Fishing: FAQ

Steve Pitts answers to Frequently Asked Questions about fishing and angling on Tobago


Based on the questions that I have received recently, I thought that I would prepare a summary, in order to fill in some of the gaps that the original fishing articles may not have covered in sufficient detail.

Most queries fall into three distinct categories:–


FAQ’s include ‘Where is the best place to fish?’ , ‘What is the fishing like at Turtle Beach hotel?’ ‘What will I catch if I go to Tobago in December?’

My response to these types of questions is firstly that I don’t have all of the answers and that fishing (or at least sport-fishing) around the island is still in its infancy, so there is still much to learn.

So, where is the best place to fish?

Stop Light Parrot FishThe easiest and most accessible form of fishing is from the beaches or rocks and I have to say that fishing from any steep, sandy beach is likely to produce fish.

Most of the species that can be found around Tobago are nomadic and they move with the tides and follow the prey fish, so a beach that is good one morning can be devoid of fish the following day.

Look for signs of feeding predatory fish, such as tarpon and jacks, striking at baitfish. Feeding pelicans, terns and boobies are often a clue to the presence of baitfish and the predators that follow them. Generally, fish which inhabit rocky areas or other ‘structure’, such as snapper, parrot fish and wrasse tend to be more territorial and stay in the same areas, so the fishing from rocks or around jetties can be a bit more predictable.


Dawn and dusk are without question the best times to fish.

It’s no coincidence that the local fishermen leave for the fishing grounds before it gets light and are often back by mid-morning. These are the times when fish are actively hunting and feeding. Some species are mainly nocturnal and if you want to catch a tarpon or snook then the hours of darkness give you your best chance. Other species like barracuda, dolphin and king fish prefer to hunt during the daylight hours, so they make ideal targets for those who have difficulty rising at 5.30am

Crown PointBonefish, which are a common subject of enquiries, feed at any time of day or night and it is the tides that seem to govern their movements and feeding habits. The areas of sand and coral ‘flats’ that bonefish inhabit need to have sufficient water on them to allow access to the crabs and shrimps on which they feed, so generally, rising tides will bring bonefish onto the flat and a falling tide will see them leave for deeper water.

Whether the tide is flooding or ebbing may have less influence over fish of the open ocean, but certain species feed well on spring tides (when there is most tidal activity) as their prey (squid or flying fish) may be forming breeding aggregations at these times.


Most of those species that can be expected are covered in the main fishing articles and examples of some of these will be found in the picture gallery section for I.D.

Float fishing or ledgering with bait (B), spinning with artificial lures (S), or fly fishing (F) will account for all of these -

From the shore, or inshore boat fishing anglers can expect :-


(Sphyraena barracuda)


Fast, aggressive & always hungry


(Albula vulpes)


Nervous, elusive and fast!


(Genyonemus lineatus)


Always obliging – fun for the kids

Crevalle Jack

(Caranx hippos)


Aggressive, stubborn, strong and fast


(Epinephelus striatus)


Tough and stubborn rock-lover

Horse-eye Jack

(Caranx latus)


Big, bad, bulldog of a fish




Sleek and fast acrobat

Moray Eel

(Muraena helena)


Night-time feeder – beware it bites!!!

Mutton snapper

(Lutjanus analis)


Always hungry / good to eat


numerous species


Spectacular colouration – loves rocks


(Trachinotus falcatus)


Ultra-cautious & very strong


(Alectis ciliaris)


Pretty, silver diamond-shaped fish

Red Snapper

(Lutjanus campechanus)


Young ones hang around rocks


(Centropomus undecimalis)


Prefers low light or dirty water


(Megalops atlanticus)


The Silver King – need I say more?


various species


Loves rocky crevices and prawn bait

Those fishing from charter boats further offshore and using trolled lures or bait could encounter :–

Dolphin fish      

(Coryphaena hippurus)


Rainbow coloured acrobat, often found around flotsam

King fish

(Scomberomorous cavalla)


Razor-toothed and voracious – use a wire trace!


(Makaira nigricans)


Seasonal and not that common, but well worth the wait


(Isteophorus platypterus)


Energetic and excitable – a good candidate for fly gear


various species include..


Hammerhead, reef, nurse and bull shark


various species include..


Bonito (false albacore), yellow & black-fin.Tough & Stubborn


(Acanthocybium solanderi)


Sleek, steel-blue speedster.

Returning a snook


Unless you’re planning to fish from a big-game charter boat, you will need to take your own tackle. Having been through a period of trial and error, the following list consists of my choice of rods, reels and odds and sods. I now only use multi-section rods, which will fit in a suitcase or holdall and I have absolute confidence in being able to land most species on this gear.

Spinning/Bait Fishing

Beer & FliesRods

  • Shimano EXAGE 3.4metre four-piece. Good ‘heavy’ rod with plenty of guts and good action.
  • Sportfish H four- piece 3metre. Excellent rod for bonefish, snook and small tarpon.
  • Diawa Vulcan four-piece 3.5metre. Budget rod for all-round light to medium spinning.
  • Mike Ladle 4sure spin. 3.2metre. Casts 15 – 60grms and at £60 it’s hard to find a better deal.


  • Fin-Nor ‘Ahab’ sizes 8 to 10. Not cheap, but the clutch (drag) is smooth and will stop anything.
  • Shimano ‘baitrunner’ in the larger sizes. This is an ideal reel because of its line capacity.
  • Okuma range. Tested on tarpon and jacks. From only £20 - £50 these reels are fantastic value.
  • Shimano Sahara. Good mid-priced fixed spool reel, with a very good fighting drag.
  • I only fish with 18kg braid, but braided lines aren’t to everyone’s liking. Because of its finer diameter (18kg braid has the same thickness of 6kg mono line) fishing with braid allows 300 metres to be loaded on to any of the above spinning reels. If you hook a tarpon or jack, you’ll need all that line on your reel.

Jack CrevalleA 15kg wire trace is useful if barracuda are around and a 25 – 40kg mono rubbing trace is essential if you are targeting snook or tarpon. They have sharp gill covers and can slice through thinner lines.


  • floating diving lures have to be tough to survive and we’ve had a number of plugs tested to destruction by powerful fish.

Lures of moulded plastic construction are the most resilient, but make sure that they have a stainless steel wire harness that is embedded through the lure body. That way the hooks shouldn’t pull out. A basic selection of colours is all that’s required – blue and silver/black and silver in 9cm to 13cm. If the water is murky, then a white lure with a red head is sometimes more visible to the fish.

If I could only take 5 lures with me they would be –

  • Essential Lures Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow Length: 11cm. Weight: 11gms in blue and silver. Dives to around 0.8 metre
  • Storm Chug Bug Length: 10cm. Weight: 25gms in blue and silver. Surface lure/popper
  • Rapala jointed range Length: 9 -13cm. Black/silver or Black bronze. Dives from 0.5 – 1.5 metres
  • ABU Toby Length: 10cm. Weight: 28gms in silver. Sinking metal lure so keep winding.
  • Storm Shad Length: 12cm. Weight: 25gms in pearl or blue. Soft plastic fish imitation with a weighted hook imbedded inside. Only £5.99 for a pack of 6,

Fly Fishing


  • 2.75metre (9ft) # 8 single-handed fly rod for bonefish, snook, baby tarpon and snapper.
  • 2.75metre # 9 (stiff action) for medium-sized tarpon, permit and small jacks
  • 2.75metre # 10 -12 for larger tarpon, medium-large jacks and dolphin (Mahi-mahi) & sailfish

There are a vast number of 4-piece fly rods available, at prices ranging from £100 - £600. One person’s ideal fly rod is someone else’s ‘broom handle’ so the following list is just a summary of those that I or my friends have used.

  • Budget but good – Greys, Sportfish, Vision, Redington, Snowbee, Fulling Mill, Ron Thompson.
  • Mid- price (£200 to £400) – Orvis, Loop
  • Money no object – Sage, G.Loomis, Thomas and Thomas.


The three key essentials in a fly reel are a smooth drag, reliability and large backing capacity.

As with rods, there are many to choose from, with prices ranging from £50 -£500.

Nearly all of the rod makers in the above list make a fly reel to complement their rods, with prices to match. At the upper ‘money no object’ end of the fly reel list, such legends as Abel, Tibor, Vann Staal an Billy Pate will appeal to the real connoisseur who is prepared to remortgage his home in order to possess the angling equivalent of a work of art.

Cap & SunglassesIn most situations a weight-forward floating or an intermediate fly line, to match the rod, is fine.

Flies like Gotcha,Crazy Charlie, Clouser Minnows and Merkins are good for Bones and Permit. For snook, tarpon, jacks and snapper, Deceivers, Poppers and Gurglers will usually induce a strike

Clothing and equipment is just as important as rods and reels, if you are to enjoy your fishing. Most importantly, you need to protect yourself from the sun, if you’re fishing during daylight. Even at 7.00am, the sun is strong and it’s easy to get sunburnt legs, arms and face if you’re near the water. Applying waterproof SFP 30+ before you start fishing (even if that’s before dawn) to all exposed areas of skin, is strongly recommend. Don’t forget the back of your neck and ears too. Polarising sunglasses are essential for cutting down the sun’s glare and for spotting fish. Make sure that they significantly reduce or eliminate UV. A cap or hat will keep your brain from frying and will also shade your eyes to aid your vision.

Good footwear is essential if you are wading or clambering around on slippery rocks. Take great care, whatever you do. Stand on a stingray or twist your ankle on the rocks and that could end your fishing for the rest of the trip. Don’t try wearing trainers or sandals for wading as they will soon fill with sand and grit and it will be like wearing sandpaper against your feet and ankles. Flats boots made by Orvis, Simms, Snowbee and Patagonia are well worth the investment (£40 - £70) and are also useful for fishing on the rocks.

Playing snook at dawnThere is now a wide range of specialist ‘tropical’ clothing available, made to make the extremes of temperature, humidity and salt water more bearable. Man-made fabrics including Tactel nylon, Simplex and Nycot are light-weight, quick-drying, wick moisture away from the skin to help keep you cool and most have built-in SPF of 30 -50 sun protection. Far more practical than that Hawaiian- style shirt that you were going to buy and far less conspicuous.

Make sure that whatever you’re fishing for, that you have a sharp hook(s) and take a small sharpening stone or file to keep them that way. A pair of long-nosed pliers is handy for unhooking fish. Most fish have tough mouths that resist the efforts of hook removal with fingers alone - and talking of fingers - if you want to keep yours, use the pliers when unhooking barracuda, kingfish, wahoo, rays and sharks.

If you are planning a trip to Tobago, or any other tropical destination, you need to prepare well in advance and what better way than browsing through tackle catalogues or surfing the internet.

Most of the tackle and equipment that I’ve mentioned is available by mail-order from –

Tight lines!

Tobago Satellite Map

Enjoy interactive satellite maps of Tobago. If you have Google Earth download the map here. If not, click the map below to view in a browser window.

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Page Updated: 01 Jun 16