Fishing: Inshore Sports Fishing
A guide to inshore and coastal sports fishing around Tobago
Coastal and reef fishing are excellent throughout the year, all around the Tobago coast, and the angler will be treated to barracuda, king mackerel, snappers, various groupers, jacks and more. Tarpon, in particular, are likely to give the coastal fisherman a wonderful fight, with typical catches in the 30 to 50 pound range. It is also a distinct advantage, particularly if your family are waiting back at the hotel or villa, that the best fishing area for tarpon is immediately off the north-western coast, between the airport and Plymouth cove – home to most of the island’s hotels and villas.
Tarpon, of 40 pound and above are regularly hooked on fly from the shore between Crown Point and Buccoo. As with most tarpon fishing, hooking a fish and landing it are usually only a few jumps apart. A 1:10 ratio of fish landed to those hooked is a good average. Large flies such as deceivers and streamers all work, with white or white/orange being the choice of the discerning tarpon, especially if the water is murky.
Needless to say, heavier gear is needed to have any chance of hooking and landing a tarpon. Ideally, a 12-weight outfit with a good reel and an adequate supply of 30lb backing will give you a fighting chance. Hooks need to be needle sharp and any take should be met with several hard ‘strip-strikes’ to set the hook in the corner of the tarpon’s bony mouth.
Tarpon can also be caught, more effectively, on live or dead baits fished on the bottom, or under a float. Dawn or dusk is a good time to try for tarpon, but if you’re fishing and a pod of tarpon start busting baitfish, don’t hesitate to chuck anything you have at them. The experienced angler may even wish to experience the adventure of night fishing for shark, rays and grouper.
Tobago is a reasonable, but not ideal, destination for the salt-water fly fisher. There is a scarcity of flats, so essential for bonefish. However, the flats at Friendship (between the Crown Point airport and Lowlands) are popular and ideal for bones, snook, snapper and the elusive permit. An eight or nine-weight fly outfit, a medium sized reel with a silky-smooth drag, loaded with a floating line and 8-12lb leader, will tame most of the fish that you will encounter here. The usual bonefish flies will work, but anything with a touch of orange or pink seems to work better than ‘natural’ representations.
Other popular areas are Plymouth Bay (off the old dilapidated jetty) and Pigeon Point. Just five minutes sailing from shore, fly fishers can be in the action with what are known locally as ‘bonito’, but which are actually false albacore.
Using spinning gear (carp rod and fixed spool reel, loaded with 20lb braid) and plugs, jigs or spinners and spoons, from any of the rocks or jetties will tempt almost anything including snook, tarpon, jacks (including pompano), ladyfish, hound fish (garfish), snapper, lizard-fish, small barracuda and even small tuna, if you’re fishing into deep water.
Rock fishing is a popular pastime for many Tobagonians, particularly the youth, and you will see them practising their skills around Tobago’s coastline, using nothing but a simple line and some crabmeat or fish pieces. The Caribbean coast is particularly popular and a good place to try is the rocks on the left side of beautiful Back Bay, between Mt.Irvine and Black Rock. Wherever you can climb onto rocks on the Caribbean coast you might catch something. Please take care of the often slippery surfaces and beware of the tide and the occasional big wave. For tricks and tips, simply ask any of the locals that you will invariably meet on the rocks.
Seine fishing, known locally as pulling seine, has been practised on the beaches of Tobago for more than 150 years. The practise has remained largely unchanged, but is sadly declining due to falling catches and the lack of interest of the younger men.
Despite this, you will still regularly see large groups of local people, plus a few tourists, hauling in the net in the early morning, on the beaches at Mount Irvine Bay, Turtle Beach, Black Rock, Castara, Bloody Bay, Man ‘O War Bay, Mount St.George and Goodwood.
Click on the Tours tab to see a list of Tobago coastal fishing charters and fishing tour operators.