Famous American angling author Joe Brooks spent many a day fishing the flats of the Isle of Pines for tarpon, bonefish and permit back in the 1950’s, and wrote about his exploits in the American magazine, Outdoor Life. Back then, the fishing was unbelievable. Then came the Cuban revolution in 1959 and all sport fishing ceased for the next fifty years! Commercial fishermen netted a variety of fish and shrimp here, but now most of the pristine flats have been turned into a Cuban National Marine Park, where no commercial fishing is allowed other than for lobster. Interestingly, on the same flats that Joe Brooks wrote about fifty years ago, the fishing is still unbelievable and should now remain so with the protection as a Marine Park.In 1978, Cuba re-named the Isle of Pines Isla de la Juventud, the Isle of Youth for the many children that were coming to the island from around the world to advance their education.The area we fish is gigantic, seventy-five miles of flats from the Northern side of the Isle of Youth down the East side and then back out to the East in a chain of islands, the Cannarreos Archipelago, that runs all the way to Cayo Largo on the eastern end. This is an area of flats and small-uninhabited mangrove islands larger than much of the Florida Keys, from Marathon to Key West! With our Cuban partners, Sportquest Holidays has an exclusive on this new area. You are fishing an area that had not been sport fished for over fifty years until we opened our operation in 2006. Even now, the flats receive so little fishing pressure that the fish are incredibly easy to catch.In the Isle of Youth, we utilize Dolphin Super Skiffs, made in the USA, some of the finest flats skiffs ever designed. The larger 18 foot Super Skiffs we use in Gerona with Yamaha 90 HP motors are perfect for covering a lot of territory and have enough fuel capacity to run over 100 miles in a day.
Anglers fishing out of Gerona board the skiffs at our private dock on the Jucaro River, it is then a run across a shallow bay, which puts you into the island system where it is easy to fish on the lee side of the islands to combat any wind. The island system to the North has many larger channels where there is a resident population of good-sized Tarpon, with many fish in the 50-80 pound class. Later in the spring and summer Tarpon up to 150 lb have been caught. Snook and Bonefish are found in substantial numbers in these same waters. Although the Snook are more elusive, our guides have found many good spots to fish along the mangrove lined shorelines, often over white sand bottom. The average Snook are in the 18-25 inch range, but many fish in the 30-40 inch class have been taken by fly fishing. Bonefish are plentiful everywhere it seems, especially in the many shallow lagoons throughout the islands.
The Oceanside flats to the south offer wonderful wade fishing opportunities on hard sand bottom. The bonefish seem to average 3-5 pounds but occasionally larger fish are seen and taken, right up to 10 pounds. Permit are also found on selected flats both on the “inside” and on the “outside” flats, most fish are in the 15-25 lb class. Mutton Snapper and Cubera Snapper are very common in all of the larger channels that run through the island system. Many Mutton snapper over ten pounds get caught on fly, right up to 15 pounds –world record size! Nearly everyone catches a big Mutton or two when fishing for Tarpon in the channels. Jack Crevalle is also common, both in the channels and out on the flats – more information or call 01573 470612 and ask for Tom.