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Baracoa, Cuba: Bay and Fishing Boats

Bay and Fishing Boats in Baracoa, Cuba

Photo by Adam Jones, via Creative Commons.

Baracoa is looking quite remote, but also like a good place to fish!

Baracoa is a municipality and city in Guantánamo Province near the eastern tip of Cuba. It was founded by the first governor of Cuba, the Spanish conquistador Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar in August 15 of 1511. It is the oldest Spanish settlement in Cuba and was its first capital (the basis for its nickname Ciudad Primada, “First City”).

Baracoa is located on the spot where Christopher Columbus landed in Cuba on his first voyage. It is thought that the name stems from the indigenous Arauaca language word meaning “the presence of the sea.”

The original inhabitants of the island were Taíno. They were eradicated by the Spanish all over Cuba except here and this is the only place where descendants still live. A local hero is Hatuey, who fled from the Spanish in Hispaniola and raised a Taíno army to fight the Spanish in Cuba. According to the story Hatuey was betrayed by a member of his group and sentenced to burn at the stake. It is said that just before he died a Catholic priest tried to convert him so he would attain salvation; Hatuey asked the priest if Heaven was the place where the dead Spanish go. When he received an answer in the affirmative he told the priest that he’d rather go to Hell.

Christopher Columbus landed in Cuba in a place he named Porto Santo. It is generally assumed from his description that this was Baracoa, although there are also claims it was Gibara. But Columbus also described a nearby table mountain, which is almost certainly nearby El Yunque. He wrote in his logbook … the most beautiful place in the world …I heard the birds sing that they will never ever leave this place…. According to legend, Columbus put a cross called Cruz de la Parra in the sands of what would later become Baracoa harbor.

Around 15 August 1511 (the official foundation day) Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar was appointed the first governor of Cuba and built a villa here and named the place ‘Nuestra Señora de la Asunción de Baracoa’, thus making Baracoa the first capital of Cuba.[3] In 1518 it received the title of city and the first Cuban bishop was appointed here. As a result several remains of the Spanish occupation can still be seen here, such as the fortifications El Castillo, Matachín and La Punta and the cemetery.

In the 16th and 17th centuries the isolated location made it a haven for illegal trade with the French and English. At the beginning of the 19th century many French fled here from the revolution of independence in Haiti, who started growing coffee and cocoa.

Baracoa lies on the Bay of Honey (Bahía de Miel) and is surrounded by a wide mountain range (including the Sierra del Purial), which causes it to be quite isolated, apart from a single mountain road built in the 1960s.

The remote location at the eastern end of the Cuban island has kept the influence of mass tourism quite low, despite the idyllic location. Baracoa can be reached by bus from Santiago de Cuba (4 hours) or by plane from Havana (2 hours).

To the east the Fuerte Matachín (built in 1802) is still standing and contains houses and museums. To the west the Fuerte La Punta (built in 1803) houses a restaurant; there is a small beach next to the fort. The third fort, El Castillo, which sits on a steep hill with a commanding view of the town and both bays, is now Hotel El Castillo. The other hotels in Baracoa are Hotel Porto Santo, Hotel La Rusa, Hostal La Habanera and Villa Maguana. There are also a few casas particulares. The Catedral Nuestra Señora de la Asunción houses the earings[clarification needed] of the Cruz de la Parra, a cross that Cali is supposed to have brought from Spain. Although it has been carbon dated to approximately that period, it is made from a local type of wood, which means at least part of the story is not correct.

There are two music venues near the central Parque Independencia, the touristy Flan de Queso and the more traditional Casa de la Flana.

Nearby are the rivers Miel and Toa, the latter of which has many waterfalls, the best known of which is ‘el Saltadero’, which is 17 m high.

The 575 m high table mountain el Yunque (the anvil) is 10 km to the west of Baracoa. It is a remnant of a plateau and because of its isolation it houses several unique species of ferns and palms. The only official and easiest approach to climb it starts at campismo El Yunque (simple lodgings for Cubans only), where a guide is obligatory (about 15 euro).

From Baracoa, it is possible to visit the Parque Nacional Alejandro de Humboldt located about 20 kilometers north.

Salto Fino is the highest waterfall in the Caribbean, located in this municipality, is produced by a sudden drop in the Arroyo del Infierno (Hell’s stream), a tributary of the Quibijan river. That river, along with 71 others, flows into the Toa river, which is the largest river in Cuba. The 305-meter-high Salto Fino waterfall is recorded as the 20th highest water chute in the world.”

All courtesy of Wikipedia.

Havana Harbor

Havana Harbor, Gateway To Havana.

Havana Harbor is the port of Havana, the capital of Cuba, and it is the main port in Cuba (not including Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, a territory on lease by the United States). Most vessels coming to the island make port in Havana. Other port cities in Cuba include Cienfuegos, Matanzas, Manzanillo and Santiago de Cuba.


The harbor was created from the natural Havana Bay which is entered through a narrow inlet and which divides into three main harbors: Marimelena, Guanabacoa, and Atarés.

It was fortified by the Spaniards in the sixteenth century who in 1553 transferred the governor’s residence to Havana from Santiago de Cuba on the eastern end of the island, thus making Havana the de facto capital. The importance of these fortifications was early recognized as English, French, and Dutch sea marauders attacked the city in the 16th century.[1] Later fortifications included the Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña, known asLa Cabaña or Fort of Saint Charles, built in the 18th-century on the elevated eastern side of the harbor entrance as the largest fortress complex in the Americas. The fort rises above the 200-foot (60 m) hilltop, beside Morro Castle. Castillo de la Real Fuerza and San Salvador de la Punta Fortress, both constructed in sixteenth century, sit on the western side of the harbor in Old Havana.

The Battle of Havana was a two-month siege of the harbor defenses by the British in 1762.

USS Maine

In January 1898 the USS Maine, the largest vessel to come out of an American shipyard, was dispatched to Cuba to protect US interests there. At the time more than 8,000 US citizens resided in the country, and their safety could not be assured in the state of affairs at that time. On February 15, 1898 the Maine exploded and sank in the harbor . It became a major rallying call for the Spanish-American War, and it caused the US to finally intercede on Cuba’s behalf. In 1910 the wreck was removed from the harbor as it was posing a hazard to navigation. It was sunk in deep water in the Gulf of Mexico with proper military ceremonies.[3][4]

La Coubre

On March 4, 1960, the harbor was the scene of a deadly explosion when the French freighter La Coubre, carrying 76 tons of Belgian munitions, was being unloaded. The cause of the blast, which killed an estimated 100 people, is often attributed to the CIA who wished to overthrow the new government of Fidel Castro.[5]

For more information, please see Havana Harbor.

Cubera Snapper

Cubera Snapper, A Great Sport Fish.

Cuban Fishing, Cubera Snapper, 3/13/15:  cubera snapper are a great sport fish in Cuba and the Florida Keys, reaching weights of more than 100 lbs.

“The Cubera snapper, Lutjanus cyanopterus, is a species of snapper native to the western Atlantic Ocean from Nova Scotia to the Amazon River in Brazil, though it is rare north of Florida. It can also be found in the Caribbean Sea and, rarely, in the Gulf of Mexico. It inhabits areas associated with reefs, preferring areas with rocky substrates. It can be found at depths from 18 to 55 metres (59 to 180 ft). This species can reach a length of 160 cm (63 in), though most do not exceed 90 cm (35 in). The greatest recorded weight for a specimen of this species is 57 kg (126 lb). It is commercially important and is also sought-after as a game fish, though it has been reported to cause ciguatera poisoning.[2]

Source: Cubera Snapper.

Featured Image: Cubera Snapper By Tom Hart, Via Creative Commons.

Fishing Boats

Fishing Boats, Coast Of Cuba.

Cuban Fishing, Fishing Boats, 3/12/15:  typical fishing boats seen on west and north coasts of Cuba.

“Cayo Guillermo is a kay of the Jardines del Rey archipelago. It is located on the northern coast of Cuba, between the Bay of Dogs (Bahia de Perros) and the Atlantic Ocean. It is part of the Ciego de Ávila Province, and lies in the Morón municipality.

The island is a popular tourist destination, with four all-inclusive resorts located on the north side of the island: Allegro Club Cayo Guillermo (of the Occidental group; formerly the Gran Caribe Villa Cojimar), Iberostar Daiquiri, Melia Cayo Guillermo and the Sol Cayo Guillermo (the last two hotels are owned by the Sol Melia Group. These 4 hotels offer a total of 1,161 rooms on the island. Just east of the resorts by the causeway to Cayo Cocois a marina used by yachts, sport fishing and tour boats. One of the country’s best beaches, the Playa Pilar (Pilar Beach) is located at the western end of Cayo Guillermo. This beach is named after Ernest Hemingway‘s yacht, the cabin cruiserPilar. The island provides the setting for the climax of Hemingway’s last novel Islands in the Stream[1]

Access to the island is possible through the Jardines del Rey Airport (Aeropuerto Jardines del Rey) (IATA: CCCICAO:MUCC) as well as by means of a long causeway from mainland Cuba to Cayo Coco leading to a second shorter causeway to Cayo Guillermo, connecting the two kays.

Sparsely inhabited in early years by fishermen and charcoal producers, the island gained fame in the 1960s with deep sea fishermen. The first resort was built in 1993 in an era known as “Tourist apartheid” as Cuban citizens were not allowed on the island unless they worked at the resorts serving tourists. However this restriction was lifted after 2000 and Cubans who can afford motor transport often visit Playa Pilar on the island.[2] Many staff who work in the hotels commute from the distant mainland town of Morón.

Source:  Cayo Guillermo.

Featured image: Fishing Boat, West Coast, Cuba by Rod Waddington, Via Creative Commons.

Cast Net Fishing In Havana

Throwing The Cast Net; Fishing In Havana.

Cuban Fishing, Havana, 3/11/15:  A fisherman throws a cast net in the harbor to catch bait fish.

“The Gulf Stream along Cuba’s north coast is prime game-fishing territory. Sailfish, swordfish, tuna and marlin abound, and deep-sea fishing excursions can be booked in major resort areas at almost any time of the year. There are excellent prospects off the shores of Cayo Guillermo, where Hemingway spent so many happy hours; and Havana’s two marinas have excellent facilities for anglers. The Ernest Hemingway International Marlin Fishing Tournament is held here every June.

Cuba offers excellent freshwater fishing inland as well – from fly-fishing in Ciénaga de Zapata, to angling for largemouth bass at Laguna la Redonda in Ciega de Ávila or Embalse Zaza, east of Trinidad.”  Source: Cuba Fishing

Fishing The Malecón

Cuban Fishing, 3-7-15, Malecon Sunset By ManWithAToyCamera Via Creative Commons.
Cuban Fishing, 3-7-15, Malecon Sunset By ManWithAToyCamera Via Creative Commons.

Cuban Fishing, 3-7-15, Fishing On The Malecón.

Cuban Fishing, 3/7/15:  Many Cubans, particularly those of more limited means, fish the Malecón for fish to eat and sell.

The Malecón (officially Avenida de Maceo) is a broad esplanade, roadway and seawall which stretches for 8 km (5 miles) along the coast in Havana, Cuba,[1]from the mouth of Havana Harbor in Old Havana, along the north side of the Centro Habana neighborhood, ending in the Vedado neighborhood. New businesses are appearing on the esplanade due to economic reforms in Cuba that now allow Cubans to own private businesses.[2]

Construction of the Malecón began in 1901, during temporary U.S. military rule.[3]

Cuban Fishing, 3-7-15, Malecon By francois.sorrentino Via Creative Commons.
Cuban Fishing, 3-7-15, Malecon By francois.sorrentino Via Creative Commons.

The main purpose of building the Malecón was to protect Havana from the water and the so-called Nortes, but in reality, it wound up serving more for nighttime promenades by Habaneros, for lovers and most of all for individual fishermen.[3]

To celebrate the construction of the first 500m section of the Malecón, the American government built a beautiful roundabout at the intersection of Paseo del Prado, which, according to architects of the period, was the first one built in Cuba with steel-reinforced concrete. In front of the roundabout, where every Sunday bands played Cuban melodies, the Miramar Hotel was built, which was very much in fashion for the first 15 years of independence and which was the first one where the waiters wore tuxedos (dinner jackets), vests (waistcoats) with gold buttons, and did not have moustaches.[3]

Cuban Fishing, 3-7-15, Pescador en el malecon By Fredo_photo Via Creative Commons.
Cuban Fishing, 3-7-15, Pescador en el malecon By Fredo_photo Via Creative Commons.

Subsequent Cuban governments continued the extension of the first section of the Malecón. In 1923 it reached the mouth of theAlmendares River between K and L streets in Vedado, where theUnited States Embassy was built, the José Martí Sports Park and further out, the Hotel Rosita de Hornedo, today, the Sierra Maestra.[3]

The Malecón continues to be popular among Cubans, especially among those of lesser means whose other means of entertainment are limited.[3]

It is also a means of income for poorer families, as individual fishermen cast their lures there.

Source:  Malecón, Havana.

Pez Mariposa

Pez Mariposa, Butterfly Fish.

Cuban Fishing, 3/7/15:  Peces Mariposa or Butterfly Fish are a group of tropical marine fish found in Cuba.

Cuban Fishing, 3/7/15:  Pez Mariposa, Chelmon Rostratus By Jacinta Iluch Valero Via Creative Commons.
Cuban Fishing, 3/7/15: Pez Mariposa, Chelmon Rostratus By Jacinta Iluch Valero Via Creative Commons.

“Peces Mariposa, the family Chaetodontidae or butterfly fish, are a group of conspicuous tropical marine fish. Found mostly in reefs of the Atlantic , Indian and Pacific , are somewhat small, 12-22 cm in length (the larger species, such Lined butterflyfish , reach 3 dm). There are approximately 127 species in twelve genera. Not to be confused with Freshwater butterflyfish family of Pantodontidae .

They are generally diurnal and surface waters less than 18 m (some still reach 180 m), and these are very territorial corallivorous in the coral. In contrast, those who eat zooplankton form large conspecific groups. At night rooming in crevices and cracks of the reef and exhibits marked differences in coloration with the daytime.

They are pelagic spawning; that is, maintain their buoyant eggs in water becoming part of the plankton, floating in the currents until hatching. The small beings pass through the tolichtis stadium, where the body of post-larval fish is covered with sheets ranging in his head. This curious, armed stage occurs only other single family of fish; the Scatophagidae . Then the fish loses these sheets matures.”

Source:  Butterfly Fish.

Feature Image:  Pez Mariposa, Cuba By Bernd Kirschner, Via Creative Commons.

Marrajo Dientuso

The Marrajo Dientuso Or Shortfin Mako Shark.

Cuban Fishing, 3/7/15:  Ernest Hemingway wrote about the dientuso or “dentuso” in “The Old Man and the Sea.”

… “But I killed the shark that hit my fish, he thought. And he was the biggest dentuso that I have ever seen. And God knows that I have seen big ones.”

Cuban Fishing, 3-7-15, Mako Shark Or Dientusu, n280_w1150 by Biodiversity Heritage Library, Via Creative Commons.

“The shortfin mako or marrajo dientuso is a common, extremely active, offshore littoral and epipelagic speciesfound in tropical and warm temperate seas but seldom occurring in waters below 16°C.  This shark occurs from the surface down to at least 152 m.

Cuban Fishing, 3-7-15, Mako Shark Or Dientusu By Nik Wilets Via Creative Commons.
Cuban Fishing, 3-7-15, Mako Shark Or Dientuso By Nik Wilets Via Creative Commons.

The peregrine falcon of the shark world, the shortfin mako may be the fastest shark and one of the swiftest and most active fishes. It is famed as a jumper, leaping several times its length from the water, and is capable of extreme bursts of speed when hooked and in pursuit of prey. For a shark of such great fame, particularly in the angling literature, knowledge of its biology is surprisingly sketchy. The shortfin mako, in the extreme northern and southern parts of its range, has a tendency to follow movements of warm water masses polewards in the summer. General movements of this shark are not well known.

This species is ovoviviparous and a uterine cannibal, with 4 to 16 young in a litter.  The shortfin mako is primarily an eater of other fishes, with a wide variety of prey including mackerel, tuna, bonito, and other scombrids, anchovies, herring, grunts, lancetfish, cod, ling, whiting and other gadids, Australian salmon (Arripis ), yellowtails and other carangids, sea bass, porgies, swordfish, and other sharks(blue sharks, Prionace, gray sharks, Carcharhinus, and hammerheads Sphyrna ), but also sea turtle heads, a ‘porpoise’ (probably a pelagic dolphin), and also squid, salps, and occasional detritus.

Cuban Fishing, 3-7-15, Mako Shark Or Dientusu 2 By Nik Wilets Via Creative Commons.
Cuban Fishing, 3-7-15, Mako Shark Or Dientuso 2 By Nik Wilets Via Creative Commons.

Surprisingly, marine mammals (in the form of pelagic dolphins ) are rarely reported in the diet of the shortfin mako, but they may be expected particularly in large individuals of the species. Very large shortfin makos over 3 m long have broad, more flattened and triangular upper teeth, perhaps more suitable for dismembering large prey than the awl-shaped teeth of smaller makos.”

Source:  Shortfin Mako.

Featured Illustration Source:  Mako Shark.

Feature Image:  Dientuso, Cuba By Bernd Kirschner, Via Creative Commons.


Dorado Or Mahi-mahi.

Dorado are one of the great sport and eating fish of Cuba.

The mahimahi (/ˈmɑːhˈmɑːh/)[2] or common dolphinfish[3] (Coryphaena hippurus) is a surface-dwelling ray-finned fish found in off-shore temperate, tropical and subtropical waters worldwide. Also known widely as dorado, it is one of two members of the Coryphaenidae family, the other being the pompano dolphinfish.

Cuban Fishing, 3-7-15, Dorado Or Mahi-mahi By Michael Stockton Via Creative Commons.
Cuban Fishing, 3-7-15, Dorado Or Mahi-mahi By Michael Stockton Via Creative Commons.

The name mahimahi means very strong in Hawaiian. In other languages, the fish is known as dorade coryphène,lampuga, llampuga, lampuka, lampuki, rakingo, calitos, or maverikos.

Mahi-mahi are highly sought for sport fishing and commercial purposes. Sport fishermen seek them due to their beauty, size, food quality, and healthy population. Mahi-mahi is popular in many restaurants.

Mahi-mahi can be found in the Caribbean Sea, on the west coast of North and South America, the Pacific coast ofCosta Rica, the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic coast of Florida and West Africa, South China Sea and Southeast Asia,Hawaii and many other places worldwide.

Fishing charters most often look for floating debris and frigatebirds near the edge of the reef in about 120 feet (37 m) of water. Mahi-mahi (and many other fish) often swim near debris such as floating wood, palm trees and fronds, or sargasso weed lines and around fish buoys. Sargasso is floating seaweed that sometimes holds a complete ecosystem from microscopic creatures to seahorses and baitfish. Frigatebirds dive for food accompanying the debris or sargasso. Experienced fishing guides can tell what species are likely around the debris by the birds’ behavior.

Thirty- to fifty-pound gear is more than adequate when trolling for mahi-mahi. Fly-casters may especially seek frigatebirds to find big mahi-mahis, and then use a bait-and-switch technique. Ballyhoo or a net full of live sardines tossed into the water can excite the mahi-mahis into a feeding frenzy. Hookless teaser lures can have the same effect. After tossing the teasers or live chum, fishermen throw the fly to the feeding mahi-mahi. Once on a line, mahi-mahi are fast, flashy and acrobatic, with beautiful blue, yellow, green and even red dots of color.

Source:  Mahi-mahi or Dorado.

Feature Image:  Dorado, Cuba By Bernd Kirschner, Via Creative Commons.

Ernest Hemingway & Fidel Castro

Fidel Castro & Ernest Hemingway, Fishing Contest, 1960.

Ernest Hemingway and Fidel Castro, Fishing Contest, Before Bay of Pigs - -IMG by Bruce Tute, Via Creative Commons.
Cuban Fishing, 3-7-15, Ernest Hemingway and Fidel Castro, Fishing Contest, Before Bay of Pigs – -IMG by Bruce Tuten, Via Creative Commons.

Cuban Fishing, 3/7/15:  There is much mythology around Ernest Hemingway, Fidel Castro and fishing in Cuba.

“”… Castro and Hemingway met only once—in May of 1960, at a fishing contest held in Hemingway’s honor. … Life magazine published one of those photographs along with a record of an exchange between Castro, who won the competition, and Hemingway, who awarded him the trophy: “‘I am a novice at fishing,’ said Fidel. ‘You are a lucky novice,’ replied Ernest.”

Hemingway lived off and on in Cuba for two decades, at a plantation he called Finca Vigía, which he and his third wife, Martha Gellhorn, purchased in 1940. It was there that he recuperated from his trips to Europe and Africa by fishing and drinking Daiquiris at the bar of the Floridita restaurant. And it was also there that he wrote his masterpiece, ‘The Old Man and the Sea.’ Hemingway left the island for good in 1960, the year after Castro overthrew the dictator Fulgencio Batista—and the year before he took his own life in Idaho.””

Source: Castro & Hemingway.

Cuban Fishing, 3-7-15, Fidel Castro & Ernest Hemingway 2, Source - Photograph La Finca Vigía Museum,
Cuban Fishing, 3-7-15, Fidel Castro & Ernest Hemingway 2, Source – Photograph La Finca Vigía Museum.