you are interested in fishing for Permit, Bonefish and Tarpon in Cuba, Avalon Outdoors has the program to do it. Please contact WorldCast Anglers for more information on the the next trip to Cuba! Be sure to stay updated on the WorldCast Anglers Hosted Destination Offerings!
WorldCast Anglers Vice President
January 22nd – 29th, 2022
Cayo Largo, Cuba – Avalon Outdoors