San Juan Bay/Frazier Nivens
- Deep-sea Fishing, Skiff-fishing for Tarpon
- By: QP
From the long dugout canoes of the Taino Indians and the wooden sailing ships Columbus anchored off the west coast in 1493 to the immense cruise ships of our time, Puerto Rico and boating have always gone hand in hand. For centuries, boating was a matter of survival as islanders depended for their livelihood on fishermen and trade ships from the Mother Country. Today boating is almost entirely a recreational activity, with people taking to the ocean for the sheer fun of it.
Visitors who want to explore the waters around Puerto Rico have a wide range of choices. If deep-sea fishing is your passion, then you are in for a powerboat trip to the nearby ocean trenches. If you prefer shallow-water fishing, you can board a skiff and head into the coastal mangroves. If you are looking to combine sailing and snorkeling, you have a choice of large sailing catamarans or smaller single-hulled sailboats. If you prefer a hands-on activity, try an ocean kayak.
To get the most out of deep-sea fishing, you need to have the right equipment and be in the right place at the right time.
If you brought your own boat to participate in one of the Island’s prestigious billfish tournaments held at this time of year, you will find major marinas in San Juan, Fajardo, Ceiba and Ponce. There are smaller marinas in La Parguera, Salinas, Rincón and other coastal communities. For boat repairs and maintenance, marine service and supply stores run from international operations to fish-and-tackle shops.
If you plan to charter a boat for deep-sea fishing, keep in mind that most charters offer either half-day or full-day outings and take one to six passengers. Cost is based on the length of the outing, not the number of passengers, and the charter normally provides all necessary fishing gear and crew. Some charters provide food and drinks, but not all, so be sure to ask.
Now that you are equipped, what is the right place for deep-sea fishing? Most charters operate out of San Juan and Fajardo, which lie mere minutes from the Puerto Rico Trench in the Atlantic Ocean. Nicknamed Blue Marlin Alley, this location is renowned for the size and numbers of blue marlin found in its waters. Today, most caught marlin are tagged and released back into the ocean. In this way, the fishing enthusiast gets to experience the challenge of the catch; the scientist gets important migratory data, and the fish gets to live, a winning situation all around.
Other regions around Puerto Rico also provide excellent fishing. The deep waters off Humacao hold large numbers of wahoo. Arecibo on the northern coast makes the most of its proximity to the trenches, and boats docked in Rincón, Mayagüez, Cabo Rojo and La Parguera on the western and southwestern coasts head out to the traditional tuna grounds of Mona Passage.
As for the right time, different fish run at different times of the year and phases of the moon. August and September are best for catching blue marlin. Other local fish – yellow and blackfin tuna, mahi mahi, sailfish, wahoo and bonito – have their own seasons. Based on when and where you will be in Puerto Rico, and what you are looking for, the local operators can tell you what to expect on your excursion.
Skiff-fishing for Tarpon
A flat-bottomed boat, a rod and mangrove-fringed waters are all you need for a memorable day of salt-water fly or reel fishing. This is most accessible in the San Juan metro area, among the mangrove lagoons of Piñones and San Juan Bay. The excellent tarpon fishing found in Puerto Rico is a recent discovery that has received wide coverage in sport-fishing magazines.