Anglers fishing Las Salinas and Hatiguanico River, both located within Zapata Peninsula in the Cuban province of Matanzas, stay at Hotel Horizontes Playa Larga on the shores of infamous Bahia de Cochinos (Bay of Pigs). Accommodations are spartan, but clean, comfortable and private, and breakfast and dinner are served in the main dinning room.
Additional dining options are available in town, minutes from the hotel, as several paladares, small restaurants operating from private homes, offer superb local cuisine, family style, in a clean and friendly environment.
Access to the national park is restricted, only those accompanied by a registered guide are allowed in, and despite the vastness of the area, fishing is limited to just 10 boats (with a maximum of 2 anglers on board) per day on the flats of Las Salinas, and only 4 boats in Hatiguanico River, to ensure the sustainability of the fisheries and a memorable angling experience for visitors.
Once you get there, you’ll have a moment to assemble your rods and reels on the covered deck, before you meet your guide, step on the boat, and head out for your day of fishing.
The miles and miles of protected shallows with a mixture of grass, limestone, mud and coral bottom, where an abundance of shrimp, crabs and baitfish thrive, are home to battalions of bonefish that consistently cruise, tail and mud View more... on the flats, and will readily attack a stealthy angler’s well-placed offering.
Bonefish in Las Salinas average 3 to 4 pounds, but larger specimens of up to 6 pounds are encountered regularly. In addition to the bones, mangrove and cubera snapper are also plentiful, especially near the mangroves and in deeper holes, mutton snapper frequently move in from the ocean to forage on the flats — following rays, and sometimes tailing in skinny water, much like permit, another likely species.
Barracuda, several types of jacks, and sharks of considerable size (many exceed 100 pounds) also patrol the area, and can be targeted throughout the day. And deeper in the backcountry, trophy snook share several shallow mangrove lagoons with equally impressive cubera.
The multitude of stocky land crabs often crossing the narrow road to Las Salinas, and the hundreds of colorful flamingos wading to your right and left along the way, make the 14-mile drive from the hotel in Playa Larga to the dock another big attraction.
Rio Hatiguanico is a spring-fed coastal river with tall tree lines on both banks and stretches as much as 30 feet deep, where visiting anglers equipped with weighted flies and sinking lines stand a good chance to hook up with large tarpon of 60 to 100 pounds. And some truly big snook lurking under the overhanging brush along the river banks might spice things up at any moment.
Variety is the name of the game at the series of openings connecting the protected bays of Las Salinas with the open ocean — known locally as “Las Bocas” (the mouths). That’s where a number of reef and pelagic species, including mutton, cubera, mangrove, school-master and yellowtail snapper, Spanish mackerel, various jacks and groupers, and big sharks and barracuda, converge on several deep, narrow channels to feed during certain stages of the tides.
Small mangrove islands adjacent to said channels host schools of juvenile tarpon, ranging from 8 to 20 pounds. Deep pools between some of the islands often harbor more than 100 of these tarpon, which give themselves away by suspending near the surface and rolling periodically to gulp air. Cast a small popper or slider in front of them, and watch mayhem unfold.
As if that weren’t enough, sandy ocean side shorelines and shallow shoals nearby also afford shots at larger bonefish, mutton snapper, as well as permit.
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