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At long last, it may soon be legal for a limited number of Americans to go sportfishing in Cuba. The trips won’t be cheap and they won’t be entirely fishing oriented, but they will involve a significant amount of fly fishing in one of the greatest fishing areas in Cuba – namely, Queens Garden Archipelago. The outfitter of the trips will be Avalon (www.cubanfishingcenters.com), the Italian company that has long dominated sportfishing in Cuba. Here is how the opportunities to fish in Cuba are expected to unfold.
Ocean Doctor (http://oceandoctor.org), an American nonprofit corporation based in Washington D.C., has recently been given a license by the U.S. Treasury Department to take American divers to Cuba on research-oriented, people-to-people excursions that will involve numerous dives in the waters around Queens Garden Archipelago. In fact, six of the ten days in the country will be spent on Avalon’s floating hotel anchored in the archipelago or in a fully mobile mothership. In all, we understand, the organization’s current permit will allow them to send a thousand divers to Cuba.
It is this same organization, Ocean Doctor, that is expected to get a permit to take anglers to Queens Garden Archipelago. Sources we trust tell us Ocean Doctor is almost certain to get permission to take anglers to Cuba. At this writing, the start date for the trips is not known. And there is some additional ambiguity here: namely, the possibility that one or more fishing-oriented nonprofits may step in and apply for a permit. If so, an Avalon representative we spoke with said they would greatly prefer to work with a fishing nonprofit on fishing tours just as they currently prefer to work with a diving-oriented nonprofit on diving tours. We are monitoring this side of things closely. Regardless of the action or inaction on the part of fishing nonprofits, it appears that some legal opportunities to fish in Cuba are about to materialize.
The current diving trips are expected to be a rough model for fishing trips to Cuba as regards trip duration, transfers, accommodations, and so on. You can read about the diving trips on the Ocean Doctor Web site at http://ocean doctor.org/gardens/. Briefly, the diving trips involve four nights in a fivestar Havana hotel and six days in the archipelago. The time in Havana will be spent visiting a variety of Cuban institutions and meeting with a range of Cuban professionals and community members. Most of the time in the archipelago will be spent in diving-related activities. Here is how the trip flyer describes what will take place during both parts of the trip.
“During our journey, we will visit Havana and vicinity, the Sierra del Rosario mountain range in Pinar del Río Province, the Cuban countryside, the fishing village of Jucaro and Gardens of the Queen and learn from Cuban scientists and experts about the important marine research and conservation efforts underway, including collaborative efforts with U.S. institutions. We will also learn about the management of Gardens of the Queen – Cuba’s first marine reserve and today the largest ‘no-take’ marine reserve in the Caribbean – and observe how ecotourism activities, including scuba and catch-andrelease fly fishing, are managed in the park. We will have the opportunity to visit research sites throughout Gardens of the Queen, both above and below the water.”
Costs for the diving trips range between $6,990 and $8,550 (plus a $250 conservation research fee), depending on the kind of floating facility one chooses to stay on in the archipelago. Those fees include airfare from Miami to Havana and back, all airport transfers, ground transportation, meals, and all lodging. Fishing trips may turn out to be a bit more expensive than diving trips because flats fishing requires more individualized guiding than diving. It is anyone’s guess how the itinerary above will be changed to accommodate anglers. For certain, anglers on these trips will spend at least some of their time tagging fish.
Are these planned trips right for you? Probably not if you have been violating the travel ban and fishing Cuba on your own. A lot of the tourist-like activities in Havana and elsewhere will bore you. The meetings with scientists may or may not be of interest as well. The anglers who will love these trips are those who have an interest in conservation and who have longed to visit Cuba for many years but have been sensibly afraid to violate the travel ban. The chance to see the old cars . . . walk the Malecon . . . visit the countryside . . . and, most of all, wet a line in the fabled waters of Queens Garden Archpelago: if all that fires your imagination, grab one of these trips as soon as they become available. I’ll do my best to keep you up to date on when and how to throw your hat in the ring. Stay tuned.