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Grand Cayman Island Guide: Fishing

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We'll lure you to our islands with catches that have broken world records!
In the Cayman Islands, fishing is often called the unofficial "national sport." Prized gamefish like blue marlin, tuna, wahoo and dolphin (Mahi-mahi) are caught year-round. Thrilling catches take place as close as a quarter mile offshore on all three islands and Caymanian captains and guides on modern sportfishing charter boats take great pride in helping visiting anglers - whether skilled or novice - locate, land and, most times, release their catch. Light tackle and fly-fishing for bonefish, tarpon and even permit challenge top anglers, especially in the flats off Little Cayman. And for those who like the thrill of competition, local fishing tournaments are sponsored throughout the year by the Cayman Islands Angling Club and Rotary Club. The top event is the Cayman Islands International Fishing Tournament, held annually in late April.

Caribbean Gamefish
Popular gamefish such as blue marlin, yellowfin tuna, wahoo, dolphin (dorado) and barracuda are caught year-round. Occasional catches of white marlin and, very rarely, Atlantic sailfish and Atlantic long-billed spearfish are also reported.

Our water temperature varies annually only 8 - 10 degrees and the bait fish are here year-round - which means the bigger fish are too. One of the Cayman Islands' biggest attractions for anglers is that big fish run close to the coastlines of Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. Year round, good catches take place as close as a quarter mile offshore all three Cayman Islands, where the ocean floor drops off sharply, plummeting thousands of feet and creating a natural thoroughfare for the big migratory pelagic species prized by anglers.

While many popular Caribbean gamefish species are caught year-round, Caymanian captains can identify distinct seasons. Wahoo season runs November through March; yellowfin tuna season follows in spring months. Predictably, small blue marlin (100-150 lbs) can be caught and released year round.

For years, these islands have been known as a destination for anglers seeking billfish action close to shore. Although blue marlin caught in Cayman waters average 200 lbs. or less, they challenge anglers year-round - and marlin strikes occur as close as a quarter mile offshore. Local captains promote conservation and sportsmanship by encouraging anglers to release any fish, reef or pelagic, which are not to be eaten and all billfish unless they are local records or potential prize winners during tournaments.

Shore Fishing
Our calm, crystal-clear waters, abundant marine life, flats and rocky shorelines make all three of our islands the answer to a shore fisherman's dream. Be careful to familiarize yourself with our Marine Parks laws, which prohibit fishing or taking of any kind of marine life in specific protected areas. Among the species anglers can catch (and release!) are small barracuda and bonefish-even tarpon, permit, pompano.

Bottom and Reef Fishing
Our islands are surrounded by hundreds of square miles of healthy reefs which offer good fishing, both with natural baits and artificial lures. Bottom fishing is an activity for the whole family in the Cayman Islands. You can bring your own equipment or simply book a charter that includes all tackle and bait. Our local guides usually recommend natural baits, including small fry, squid and pieces of conch for better action.

Once again, we urge visitors to respect our Marine Parks laws when fishing on their own, and not to waste our marine life resources simply for the sake of pictures. In all three islands, anglers can try for catches of yellowtail snapper, mutton snapper, grouper, blue runner (also known as fry jack) porgy, almaco jack, bar jack and jack crevalle - the jack family are all fierce fighters and provide first-class light tackle action.

Night fishing trips can also be arranged with local guides upon request.

Light Tackle and Flyfishing Action: Bonefish, Tarpon and Permit
Good bonefishing (the fish average 3-8 lbs. in Cayman waters) awaits anglers in unexpected areas of Grand Cayman, including the shallow flats of North Sound, South Sound and Frank Sound-even off Seven Mile Beach, according to Captain Ron Ebanks, a Caymanian guide who specializes in flyfishing and light tackle trips. Anglers can also cast for tarpon in select areas.

Little Cayman is most famous for bonefish action, mostly in the coastal flats, including South Hole Sound Lagoon, off Little Cayman. Cayman Brac also offers some good action from small bonefish along the shallows off the southwest coast.

Visitors should be aware that guides revive and release bonefish (as well as tarpon and permit) in the interest of marine conservation, and to provide action for future anglers.

A little known fact to most visitors is the abundance of tarpon in Grand Cayman's mosquito control canals, also called "dykes." These fish are even found in land-locked brackish ponds island-wide and average 4-5 lbs. although we've seen them much larger-so have divers, - on the North Wall and west coast grottos of Grand Cayman!

Sportfishermen will also discover the thrill of catching and releasing small tarpon, powerful light tackle fighters found in many of these same areas, but especially in Grand Cayman's North Sound, canals and Little Cayman's landlocked, mangrove-surrounded Tarpon Lake.

Excellent guides are available on all three islands, but Little Cayman is recognized as the best island to sample all three types of light-tackle gamefish action, from bonefish, small tarpon and permit, weighing up to 35 lbs. While good deep sea fishing exists right offshore for gamefish including blue marlin, dolphin, wahoo, tuna and barracuda, Little Cayman's main attraction for anglers is light tackle and flyfishing.

This type of fishing requiring special skills and tackle is still not widely available in the Cayman Islands and anglers are urged to bring their own equipment.

On Grand Cayman, Captain Ronald Ebanks specializes in flyfishing and light tackle fishing trips to secluded fishing spots around Grand Cayman. Charterboat Headquarters and Bayside Watersports will also be able to provide information about any other guides available to escort anglers on flyfishing trips along Grand Cayman's flats in North Sound and South Sound and inland canals. On Cayman Brac, Edmund "Money" Bodden and Lemuel Bodden (specialize in bonefishing off the south coast) and Frankie Bodden and Delroy Steve Bodden are happy to work with light-tackle enthusiasts who bring their own tackle.

Fishing Tournaments
Local fishing tournaments are sponsored throughout the year by the Cayman Islands Angling Club and attract an enthusiastic following of resident and visiting anglers.

These include the annual spring Cayman Islands International Fishing Tournament, which is the largest tournament of the year which usually takes place during the last week of April and the First week of May. Be sure to visit the Cayman Islands and take part in this international event.

The annual September Rotary Club International Fishing Tournament is another popular angling event and has lured competing resident and visiting anglers for more than 25 years.

The Cayman Islands Angling Club
Want to meet fellow anglers and make new friends? The Cayman Islands Angling Club (CIAC) welcomes visitors and invites inquiries about local tournaments, sportfishing action and just about anything you want to know. You can also join the Club as an overseas member and attend meetings if you're visiting Grand Cayman.

The CIAC is a non-profit registered Cayman company founded in 1983. In the 15 years since, it has become the country's biggest private-sector promoter of sportfishing. It accomplishes this by sponsoring a select few tournaments year-round with cash prizes and trophies, as we all as a variety of popular social events. The highlight of the annual CIAC is Cayman's biggest event, the Cayman Islands International Fishing Tournament held in late April, offering more than $40,000 in guaranteed cash prizes. This top angling event is promoted at the annual Miami International Boat Show in February.  

Today the Club has more than 75 members, all enthusiastic anglers and boat owners. As a member association of the Billfish Foundation and International Gamefish Association (IGFA), the CIAC is dedicate to marine conservation of all popular gamefish species and avidly promotes the release of Blue Marlin. Please visit for more information.

Little Cayman's Legendary Action
Of the three islands, Little Cayman remains the destination which is best prepared to accommodate skilled anglers who want to sample a variety of action. Year round, depending on weather conditions, anglers can catch bonefish weighing an average of 3-6 lbs.; tarpon weighing up to 20 lbs. in the land-locked brackish pond and permit weighing up to 35 lbs. caught in the flats off the north and south coasts. And then head only a few minutes offshore for tuna, wahoo or marlin.

McCoy's Lodge caters to both divers and light tackle fishing enthusiasts. When available, Sammy McCoy is the island's most experienced guides. Interested anglers must bring their own flyfishing equipment but other light tackle gear is available. Sammy reports that permit up to 35 lbs. frequent Little Cayman's coastal waters - few people know about this. For information contact McCoy's Lodge at (800) 626-0496 or in the Cayman Islands, (345) 949-2891; FAX: (345) 949-6821.

Other resorts on Little Cayman do not have fishing guides on staff year-round at this time and cater to a variety of vacationers including divers and "relaxers." Guests can contact either McCoy's Lodge or Southern Cross Club to arrange fishing, but should confirm the availability of experienced local guides for the period of their planned visit. The following information update was provided by Sam and Chip McCoy, who are the island's most experienced native Caymanian guides.

The bonefish around Little Cayman average 3-6 lbs according to Sam McCoy, the islands' most experienced fishing guide, who has been leading trips for 28 years. The largest schools frequent the shallow areas of South Hole Sound near Owen Island. Bonefish can be spotted in areas known as muds, patches of water where the sea looks milky from the fish churning up the bottom while feeding. These are especially visible from the air on approach to the island.

Local (Caymanian) guides use fry rather than flies and anglers who want to try fly-fishing must bring their own tackle. South Hole Sound provides the best action. Local guides often prefer to fish from the beach rather than stalk the fish in the muds of the lagoon. These fish bite all day, according to Mr. McCoy - finding them will depend on tides and weather conditions.

However, it is extremely misleading to claim that Little Cayman offers "the Caribbean's best bonefishing." Cayman's bones are small and not on a par with action for light tackle enthusiasts in the Florida Keys, Bahamas, Turks & Caicos and other destinations frequented by dedicated fly fishermen.

Tarpon averaging 20 lbs. are now plentiful in Tarpon Pond, the land-locked brackish lake and natural phenomenon which offers excellent action for fly-fishermen. These fish once grew no larger than 4-8 lbs but now larger species are caught frequently. Best times for this action are very early morning and late afternoon.

It's one of Little Cayman's best kept secrets that permit can be caught in these waters. They range from 15-35 lbs. and school of the southeast end of Little Cayman and are found on the northwest coast flats as well.

To book a fishing trip, try Black Princess Charters or Captain Ronald Ebanks.

Information provided by Cayman Islands Department of Tourism.

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