Snappin’ great time in Cuba……

For the third year in a row, Birdee and I have headed South just after Christmas for some fun in the sun.  It’s been a bit of a deal we struck since I’m away so much throughout the year that she gets to have her time on the beach which she has really come to enjoy.  I love it too so it’s certainly a win-win deal for us!
Our first trip was to the Mayan Riviera which we enjoyed, but last year we went to Cuba.  After last year we decided Cuba was the spot for us.  The people are awesome and the beaches are second to none.
We have done some fishing on these trips in the past but it was always sketchy.  Ridiculous charter boats costs which amounted to nothing more than a boat ride were the standard fare.  Trying to figure it out on your own was difficult in most cases simply because you have no idea where anything is and could spend days exploring for nothing.  We lucked in last year by meeting a Cuban fella named Alexei at the resort we were staying at.  We immediately began to talk about fishing for our next trip down.  We kept in contact over the year and once our trip this year was booked we began to set some plans in place.
This year we had an added bonus as friends of ours joined us last minute.  Many of you know Charles Sim from his tournament fishing success and his wife Eimer came along on what was supposed to “not be a fishing trip”.  Charles likely spends as much or more time on the water a year than I do so these trips are also his “make-up” deals.  We agreed to tone it down to only a few days and then spend the rest of the time with our ladies, which was fine by us.
We stayed at Sol Cayo Guillermo.  Birdee and I loved the place and would go back in a heartbeat.  Charles and Eimer took ill a few of the days and it certainly made their vacation tougher but they battled through it and we all had a great time.
The main entrance to the resort.
The gardens and surroundings were lush and loaded with flora and fauna.
Ya ok.  I know.  Where’s da FEESH????
We had arranged a full day with Alexei to fish numerous shore spots on the first day.  He had arranged a cab for us for the day at a cost of about $80 so we could hop from spot to spot throughout the day, we fished about a dozen causeways and landed numerous fish.  It was a great way to see the countryside while out for a fish.
I had brought my two Carp fishing setups with me (12 foot rods with 65 lb PowerPro) while Charles brought two lighters setups (7 foot rods with 30 lb PowerPro).  I began throwing bigger baits while Charles decided to stay with the lighter stuff.  At one of our first stops I caught a small Barracuda on a Crankbait.  Thinking that would be the first of a few we flipped it off without a picture.  Ah well, that was my one and only Cuda.
Charles began to get absolutely slammed by Snappers right near shore.  They weren’t big by any means but man do they absolutely crush a crankbait.  This was the average size, but they would fool you every time making you think you finally had a better fish on!
At one of our next stops I looked over to see Charles rod bent in half.  Cuda he yells!  Not a big one, but man what a set of choppers.
Next stop we hit a much larger bridge with 3 pillars under it.  They were big enough to create a nice eddy behind each one so we spread out to work those eddies.  I took a long cast right into the eddy and my crankbait gets crushed!  I’m thinking “Yeah baby!”  As the line peels off my reel I’m praying to at least get a glimpse of what this is.  Alexei came down to survey the situation.
He warned me there was a rock out there to watch out for but it was too late.  The fish had gone out and around the rock and had me pinned.
I let all the line out hoping it would come off that rock but to no avail I was left with no choice but to break it off.  Man did that suck.  Ah well.  Once you’ve hooked a few fish in saltwater you quickly realize these fish are just in another league compared to ANYTHING we have here at home.  It is truly remarkable.
Alexei was great to fish with and helped us out a lot that day by showing us all his spots.  My favorite line from him all day was this one.  As I’m retying a new bait on after breaking that one off he grabbed my 30 lb test line for a looksie.  He says, “There are alot of ways to lose a bait out here and this is one of them”  Then laughed as he bombed his 65 lb test line back out into the sea.
We tipped our Cab driver with some of the fish we caught and the locals loved us as well as their handline setups were getting schooled by our cranks.  A few fish dropped in their pails were greeted by friendly smiles and appreciation for the two big Canadian Fishin’ Dudes.
The next day Alexei had set us up with Duniesky.  Like I do for all my fishing I do a ton of research.  After perusing many sites I set my sights on this guide.  He’s known to be the best and a real character.  Our way of thanking Alexei was to have him join us for our day on Duniesky’s boat.
Now to precursor this day you need to know the wind has been howling out of the North since we arrived.  I urged Alexei to let Duniesky know we didn’t necessarily need to go that day and could wait for lighter seas if need be.  A late evening phone call the night before confirmed we were good to go and we’d be getting picked up at 6:30.
They arrived with their Cab Driver in a Toyota Tercel.  When the cabbie saw us his eyes kinda popped out of his head.  “Gonna be tight!”  Well we showhorned in for the ride.  It’s an 85 km trek over to where his boat is stowed on Cayo de Paradon.  On the way the adventure was suddenly sidetracked.  The roads in Cuba are certainly not the best and our cab driver decided it was best to run over a melon sized boulder instead of the big pothole beside it.  BANG!
We hop out and the three of them are on it like a NASCAR crew.  Duniesky is holding the tire so the air stops coming out of it.  Charles and I step back thinking two things:  1. Where the hell are we? and 2.  Is our day over?
They jacked the car up and while we thought they were going to get a spare, they popped the tire off the car and beat the rim back somewhat round with the tire iron.  We couldn’t believe it.  In under 10 minutes we were back driving like nothing even happened!  Unreal.
We were dropped off at a Lighthouse area while Duniesky made the run to get the boat which is moored about 10 kms away.  It turned out to be too rough for him to run with us all in the boat and to save time he made the run alone.  We made a few casts there but really just sat back and took it all in.  Awesome spot.  Untouched beaches which yielded some great Conch shells that Birdee loved.
Duniesky arrived soon after with the boat.  It’s roughly 18-19 foot with a 60 Yammy on the back.  Plenty of room for the four of us to cast from.  We shoved off into the now rolling seas.  The gameplan was to drift the flat which was that stunning turquoise colour that held large patches of reef.  It became very obvious to Charles and I where the fish were.  See a dark spot.  Hit it!
On my third cast I nearly had the rod taken out of my hands!  Completely snoozing still working out the kinks on how to present these jerkbaits with my 12 foot Carp rods I just wasn’t ready for that.  Gone.  No biggie.
Alexei informed us to leave the lighter gear at home because it just would not work out there, not enough line.  So we went with the two Carp setups.  Just imagine trying to use an X-Rap or Yo-Zuri jerkbait properly using a 12 foot rod and heavy reel.  After an hour it felt like our arms were about to fall off.  Then the fish came and adrenaline took over!
Charles and I had a riot.  We all landed a pile of fish throughout the day that included various Snappers, Groupers, TriggerFish, Grunts, a KingFish and a few other smaller fish that attacked our baits.  Man it was fun catching them while casting instead of the usual sea trolling.  While out on the drift we also came across some Dolphins and a Sea Turtle, just really cool to see.
When approached one reef,  I launched a cast of about 75 yards downwind onto it.  Jerked the rod twice and it got tattoed!  This time I was ready and rammed the hook home.  What happened in the next 20 seconds will take me awhile to shake from my mind.  Line is screaming off my reel, and I mean screaming.  Duniesky tried to tighten my drag to no drag, which he did but it didn’t make any difference.  This fish was headed to the USA!  By the time he announced “We chase!” every inch of PowerPro was off my reel and “Tink!” Gone.  I have no idea what it was but my lord the power in this fish was unreal.  Charles was giggling the whole time and we both agreed that there was little to no chance of landing whatever the heck that was!  Pure Insanity.  I want more!
Our fish count was now up near 20 and we started to make our way back towards the lighthouse which is now a distant blip in the distance.  Trying to make our way back in what are now 4 and 5 foot rollers was fun.  I took a few over the bow and right into my face.  Duniesky stopped a few times to make sure we were ok and we told them they looked a lot more worried than we were as we’ve seen worse than this!
We stopped just behind a rock point that was a bit sheltered for the last hour or so of casting.  Shortly after that I hear Duniesky from the bow yelling and carrying on from the bow of the boat.  I look out to where he casted to see a fish in the area of his bait.  And by fish, I mean FISH.  This thing had to be 2 feet across its back!  It was just insane to see a fish that size so close.  He’s yelling at it in Spanish probably something like “Hit it you big ^#_@*#@_#(!”.  Charles and I stood there in awe watching this thing come closer.  It came about 20 feet from the boat, turned sideways to us and swam by the boat.  Without hesitation I’d say it was 8 to 9 feet long, roughly half the size of the boat!  Charles and I just looked at each other and shook our heads.  We thought it was a Shark.  Duniesky said Yellow Fin Tuna.  Either way it was a giant fish.
Our day ended with saltwater encrusted eyes and sunburnt faces but man what a blast!  Duniesky made the run back with the boat while Alexei cleaned up some of our catch they decided to keep.
Charles and his KingFish.  This fish was stunning when it first came aboard.  Sadly it was just way too rough to even attempt on the water photos, standing up and staying in the boat seemed like the higher priority.
One of the many Snappers we landed.
The Snappers were like giant RockBass with nice choppers.
Thanks to Charles for coming along, he wasn’t feeling the best but once he locked into a fish he was fine!
We made the ride back to the resort without issue, shook hands and snapped a quick photo.  Great guys and some good fishin’!
That concluded the fishing part of our trip.  We could have gone and played around at the local spots but the sun and pool kept us on the resort.  The wind did let up one day and we were able to make our way out into the ocean.  Birdee came across this fella.
The view looking back to our resort.
New Years Eve was a blast!  The Buffet was incredible.
Charles and I were a hit on the dancefloor!
We rung in the New Year and finally hit the hay around 4AM.

Birdee and I had a great week.  We’re already talking about next year!