Revisting an old friend The Zapata Peninsula, Cuba

In the next 15 years, I put in well over 150 days on the water in the Zapata, fishing from non-motorized fiberglass boats, where the guides poled you all day, to the more recent times with skiffs with engines, which completely opened up the park in a way that has been truly fantastic. I would average about 2-3 trips a year to fish the Zapata but as my business grew and I started spending more time chasing trout in faraway places, my visits to the Zapata became less and less frequent. When Covid hit, it stopped all international travel for close to two years and when I could travel again, I was interested in fishing other places. When you know a fishery really well, there is a tendency to take it for granted and I think I was guilty of this, when it came to the Zapata.

Fast forward 4 years and I found myself back in the Zapata last week, with a great group of guys for the week. Like so much of Cuba, there have been many changes in the Zapata, while at the same time everything seems so much the same. I tend to favor Cuba in May because after 20+ years of fishing all over the country and at all times of the year, I’ve found that May and early June tend offer both good weather and consistent fishing. And this was certainly the case two weeks ago as my entire group had very good fishing overall. Billy M landed the only two permit during the week but most guests had multiple 12-15 bonefish days throughout the trip, along with a solid amount of juvenile tarpon in the 10-25 pound range. One client, Fred F, jumped a 100 pounder on the flats, but it spat the hook on its second jump. Several guests got shots at some nice sized snook but none were landed. The river had a lot of tarpon in it but it only fished so so. Lots of shots at rolling fish but many of them had lockjaw and the average hookup rate was about 3 per day.

The one area that has changed dramatically over the past few years is the retirement of the old guard of guides and some new and eager guides who have stepped in to fill the void. The young guides are very solid and most of them speak pretty good English. It’s so nice to see the new wave of guides in the Zapata and these guys will only get better. The Zapata fishery fished about as well as it ever has and I’m going back again in May of 2025.