Fishing

Angling for a better relationship with Cuba

 

Marty Arostegui of Coral Gables, who fled his native Cuba when he was 14, is promoting recreational fishing in his former homeland.

scocking@MiamiHerald.com

Retired Coral Gables physician Marty Arostegui fled his native Cuba in 1960 when he was 14. Busy with career, family and fishing — setting 420 International Game Fish Association world records on various types of tackle) — he never returned to the Communist-ruled island until 2010. Of course, it was his passion for fishing that drew him back.

Now the 66-year-old IGFA trustee is working to promote recreational angling in Cuba, and maybe along the way encourage a less-hostile relationship between his former home and his adopted land.

“Time has passed and we’re getting older,” Arostegui said. “Maybe there are other ways to bring about change that don’t involve a constant state of antagonism.”

Arostegui said he has no wish to debate the politics of U.S.-Cuba relations. Instead, he focuses on person-to-person interactions with regular citizens, visiting international anglers and fisheries officials in Cuba.

During a couple of recent trips to the island, Arostegui and IGFA president Rob Kramer and conservation director Jason Schratweiser have managed to interest anglers who compete in the annual Hemingway Marlin Tournament in using circle hooks to catch and release the spindle-beaked giants. The IGFA delegation showed tournament competitors from Cuba and around the world how to rig baits using circle hooks and how to drop back and hook fish. Circle hooks have been mandatory for years in U.S. billfish tournaments when using live or natural baits, but the Cubans and others weren’t familiar.

This year, the Americans got the tournament to set aside a special prize category for using circle hooks and presented the winning crew with a David Wirth sculpture. Next year, Arostegui said, tournament officials have pledged to make circle hooks mandatory, and to implant satellite tags in some fish to help advance scientific studies on their growth and movements.

But, he said, “remember that everything over there is subject to change without notice.”

Offshore fishing is not the only pastime Arostegui is helping to nurture.

A keen interest in exotic fish lured him to the Hatiguanico River about 1 1/2 hours south of Havana, where African sharp-toothed catfish, known locally as claria, abound. The toothy non-natives were brought there years ago to launch an aquaculture program, but they spread out of control after a hurricane blew out dikes that enclosed them.

Last spring, Arostegui and local fisherman Jose Ramon Cuza, president of the Cuban Federation of Sportfishing, decided to try for a world-record claria on fly rod using an ultra-fine two-pound tippet and a fly made out of marabou feathers.

It would be quite an angling coup if they succeeded. At the time, only four IGFA world records had come out of Cuba — and none were caught by Cubans.

Arostegui caught a fish that weighed a little more than a pound. A few minutes later, Cuza topped it with a three-pounder. The two were jubilant.

“That day, two Cubans from both sides of the Gulf Stream caught two world records on the same day in Cuba,” Arostegui said, smiling.

Cuza has since been named an IGFA representative.

Arostegui said he also is interested in helping promote the island’s bountiful Cayo Largo flats fishery for bonefish, tarpon and permit, and a fledgling school that trains Cubans to become flats guides.

Read more Outdoors stories from the Miami Herald

  • Fishing report

    Captain Glyn Austin of Going Coastal Fishing Charters out of Sebastian reported that catch-and-release fishing for snook with live baits and artificial lures day and night has been outstanding in and around the Sebastian Inlet all the way north to the Patrick Air Force Base. Redfish and a few permits are biting in the Sebastian Inlet and are being caught on small blue crabs. Along the beaches, tarpon, bonito, jacks and sharks can be targeted all the way to Port Canaveral. These fish have been feeding along the big baitfish schools. Offshore reef fishing has been good for cobias and mangrove snappers up to 12 pounds.

  •  
A large Goliath grouper nestled into the Bonaire shipwreck off Jupiter.

    OUTDOORS

    Outdoors feature: Goliath groupers make recovery but harvest remains on hold

    Dropping into the roiled, murky waters 60 feet deep off Jupiter Inlet on Monday, I heard the annual spawning aggregation of Goliath groupers before I actually saw it. Below me, I could barely make out the wreck of the MG 111 or the mottled, gentle giants that show up each year between late July and mid-October to keep their species going. But the Goliaths already had seen our group of divers and weren’t too happy about our visit. They emitted loud, bass booming noises that sound a little like gun reports – probably to alert each other and to warn us not to get too cozy.

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">Under the sea:</span> The ferro cement sailboat Usikusiku sits 75 feet deep on the ocean floor after being deployed Tuesday as an artificial reef off Hollywood. It already is attracting marine life.

    Diving

    Sailboat finds new life in final resting place

    The 43-foot ferro cement sailboat doesn’t look very impressive sitting on the ocean floor about 75 feet deep off Hollywood. It’s plain and bare with no design flourishes.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category