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I am a subscriber to your publication who lives in Italy and writes for the most important fishing magazine in that country. In connection with this work, I have taken more than 100 fishing trips to every continent. For the past seven years I have been spending time in Cuba, fishing both fresh and salt water.

In my opinion, Cuba offers the best and most varied fishing anywhere in the Caribbean. What’s more, the fishing here is reasonably priced by world standards and offers European anglers an attractive opportunity to escape the winter. You should understand that saltwater fishing is still fairly new to most European fly fishermen; it is something we have heard a great deal about on this side of the Atlantic, yet have never really taken the time to investigate properly. One thing is for sure, those European friends of mine who have gone to Cuba and caught bonefish and tarpon on a fly are immediate converts to saltwater fly fishing.

Until recently, Cuban sportfishing has been hampered by organizational problems. Now, a really good outfitter has started a first rate houseboat lodge operation in an area known as Archipelago de Los Jardines de la Reina, which is an archipelago 50 miles off of Cuba’s southern coast. The manager of the operation is the owner of Graciosa Fishing Club in the Canary Islands.

For the sake of anglers who don’t know this archipelago, I should point out that it is a 100 plus mile fingernail shaped chain of islands, or "cayos," of various dimensions. The whole area is a labyrinth of channels, flats, mangrove islands, gin clear water, white sand and turquoise shallows (some of which have so called blue holes in them). There are many good places for snorkeling and swimming in Jardines de la Reina and miles and miles of secluded beaches. Wind, which often causes trouble for saltwater anglers, is not a problem here because there are many protected zones that always harbor fish.

There are many species of fish here, both permanent and migratory. I have seen literally thousands of four to 10 pound bonefish in the channels and flats. You also find tarpon of six to 25 pounds on the flats, and 30 to 120 pounds in the channels. You can also find permit, barracuda, jack crevalle, cubera, red, grey and mutton snapper plus a few snook.

The 70 foot houseboat has seven rooms, with two to four beds in each. All are air conditioned and have private baths and refrigerators. There is also a living room and solarium. The houseboat is always anchored only a few minutes away from the fishing zones in calm water, such as channels or lagoons. The small launches you use to reach the fishing area are 15 to 18 feet in length and are equipped with 25 horsepower outboard motors, poles and a radio. There are also two 21 foot boats with 55 horsepower motors and one 41 foot boat. A second small houseboat is devoted to storage space and accommodations for the staff.

The crew consists of two Italian managers/guides one of whom is an expert at spin tackle and fly fishing; and one of whom is an expert in surf casting, trolling, etc. Both speak good English. There are eight other very good professional guides assigned to the operation who all know good fishing places. They speak a little English, but only about fishing. There is also a professional cook and two helpers on board. They serve three fine meals a day a mix of international, Italian and Creole cuisine. Alcohol and sodas are also available, but are not included in the package price.

The standard package starts Sunday afternoon at the airport in Ciego de Avila, a small city in the center of Cuba about 300 miles from Havana. A representative of the outfitter welcomes the clients and drives them by private bus to Jucaro, a village on the Caribbean coast. It is a four hour yacht ride from Jucaro to Jardines de la Reina. If it is early in the day, the group goes directly to the houseboat. If it is late, the yachts stop in a bay near a "cayo" for the night to avoid navigating in the dark. At this time, there are two yachts for the transfer; each accommodates 12 people for the overnight, and there will probably be a hydroplane in the future. The yachts set out again at early morning and arrive before 8 a.m.

The group fishes all day from Monday through Friday, and stops at noon on Saturday. At that point, the clients return to Jucaro and thence to Ciego de Avila where they sleep at a hotel, departing on Sunday. The price for the standard package is $1,250 (all costs given in US dollars) for reef and surf fishing; or $1,550 for fly fishing, spinning and trolling. That includes a shared room on the houseboat for six nights, meals, boat fees, guide services, rods and reels for trolling, surf casting and reef fishing, use of small boats and round trip connections from Havana to los Jardines. It does not include fly or spinning tackle, lures, a Cuban visa (in Italy one costs about $15), boarding tax before departure ($11), drinks, tips and personal items. It also does not cover the use of a 29 or 45 foot boat, which one can reserve for offshore trolling or scuba diving. Franco Fumolo.

(Don Causey Note: We tried numerous times to reach Fumolo in Italy to get contact details on this operator, but the person answering his phone said he was in Cuba and unreachable until after our deadline. However, we were able to determine that this trip is available here in North America through an organization we have mentioned before namely, Canada Cuba Sports and Cultural Festivals (*). All of that leaves the thorny issue of US travel to Cuba. At this writing, we have no reason to believe the US government has changed its view of Cuba as an enemy that should not be supported by US citizens. That means the continuing policy of the US government is that Americans cannot legally spend money there unless they go there to take part in certain exempt activities and receive a special Treasury Department license. Recreational fishing is not one of those exempt activities. Consequently, if you elect to go to Cuba now, you run the risk of incurring severe penalties. We are working on a larger report on Cuba here at The Angling Report and will have much more to say on the country soon.)

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