Largemouth Bass Fishing in Cuba
This is a fairly new and exciting land-based option near the Bay of Pigs in southern Cuba. This expansive freshwater fishery is located less than three hours’ drive from Havana, making it the perfect option for a shorter trip or an add-on to a week-long live-aboard or flats trip.
During the 1940s and 1950s, Cuba was famous for largemouth bass, and the lakes and reservoirs found throughout the island were considered world-class fisheries. More than 60 years later, the bass is still there, and now that access to the island has once again opened up, more and more people are focused on and interested in fishing for “la trucha negra” (the “Black Bass” of Cuba).
This package provides a huge amount of flexibility, where you can choose a multi-day bass-focused trip on the waters of Laguna Del Tesoro (Treasure Lake) or elect for a customized trip itinerary that includes largemouth fishing, flats fishing for permit and bones, and river fishing for tarpon. No other program in Cuba (or elsewhere in the Caribbean) offers this type of diversity. All packages can be completely customized and based on the species you want to focus on, the time of year, and the optimal number of days.
Anglers will stay at a private, anglers-only section of the Playa Larga Hotel, near the small town of Playa Larga. Guests stay in colorful bungalows that feature a front porch, interior sitting area, private bath with shower, two double beds, air conditioning, and hot water. There is also a private beach area available to angling guests only a short walk from the bungalows.
Playa Larga is a small fishing community located on the famous Bahia de Cochinos (Bay of Pig’s). On April 17, 1961, this beach was logged into the history books by the famous Bay of Pig’s Invasion and the attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro from power. Even though more than 1,400 Cuban exiles landed on this beach, they were quickly outnumbered and defeated by Cuban troops – an event that would come to define the Cold War era and US-Cuban relations during the 1960s. Now, the beach at Playa Larga is a popular place for Cubans taking a break from Havana during their summer vacations and for tourists from around the world to enjoy a refreshing dip and escape the Caribbean heat. Diver’s and snorkelers flock to this area for the easy access to wall diving in the waters of the Bay of Pigs, and anglers find amazing fishing in the nearby water of the Zapata Peninsula.
Food and Beverages
There are a variety of dining options in Playa Larga. El Ranchon is a newly-built private bar and grill for the angling guests staying at Playa Larga Hotel. Beers, spirits, sodas, water, and juices will be available at any time to guests at this small palapa cantina. This is where breakfast is served each morning. In addition, an abbreviated menu will be available 24 hours a day to anglers. For dinners each night, Yellow Dog packages include a visit to a different local paladar each evening. These paladars are private dining operations that have been set up in nearby towns, and hands-down they offer some of the best food in Cuba. Area paladars include Casa Alexis, Casa Mili, Paladar Chuchy el Pescador and Paladar Las Terrazas. We highly recommend these options for dinner, as the experience and the food are not to be missed.
Typical Length of Stay
Any length of stay can be accommodated. A package of any number of nights and guided fishing days can be arranged, and guests can arrive and depart on any day of the week. Additional days and nights in Havana or visits to other parts of Cuba can easily be arranged and itineraries can be fully customized. Combo trips between Zapata and other fishing areas can also be arranged if desired. Please contact Yellow Dog for more details.
Non-Angling Activities and Options
Non-angling activities include snorkeling, diving, bird watching and guided walking tours of the nearby Ciénaga de Zapata National Park. This area also offers some of the finest beaches in all of Cuba.
Wi-Fi is listed as “available” at the hotel, but the service is unpredictable at best and rarely works as advertised. The bottom line? Don’t plan on it while staying in Playa Larga. Keep in mind that U.S. cell phones currently DO NOT work anywhere in Cuba. Also, satellite phones are prohibited in Cuba and may be confiscated at the airport upon arrival.
How To Get There
One of the great benefits to this destination is its close proximity to Havana, which means that anglers can easily transfer to the area with no need for long journeys via bus or in-country flights. Depending on your flight arrival times, it is possible to transfer to this destination upon arrival to Cuba, avoiding an overnight in Havana altogether. All packages begin with arrival at Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport (HAV), where you can fly in and arrive from just about any place in the world. There are numerous daily flights in and out of Havana from the US, Mexico, Canada, the Bahamas, Jamaica, and numerous other countries. There are now direct, commercial flights from several major U.S. cities, including Miami, Atlanta, New York, and Ft. Lauderdale. Upon arrival into Havana, you will clear immigration and customs before heading to the main reception area of the airport, where you will be met for your transfer directly to Playa Larga. Alternatively, we can book you a hotel room in Havana upon arrival so that you have some time to experience this fantastic city (Yellow Dog certainly recommends at least a night to enjoy Havana if you have not yet visited this lively city).
Arrival and Departure Details / Times
Anglers typically fly into Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport (HAV) and can transfer directly to Playa Larga the same day if your arrival time into Havana is before 3 PM. The drive to Playa Larga takes about two and a half hours. Alternatively, you may stay in Havana and schedule an early morning transfer to Playa Larga and fish upon arrival. Yellow Dog can help with hotels, tours and full travel details associated with additional nights in Havana. For departures, if your departing flight times are noon or later, you can transfer directly from Playa Larga to Havana on your departure day.
A valid passport is required for all visitors to Cuba and must be valid for at least six (6) months beyond the duration of your stay. Citizens of the United States are also required to have a Cuban entrance visa can be secured when checking in for your direct flight to Cuba. You will be asked to sign an affidavit for your trip to Cuba and determine which OFAC category your trip qualifies for. Most of our trips qualify as an Educational or Person to Person trip to Cuba.
Yellow Dog works directly with and recommends Kanna Travel. They can assist with airline tickets, hotels, transfers and all travel logistics for every destination that we offer. Contact them at 855-739-3139 or [email protected] for more details on airfare ticketing, travel services, and trip insurance.
General Fishing Information
One of the things that make this fishing area so unique is the sheer diversity of species (both freshwater and saltwater) as well as the fishing opportunities and scenarios that are easily accessible. The main largemouth fishery in the area is Treasure Lake – a large, relatively shallow freshwater fishery with exceptional lily-pad banks, hidden lagoons, canals filled with downed trees, and structured shorelines. Tom Bie of The Drake Magazine visited Treasure Lake with Yellow Dog in 2018 and wrote about his experience in the Summer 2018 issue of the magazine: “Cuba has been relatively dismissed of late, despite a history of monster largemouth being caught there, and a decades-long tradition of bass-fishing culture on the island, as documented in the last chapter of Monte Burke’s 2005 book, Sowbelly. There are reasons for this, of course. The first being a 55-year U.S. ban on tourist travel to Cuba until the Obama Administration lightened the restrictions in December 2014. This lasted for almost three years, until November 2017, when President Trump announced plans to reverse those restrictions. He didn’t really reverse them, though. Americans can still travel to Cuba legally, and we can hop on a U.S.-based airline to do it. We just have to qualify for one of the 12 authorized travel categories or go with an approved travel provider (Yellow Dog), and stay away from any of the “banned businesses”—mainly owned by the Cuban government or military. In fact, some aspects of Cuban travel have actually become easier (hello, Cuban Airbnb!). So, world-record chasers, you might consider Cuba. Or if like me, you just love fishing for largemouth, and are more interested in a good pour of Havana Club 7 than with breaking any records, then you have even more reason to go. You’ll stay in clean, affordable, air-conditioned cabins in the town of Playa Larga, on the Bay of Pigs, just 10 minutes down the road from Treasure Lake, with a small restaurant/bar that opens early for anglers. Playa Larga is on the famed Zapata Peninsula, home to the bonefish and permit flats of Las Salinas, as well as the jungle tarpon and snook fishing of Rio Hatiguanico. You have options, is what I’m saying. If largemouth fishing isn’t happening, take a bonefish/permit day on Salinas Flats. If the forecast is for crappy light, then go for double-digit largemouth in the lake, or snook and baby tarpon on the Hatiguanico.”Aside from the lake fishing for bass, anglers can also opt to fish the flats of Las Salinas for bonefish and permit. With this option, anglers will transfer by a vehicle about an hour to Las Salinas fishing area which is part of the Ciénaga de Zapata National Park. Once rigged, you step onto the private docks and board your skiff(s) for the day. Anglers can expect to fish for bonefish and permit, with possibilities for other marine species (tarpon, snook, jacks, barracuda, etc.) as well. If you are fishing the Rio Hatiguanico, you will transfer by vehicle an hour and a half to a different park entrance to the expansive Ciénaga de Zapata Biosphere Reserve and National Park. The source of this gem of a fishery is a huge sweet water natural spring that flows westward into the Ensenada de la Broa and the open ocean. There are a small boathouse and staging area where you can rig your rods and step onto the comfortable boats for a short motor downriver to where the river opens up into a wide channel. There are over 14 kilometers of river channels to fish between the headwaters and staging area and the river mouth where it meets the salt. Tarpon and snook are the targeted species in the river.
Boats and Equipment
When fishing the waters of Laguna Del Tesoro, you will be fishing out of motorized, fiberglass skiffs that are very similar to old Boston Whalers. They are roomy, comfortable and ideal for fishing the shallows, channels, and lagoons that collectively define the largemouth bass fishery. When fishing the flats of nearby Las Salinas (for those that opt for combo days to the saltwater) you will be fishing from either a 16’ 8” foot 2016 Beavertail skiff (single occupancy) or a 17’6” foot 2016 Beavertail skiff (double occupancy). These Beavertail skiffs are specifically designed for very skinny water and are the ideal craft for accessing the far reaches of the expansive flats system. Wading boots are highly recommended for Las Salinas. When fishing for tarpon and snook on the Rio Hatiguanico, you will fish from either a 16 or 17-foot 2016 Bass Tracker with 40-50 HP Mercury motors. It is recommended that anglers bring all of their own fishing equipment. Flies, bass lures and plastic worms, leaders, tippet, all terminal tackle, and all accessories should be brought down, as very few items, if any, are available anywhere in Cuba.
Remember that Yellow Dog’s services are completely free! When you book a trip with Yellow Dog, you never pay more than when you book directly with the lodge or outfitter.
Trips of any length of stay can be arranged, so please call Yellow Dog for details and custom package pricing. We are also able to book accommodations in Havana to suit your needs.
Single Room / Single Boat (Price per person)
3 Nights / 4 Fishing days: $ 2,600.00
4 Nights / 5 Fishing days: $ 3,270.00
5 Nights / 6 Fishing days: $ 3,900.00
Double Room / Shared Boat (Price per person)
3 Nights / 4 Fishing days: $ 2,160.00
4 Nights / 5 Fishing days: $ 2,670.00
5 Nights / 6 Fishing days: $ 3,200.00
- Private ground transfers to/from Havana to Playa Larga
- Daily ground transfers to and from the fishery for Lago Del Tesoro or other nearby fisheries (Las Salinas or Rio Hatiguanico)
- Breakfast at hotel, packed cooler lunch, 2 soft drinks, 2 bottles of water and/or 6 beers per person per day
- Taxes and GSTs
- Dinners at local paladars (private eateries) and the Hotel Playa Larga
What’s Not Included:
- International flights to/from Havana (HAV)
- Hotel nights, meals, drinks, taxis, tours, and any additional expenses while in Havana
- Fishing tackle, equipment, flies and terminal tackle
- Cuban entrance visa (approx. USD $50.00)
- Gratuities for guides and hotel staff (must be paid in cash with CUCs)
- Gratuities for paladar dinners and hotel dining
- Beer or alcoholic beverages (available to purchase in route to Hotel if desired while fishing and available at meals, but not included in package price) in excess of daily allowance
Trip Deposit and Trip Cancelation Information
For all Cuba trips less than 90 days out, full payment is required to secure guides and reservations. For trips outside of 90 days, a 70% deposit is required within 10 days to hold and confirm reservations. Payment for all Cuba trip must be made in US dollars and can be made using check, money order or wire transfer only (no credit card payments for Cuba trips will be accepted and PLEASE do not write ‘Cuba’ in the memo of checks). Any cancellations on Cuba trips will incur a $250.00 Yellow Dog handling fee regardless of timing. Passport number, date of birth and full name (as printed in passport) is required to confirm any Cuba reservation. Outside of 180 days from the start of the trip, deposits are refundable minus an $800 Cuban operator handling fee, which will be held and retained by the operators unless the trip is resold. Inside of 180 days of the start date of the trip, all deposits and payments are non-refundable unless Yellow Dog or Cuban operator are able to resell your spot(s). No refunds are available for unused portions of packages. Trip cancellation insurance is highly recommended. Please note that credit card payments cannot be accepted for any incidentals or expenses once in Cuba. All programs and execution of programs remain subject to weather and other unforeseen circumstances. Claims for refunds from Cuban operators will not be accepted.