The Isle of Youth (isla de la Juvetud) is a world away from the crowded white sand beaches of Varadero and other more tourist focused areas in Cuba. It is only a short 25-minute flight directly south from Havana and it is the largest of the 350 islets in the Archipelago de los Canarreos. The area is comparable in size to the Florida Keys. This string of islands which includes Cayo Largo a little further to the east are the reason for the fabulous saltwater flats fishing in this area. A myriad of mangrove islets, sandy flats and turtle grass expanses comprise the bulk of the fishing area. The southern edge is ocean fronted which draws in large Tarpon all year round.
Alongside the Bonefish, which are numerous, it is the Tarpon that are one of the primary sources of interest for anglers visiting the Isle of Youth. The numbers of migratory Tarpon peak in May/June but good fishing can be had from April onwards. There are any number of inner mangrove lagoons and channels with a surprising depth of water which can draw in some of the largest Tarpon to be found in this area with Tarpon of 80-100lbs not uncommon. In addition some wide ocean channels provide excellent passages for Tarpon heading in or out from the sea and these in turn open into large expanses of flats providing excellent opportunities to sight fishcast for Tarpon. There are of course opportunities for Permit at the Isle of Youth alongside Barracuda, Jacks, Snook, Cubero Snapper and other saltwater species.
The guides at the Isle of Youth are all local to the area and as might be expected know the fishing grounds intimately. Given some guidance as to what you want to fish for and how you would like to fish, they will be able to work the area available to locate the best possible fishing whether that be on the flats for Tarpon, mangrove edges for Snook or Bonefish wherever they may be found.
Most of the fishing is done from the bow of the excellent Dolphin skiffs, powered with 70HP outboards. There are opportunities for wade fishing as well. All the guides receive comprehensive training, initially at Cayo Largo and then typically undergo further training at the Jardines de la Reina so by the time they return to the Isle of Youth (almost all the guides are local to the area) they are suitably experienced, can all speak between good and passable English and will work very hard to ensure you have a very enjoyable and productive week.
It is possible to fish all year round at the Isle of Youth however the most stable weather patterns are to be found from November to the end of July. Off-season, the Isle of Youth is susceptible to hurricanes with numerous islands eerily scarred by swathes of dead mangroves that have been stripped of their foliage. Temperatures range from 23 C in January to 28 C in August, which is the hottest month.
Isla de la Juventud is something of a forgotten paradise. It is the least developed of all the corners of Cuba and for no especially good reason other than possibly Fidel Castro decided to keep this area reserved for Cuba. Although it at one time had a Hilton Hotel, built on the Pirate Coast prior to the Cuban revolution, lack of investment and infrastructure means that other than Cubans relatively few foreigners visit the area. Those that do are more often than not a mix of anglers, scuba divers and the more inquisitive tourists looking for an unvarnished slice of Cuban life. Of note to anglers staying at Hotel Rancho there is a simple museum nearby within the notorious pre-revolution prison, Presidio Modelo as well as a nearby local beach and restaurant which are worth a visit. The Isle of Youth is a unique location. If you want to see how Cuba hums ‘Far from the madding crowd’ this should be the place to visit.
Anglers wishing to fish the Isle of Youth are now exclusively accommodated on a liveaboard yacht, which for the 2022 season will be Avalon 1, which will have exclusive access to the fishing area. This provides a higher level of comfort, top notch Cuban cuisine and excellent access to the fishing. It is the only boat operating in the whole of the Isle of youth area, with groups of 8-12 anglers being the optimum size. There are 8 large bedrooms with 7 en suite berths.
Over the week it will move anchorages, typically covering 3 locations, allowing anglers to fish the full expanse of the area whist cutting down on the travel time on a skiff.
For migratory Tarpon an 11 wt rod would be the optimal setup, fished with both a floating and an intermediate line depending on the location and the tides. Ideally having two rods set up on the skiff allows maximum flexibility. For Bonefish, an 8 wt fished with a floating line and for Permit a 9wt although your Bonefish rod can also be used. Finally having a 10Wt on the boat for other species such as Barracuda, Jacks or Snapper, again using a floating line. It is worth noting that as you will be sharing a skiff, both anglers do not need to have a full complment of rods each, you just need to havre enough to allow you to switch easily and quickly as and when an opportunity arises.
Arrive in Havana
Met at airport and overnight Havana
Fly to Isle of Youth
Transfer to Avalon 1
6 Full days fishing
Fly to Havana
Flight schedules to and from the Isle of Youth are open to change without much by way of notice. This is not impacted so much as to when the reservation is made but simply how aeroplanes are allocated to meet demand within Cuba. If you would like to ensure that you have a specific period of time in Havana you should extend your stay in Havana by a couple of additional nights.
Outside of WWMF hosted trips, Avalon 1 is only available as an exclusive full yacht reservation. Please discuss for group rates.
Note Itinerary is for 6 days fishing
Included: All transfers & flights in Cuba with exception of international airport to Havana hotel on arrival and departure, full board onboard Avalon including drinks
Not Included: Hotel & expenses in Havana, , Tips, Visas, Airport tax
The best fishing is from January to August with the high season running from February to May and the prime migratory Tarpon fishing being at its best from mid May-end of June. Good Bonefishing can be had all year round but you do run the risk of more unsettled weather from August to November.
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