Fishing is a popular pastime in the Cayman Islands and there are plenty of tour operators that can take you out for reef or deep sea fishing trips. Read on to find out more about fishing in the Cayman Islands as well as the rules and regulations.
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Spending all day on the water can be very rewarding as fresh fish is always a local favorite.
Before you begin fishing you need to be aware of the fishing restrictions in the Cayman Islands. Fishing restrictions are used to prevent overfishing, and to conserve and improve healthy fish populations. This also ensures that they are around for future generations.
Restrictions on Fishing
Anyone can fish from the shore or from a boat in deep water but there are very strict rules on the size of fish you can catch and there are some fish you must immediately release if you catch one by mistake. The rules are as follows:
Jew fish (goliath grouper), tilefish (whities), filefish (pipers) and angelfish, including Grey, French and Queen angels (old monks) are all protected and you are not allowed to take them from Cayman waters at any time or place.
Of the fish that you can catch, there is an eight-inch minimum size on all other fish except goggle eyes, herrings (including sprats), anchovies and silversides (including loggerhead and fine fry). However, there are different rules on Nassau groupers: There is a twelve inch minimum catch size throughout all of the Cayman Islands, year round, and no Nassau groupers can be caught using a speargun. No one may take Nassau grouper from a Designated Grouper Spawning Area from November 1st to March 31st, and no fishing (by line or speargun) can be done within a mile radius of a Designated Spawning Area. The same applies to fish pots. If you see any fishing taking place in or around a Grouper Spawning Area please call 911 immediately and a police boat will be sent out to investigate.
Designated Grouper Spawning Areas
In accordance with DoE regulations, the designated areas are: Coxswain Bank and South West Point in Grand Cayman; East and West End of Cayman Brac, Little Cayman and the Twelve Mile Bank.
Read the Marine Rules & Regulations page for other important fishing restrictions.
Deep Sea & Reef Fishing Charters
Numerous companies offer deep sea and fishing trips, Oh Boy Charters offer deep sea or reef fishing at night and a local seafood lunch and/or dinner on board can be arranged.
Other options include Captain Alfonso of White Rose Charters who takes people for bone, tarpon, reef and drift fishing. Full-day tours include lunch on the beach if requested. Call (345) 929 8825 or (345) 325 1472.
Finally, Slackem Charters (Tel: (345) 326 4765) offers snorkelling, trips to stingray city and deep sea fishing trips or Captain Marvin’s can both take you out fishing for marlin, wahoo or tuna. The cost for a privately chartered fishing vessel can run from US$600 (small boat/half-day) to US$1800 (big boat/full-day).
For more information see the Explore Cayman Fishing in Cayman article.
Light Tackle Game Fishing
Bonefish, Tarpon and Permit can be caught in all three islands, but Little Cayman is renowned for in-shore gamefish and there are some spectacular fishing opportunities for those that are into the sport.
Bonefish can be found on the “flats”; these are inshore waters that are typically shallow and covered in turtle grass. In many areas of Little Cayman you can find these flats right along the edge of the coastline but there are also good flats in Grand Cayman and in Cayman Brac. Bonefish are usually less than 12 pounds and they are known as the “grey ghost” or “phantom”. Pound for pound they are one of the fastest and strongest of all the salt water fish species. They are considered to be among the world’s premier gamefish and are highly sought after by anglers. Typically, anglers will wade along the shoreline looking for signs of a ‘tailing’ fish, or there may be an unusual ripple on the surface that could indicate the presence of a fish nearby. Check with local fishing guides to see what is working best as bait.
On the south side of Little Cayman there is an inland pond called Tarpon Lake that is literally teaming with Tarpon, otherwise known as ‘Silver King’. These particular fish (in the Tarpon Lake) never seem to grow above 15 pounds but they can be taken both on the flyrod and with spinning tackle. It is not possible to access the fish in the lake without a guide because you really need to use one of the little boats and row around; the bottom of the lake is not suitable for wading because the mud is deep, and the perimeter of the lake is a dense thicket of red mangrove – don’t even think of trying to fight your way through the mangroves with a rod in your hands!
Early in the morning is usually the best time to go and if you get there shortly after sunrise it is possible you may witness what is known as the ‘tarpon frenzy’; basically the Gambusia minnows (a small bait fish) get pinned against the edge of the pond by a large number of tarpon, and the minnows are unable to shelter in the roots of the mangroves because waiting along the banks are hundreds of herons and egrets. The birds crowd the edge of the mangroves and strike at any minnow within reach. It is an awesome spectacle with a constant roar of tarpon hitting the surface as they gorge themselves on the bait fish. The birds are also a sight to behold as they frantically jab their beaks into the water and jockey for position on the branches. During this frenzy it is almost impossible to avoid catching a fish if you present the fly or lure anywhere even close to the action.
Tarpon do not have teeth so once they inhale the lure you really have to put your back into setting the hook. Also, you should have a minimum of a 20lb shock tippet on the end of the line to avoid losing the fish through abrasion. Tarpon are notorious for their fight so once you set the hook be prepared for a good fight. If you are interested in going on a fishing adventure on the Tarpon Lake then check with the Southern Cross Club about securing a guide.
For more info visit www.fishcayman.com/fishing_cayman.html
There are a number of places on the Island that sell fishing equipment. All of the companies below sell fishing equipment and specialty angling supplies though the brands and options available vary considerably from store to store.
Cayman’s annual fishing tournaments are hugely popular. The Cayman Islands Angling Club, in conjunction with the Barcadere Marina and other major sponsors puts on five tournaments during the year, including the annual Cayman Islands International Fishing Tournament, held every year in April or May. Exact dates depend on the moon.
Visit www.fishcayman.com for more information.
The weigh-in station for most of the Island’s fishing tournaments is held at the George Town Yacht Club based at the Barcadere Marina.
All fish pots must be licensed by the Marine Conservation Board and only Caymanians over the age of 18 may be granted a licence. There is a limit of only two pots per family and all pots must be identified with a DoE tag. No fish pots may be set within a one–mile radius of any designated Grouper Spawning Area from 1st November to 31st March. Fishing pot regulation sizes can be found on the DoE website. When entering the Cayman Islands you must declare all spearguns.
Email: email@example.com or call: (345) 949 8469 for information.
Lionfish Hunts & Culling Licences
Lionfish were first observed in Cayman waters in February 2008 and since then have become a significant threat to our marine ecosystem.
In light of the lionfish concerns, the DoE reviewed their recreational diving rules and now offer an Invasive Lionfish Tracker Course and issue attendees with a culling licence on completion. To register for their next training course email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be aware that lionfish are extremely venomous. Do not attempt to catch one without proper DoE training and a licence.
Several dive operators on-Island organise lionfish hunts and tournaments and you can sell the fish to restaurants. The Cayman United Lionfish League (CULL) hosts various lionfish tournaments throughout the year to raise awareness of the importance of our reefs, reduce the amount of invasive lionfish on the reefs and to encourage restaurants to offer locally culled lionfish dishes.