What an amazing sport fishing destination Puerto Rico is! I have just returned from my first, and certainly not last, visit to this historic and immensely beautiful Caribbean island, which I am certain ranks as being both the closest and the best value tarpon and snook fishery anywhere for British anglers.
I first heard about the Tarpon Nest Lodge and their sister company Caribbean Fishing Adventures through my good friend Doug Olander, editor of US based Sport Fishing Magazine http://www.sportfishingmag.com. Doug has fished here on several occasions, and based on his solid and always reliable recommendation I eagerly organised the first group of visiting British anglers; and what a week we had!
Let me start off by listing just a few positives about choosing Puerto Rico as a destination. Firstly British anglers now have a direct flight into San Juan from London Gatwick. This flight is not only around an hour shorter than flights to Miami, but also it is considerably cheaper. Progress through customs and baggage reclaim on arrival at San Juan was seamless, and the lodge is located less than 15 minute drive from the terminal building.
All guests at The Tarpons Nest get a single room. The boats are located right at the lodge, and are operated by first class, highly experienced English speaking guides. The closest areas we fished were less than a two minute run from the lodge dock, pretty much at the end of the airport runway! Finally, within a five minute walk you have a great selection of local bars and eating establishments where on some nights we ate truly tremendous, freshly cooked food for less than $5 per person, yes you did read correctly, less than $5 per person!
The fishing is almost exclusively for tarpon and snook, fly, lure or bait. Occasionally jacks and snapper make an appearance, and if you venture out into the open ocean you can add a few other species. You fish within an extensive and very sheltered system of inter-connected tidal lagoons and mangrove channels that both fringe and extend to well within the urban environment of the city itself, creating a truly unique and varied fishery. One minute you are watching an iguana basking in the sunshine from its precarious perch on a mangrove tree, the next you are ducking your head as you pass under a low road bridge next to Burger King, with police sirens wailing above you. If you need fresh baits, there are plenty of locals throwing casting nets who are more than happy to supply live perch.
Our group concentrated mostly on fly fishing, and both tarpon and snook were caught on fly every day we fished. During the week everyone caught several tarpon on fly. Nowhere have I seen more snook, during the trip catching upwards of a dozen fish in the 1-3lb range per session on fly was a formality and much bigger fish are present, a few were hooked and lost.
Tarpon are the main attraction here for most visiting anglers and there were tarpon everywhere, frequently rolling seductively on the surface. Most fish we encountered were in the 3-10lb range, perfect 8wt fly rod size fish, but we all hooked much bigger fish in the 20-60lb range, some of which were landed successfully with others lost, so be sure to pack a 10wt. My best fly caught tarpon was a modest 40lb fish that engulfed my home tied EP Minnow fly in an explosive take, before cartwheeling around around the lagoon in an impressive series of head sharking jumps. During the week the biggest caught on fly was a solid 50-60lb fish landed by my good friend Andrew Leaves. The biggest fish caught on bait was an estimated 120lb specimen landed by Harmohan Khanna, and each day we saw numerous much bigger fish.
The fishing day is split into two 4-hour sessions, organised to coincide with prime bite times at dawn and dusk. The morning session is 0600- 1000, followed by a swim, an early lunch and siesta in your private air conditioned room, before heading back out at 1430 to fish until 1830. Thats an 8-hour day, during which I estimate you actually get to fish a minimum of 7-hours, possibly more.
Fishing aside Puerto Rico has much to offer the general tourist, with beautiful beaches, rain forests, numerous historic and natural sites and attractions, including the spectacular ‘Old San Juan’ town. You’ll find great shopping in several enormous American style indoor malls, making it the perfect location for non-fishing partners. On this trip I spent 10-days on vacation with my wife, then she flew home on the flight the group I hosted arrived.
Trips to Puerto Rico to fish with Caribbean Fishing Adventures based at The Tarpons Nest are now arranged in the UK by Anglers World Holidays. For more details Tel: 01246 221717 or visit: http://anglersworld.tv During this trip we shot a video, for which I will include a link as soon as it has been edited.
Since its launch in August sales of my latest book, Destination Angler, have been incredible, with around 250 of the first edition of just 350 signed, numbered hardback copies already gone. If you would like a copy get in touch by email, firstname.lastname@example.org it would make a great Christmas present for anyone with aspirations to fish in far flung places!