Fishing For ‘The King’s Deer’
Fish and lobster in Cuba are like the king’s deer during the age of Robin Hood. In 12th century England, up to a third of the country was off-limits to hunting by anyone other than the king and his designees. The same could be said of fishing in Castro’s Cuba.
Now that the U.S. government allows its citizens to take their own boats to Cuba if we qualify for one of 12 categories of “general license” for legal travel, the question is: Can we fish while in Cuban waters? Generally the answer is no. Fishing in Cuba is a government monopoly, which is not to say that foreign boaters aren’t catching dinner on occasion.
“Basically the rules are no fishing, but nobody’s enforcing it,” says Don Barr, who has spent 18 winter-spring seasons exploring the Cuban coast on his sailboat. His daughter Cheryl Barr used these trips to research the “Yacht Pilot Cruising Guide to Cuba.” “We see fewer patrol boats every year now. They have very few boats that can get away from the docks.”
Jose Miguel Diaz Escrich, commodore of the Hemingway International Yacht Club of Cuba on the outskirts of Havana, parsed the risk thus: “Ninety-nine percent of the time you could catch fish and you would be okay, but there’s always that small chance that you could be boarded and then you would be in trouble.”
“The only trouble I’ve had was when we came into a port with about six conch on deck,” Barr recalls. “The officials made us throw them back in.”
Escrich says Cuban rules do allow for an individual recreational permit, but he could not say whether one had ever been issued. He says there are no bag limits or seasons referenced to recreational fishing, so if anyone were to be issued such a license, they would have to delve into a dense volume of commercial rules written in Spanish to stay legal. He says the committee that determines fishing and tourism policy may revise the rules in the near future to make them friendlier to foreign anglers.
For now, the easiest option is to fish in an established tournament or visit one of six Avalon fly-fishing lodges, including one in the spectacular Gardens of the Queen region on the South Coast. Avalon has a growing number of educational tours legal for U.S. travelers. A third way allows hotel guests to take fishing excursions from nearby marinas.
Every May, Cuba hosts the Ernest Hemingway International Billfish Tournament. This year, there are new ones, including Gamefish Grande by the AIM Marine Group, which also owns the Bahamas Billfish Championship. Gamefish Grande is actually two tournaments in one, with the first held June 20- 23 at the recently completed 1,100- slip Marina Gaviota Varadero, about 90 nautical miles east of Havana. From Varadero, boats will travel to Havana to be hosted by the Hemingway International Yacht Club for fishing action June 25- 28.
The Gamefish Grande will be an all-release tournament with video verification just like the Bahamas Billfish Championship. Rules for both series will be available on our website: bahamasbillfish.com
One of the most appealing features of the recently launched Wider 150 is her beach club, but the versatile space can also be arranged as either a garage for the custom 32-foot tender or a 23-foot (7-meter) swimming pool. Wider just released the first images and video (available at yachtsinternational.com) of how the inventive system works. At the push of a button, the transom opens, flooding the tender bay and allowing the Wider 32 to float out of the garage on her own bottom. With the tender launched, the transom area converts to a 969-squarefoot (90-square-meter) beach club with a covered swimming pool surrounded by decking. Retrieving the tender in this same space allows guests to board the mothership safely in all weather conditions and in privacy. The unique system is designed to solve an age-old problem of fitting a large tender into a mid-size yacht without affecting the vessel’s exterior lines.