Sport Fishes in Antigua
These fish are the ones you will be interested in as a fisherman looking for sport. They are typical of the Caribbean and some are pelagic meaning they traverse great distances on ocean currents and are found worldwide so long as they like the water temperature and have food! Depending on the species you will need different techniques for catching them.
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Found in the shallows hunting in packs.
The Bonefish is often targeted by fly fishermen but it is also caught with spinners or bait. They are a shoaling species and fly fisherman track one that is on the outer edge of the shoal – casting the fly and stripping to the outer edge attempts to not spook the pack. Skiffs are useful to find good fishing grounds.
Often shortened to simply King Fish the King Mackerel is on the deep sea fishermans radar but won’t normally be a very big fish if they get one typically from 5lb to 30 lb though bigger is possible up to 90lb.
By Stephen Ewen
Unmistakeable hanging out on the reef almost like princes surveying their playground a school of Barracudas is often to be found. They can get to really good sizes and seem to relax the older bigger they get. No bad thing as the smaller jacks have a lot of nerve and are aggressive.
Lets have a look at a barracuda albeit a baby in this video – wait until the tarpon plays through..
If I go open water swimming as often as not I can turn around to find a smaller Barracuda following me!
Image Credit Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2548165
They are a popular target species for sport or game fishing in Antigua and throughout the tropical waters of the world in fact as they are found almost everywhere. I have heard of a story that to test a steak of Barracuda you must give some to the ants and let them decide if it has potentially harmful Ciguautera. It can still be found often on the menu throughout the Caribbean and it perhaps has an unfair tag in this way.
The Barracuda has stripes often running from top to bottom sometimes as triangles. Spots are also common. Depending on the species and there are almost 30 (28) species they can range in the accent from blues grey and green tints but overall a silvery looking missile of a fish. Created for short bursts of speed they feed on fish sometimes even larger than themselves by tearing and biting them eventually in half. They will take opportunistic smaller prey from the reef as well.
More commonly known as Blue Marlin or simply Marlin this is a most prized fish for the game fisherman. There are few fish that reach it’s appeal for it is a magnificent animal indeed. Of course found in the Atlantic but also in Caribbean waters including of course Antigua. It is a global species being pelagic in nature. It is classed as vulnerable so efforts to catch and release must be preserved.
The bill of the blue marlin is used to control the fish boat side after a good fight. It takes a lot of good tackle to land one of these from the boat to the hook.
Image credit – elaine moore
Something you probably didn’t know is that it is on the national coat of arms for the Bahamas as it is their national fish!
Fishing for Blue Marlin in Antigua
The season for blue marlin in Antigua is from May to October. Trolling with an experienced crew is your only realistic option if you are reading this.
The females get bigger than the males and can get beyond 800 Kg. They have sunk fishing boats before– Marlin sinks boat.
Here is a video of a guy landing a big blue marlin in Antigua.
NOAA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
The Atlantic Tarpon can be found inshore and off the coast of Antigua not going into the deeper water. They are somewhat targeted as they make an excellent fighting fish and fly techniques suit their surface behaviours. Many Tarpon can be found lazing around the dock edges waiting for the fishermen to throw them a bite good luck throwing a lure they are well fed and might tease you.
I have a particular fondness for the tarpon as it looks prehistoric with big classical silver scales and a big head the lower jaw extends farther forward suggesting it can take surface food at a shallow angle.
If you are interested in targeting this fish in Antigua visit our Antigua Fishing Charters page.
Did you know ?
The Tarpon is required to occasionally visit the surface to breathe! Depending on the amount of dissolved o2 (oxygen) in the water the frequency of this changes.
Read more about Tarpon
Setup for Tarpon fishing – A work in progress looking at the tackle needed to start fly fishing for Tarpon.
Antigua Nick pioneering a technique of float tubing and fly fishing for Tarpon in Antigua (scroll down for Tarpon).
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation have a lot of interesting facts about Tarpon on this page. I knew it just looking at a tarpon the size of the eye and scales suggested they are prehistoric. I love their look.
Known by a few names depending on where in the world you are; Dorado, or Dolphin fish the latter I dislike as it just leads to confusion in the non sea fishing world. They don’t have an extraordinary lifespan 5 years being uncommon more typical 4 years so they don’t get too big. No this is a catch for the beauty of the ray finned creature. A 30lb fish is considered a real specimen. They hunt only on the surface and will be usually caught trolling.
This looks like a female as they have rounder heads the males have a big pronounced forehead.
Fishing for Mahi Mahi
The season for fishing mahi mahi is May to December trolling along weed lines of sargassum can be an effective technique. They can also be taken with a fly though this method is less common you might troll with balyhoo as an alternative. Your localAntiguan Charter will set you right on the best techniques here.
They love to feed on flying fish, mackerel but will also eat crabs squid and smaller crustaceans and zooplankton if forced. They grow fast and are not considered under threat specifically.
Frigate birds will sometimes indicate the presence of such fish – they like to hang round seaweed or debris in the ocean offshore looking for surface feeding opportunities.
The BBC has cut an amazing piece of footage of Mahi Mahi along with frigate birds hunting flying fish. The flying fish are between the devil and the deep blue sea. Don’t miss this!
Mahi Mahi are found in many restaurants in Antigua and touristic areas where there is sport fishing. It is a great tasting fish if you have never tried it.
Male of the species with it’s prominent 'bull' head.
I think a tiny permit the size of your hand was the first fish I ever caught in Antigua. It was in Dickenson Bay shore fishing with an awful rod and reel scrounged from my Jolly Harbour condo garage. The reel fell in 2 bits in the end in jolly harbour where the boats come in and Tarpon cruise (why I was there). I didn’t fancy going in the water for its quality and the tarpon. Chicken that I was I am alive to write about that experience. Now back to my tiny Permit ! Interesting this catch was because of how hard Permit are to catch – as I had awful tackle line and lure. A plastic rubbery thing not big and had a popper float causing the interest to any fish. I caught this size and type of fish again but that was about it for a week or so of fishing.
It seems Permit of decent size are hard to spot and sometimes the only way to see them is their dorsal fins coming out of the water and their shadows on the sea bed. If you do they are wily indeed. So catching a permit is an honour indeed.
Photo credit Tom Purves Flickr Permit
Catching Permit in Antigua
Some catch permit from wrecks deeper than their habitat suggests. In fact they may only head for the shallows to feed. In the shallows Permit are very easily spooked with fantastic senses try to limit your contact – smell in the water noise and sight. Cast to one side on a plug or fly – often a great cast is ignored. Maybe freeline a crab ! Let us know. Read this guide for more ideas on catching Permit.
Liking shallow tropical water they can be found alone or in schools. They in fact spawn offshore but live as young among surf and water movement to enliven their prey– invertebrates. They feed on crabs small fish and shrimps form their food normally as they get bigger.
Make sure you keep a distance if you are wading near to a school as they can be somewhat aggressive and have a decent mouth to give bite if not take you down (this is all online chatter however).
For a long time I confused or was calling this fish a gar. That is a different freshwater fish, needlefish are salt water fishes inhabiting mostly shallows and you see them easily near the surface of tropical marinas for example.