If it wasn’t for Irma and Maria we wouldn’t have thought of going to Los Roques for a fishing trip. We were searching for a reasonable priced fishing trip for bones and tarpon for the November period. We had Puerto Rico in mind but things got quite out of hand there. So we had to search all over again and by change we stumbled upon LR as an alternative destination.
We always thought that Los Roques was a fishing destination that was only fishable from the deck of a guided boat and that it was overly fished and ditto priced.
After some research we found out that LR was quite do-able price wise and even better that fishing pressure was almost second to none since the economical downfall of mainland Venezuela.
Los Roques on a budget? We would soon find out!
We contacted Oceanica, a small organisation that is run by a Venezuelan living in the States. We booked our accommodation with them and they arranged our hotel at Caracas and our flight to Los Roques the next day.
So there we were standing on the tarmac of Los Roques airstrip searching for our Oceanica contact Guillermo. We just had a short flight from Caracas to LR after having spend the night at a very comfortable hotel near the airport.
Guillermo soon spotted us, not really difficult as we were the only foreigners on the flight and at least a foot taller than the rest.
We were greeted with a warm welcome and after having enlisted ourselves at the tourist office we were brought to our wonderful posada, posada Sueno del Mar.
Our posada was run by a local lady, which is quite unusual since most posadas are in the hands of foreign organisations.
Although being “basic” we found it more than ample luxury. The food was terrific and each morning and evening our hostess created a different meal. Mind you, you do have to like fish!!
We discussed our plans with Guillermo about our wish to fish mostly on our own, we booked 2 guided days in advance since we also wanted to head out to the more distant fishing spots non accessible by taxi boat.
Guillermo gave us a map and explained how the taxi boat service worked and where to find the boats. Oceanica has a boat of it’s own which could be hired as a taxi as well. Los Roques is divided into different areas, some open to the public and thus fishable and some only accessible with a guide, other spots non accessible because of them being a nature reserve
Because of our DIY style of fishing we wanted to expand our fishing range and so we brought our trusty fishing kayaks. They have proven their worth every time on every trip. It takes some time learning to fish with them but it is totally worth it. If you don’t have a kayak, you might even think of bringing along a bellyboat just for the fishing in front of the harbour at Gran Roque.
Fishing conditions were during our stay tough to say the least. Fishing pressure by fisherman was diminishable. During our stay we met around 20 fishermen in total during our 2 weeks stay and most of them didn’t stay that long.
Fishing was hard since we picked a period in which it was high tide during daytime and during a period that the water level was at least 1-1,5 foot higher than normal. Next time we’ll have a better look at the tides.
Unfortunately that meant that the fabled pancake flats were non fishable. Beach walking and searching for shallow flats was the key.
Locals told us the bonefish didn’t venture onto the flats when the water is that high because of predation by barracudas.
The first couple of days we spend time around the main island of Gran Roque and visiting the nearby islands of Madrisqi, Francisqi and Crasqi.
Before breakfast we usually went for tarpon fishing right in front of the harbour. The sheer sight of the amount of baitfish gathered in front of the harbour is beyond compare. Dozens of tarpon you see rolling in the surface and herding the shoals of baitfish in a dense clump. Tarpon, yellowtails but also bonefish feast every morning and evening on this galore of baitfish.
The first morning I fished for tarpon I went on foot and got immediately lucky. I hooked a three foot+ tarpon which showed me every corner of the harbour. I had to go in up to my armpits, I had to climb over and under boat lines and fight him all the way. In the end I managed to land him only to loose him whilst trying to grab its jaw. Soaking wet I returned to the posada and since that morning we always took our kayaks to fish the shoreline.
Bonefishing was tough but unbelievable in experience, the first days we took water taxi’s to nearby islands and roamed the shores. Sometime stumbling along singles cruising along the seashore but often finding them riding high up in the water colom cruising through baitfish and crashing through them like jacks. It was bonefishing like we have never seen before. We targeted these bones with small floating EP minnows, yes we might have been the only fisherman ever to not have taken any gummi minnows to Los Roques! What an amazing sight it was, casting a “dryfly” in the path of cruising bones and seeing them sip it from the surface. Crazy, crazy! Walking around the island we stumbled upon gems of small flats, places that are a bit hard to access but so worthwhile in finding larger bones.
We spend our days walking these shores, fishing and having lunch on the beach and cracking open some beers after some released fish.
Lunch was another first that we hadn’t seen anywhere else in the Carib. We booked full lodgings with our Posada, so that meant lunch as well, but since most people venture out during daytime and don’t return to the main island at lunchtime, posadas have introduced the concept of “ the Cooler”
For lunch they prepare you a coolbox with everything you need, ample bottles of water with a large amount of ice, a bottle of soda a six pack of beer and on top of that a plastic container with sandwiches, salads, crisps and snacks. When being dropped by the water taxi they would up an umbrella and some chairs and they would place the cooler in the shade. Voila, that was homebase. We would fish the island and head back for lunch on the beach, no hassle, no pressure everything on our timetable.
On other days we would take the kayak and peddle towards one of the nearby islands of Madrisqi or be dropped of at Francisqi with the kayaks. We fished along the reef and tried to chase jack blitzes. The abundance of fish in these waters is amazing, whilst traveling between islands you see fish hunting the surface everywhere. Blitzes are daily and everywhere. pelicans, fregatbirds and boobies dive constantly.
Sometimes you stumble upon big horse eye jacks crashing bait along the reefs, quick reaction is necessary to catch these bulldogs. With the kayaks we didn’t managed to pursue these fast fish, but on our guided days we could.
The Island most distant that is reachable by taxi is Crasqi. A beautiful island that has several miles of fishable shoreline. We went by taxi boat together with 3 couples, the cost was about 15$ and the captain would drop us off and pick us up 4-5 hours later. The couples went swimming and we hiked up and down the beach looking for bones. Pristine waters, crystal clear and no fisherman around.
In total we had 5 days of guided fishing the rest we did on our own. Fishing on our own is super rewarding and fun, we are not the type of fisherman that want a guide to point out a fish that he sees long before we spot it. So it was a bit out of our comfort zone having a guide standing next to us but Hawer was a very relaxed and a down to earth guide.
For him it was just as strange not having to point out every fish and to let us go at times. The places you can reach and fish with a guide are amazing. We have fished many places in the carib for bones, been on many adventures but Los Roques has to be one of the most stunning places. Undisturbed by the modern world and the only sounds you hear are birds, water and wind, it’s Venezuela’s largest marine reserve and right so.
We told Hawer we wanted to target several species not just bones. We didn’t want to focus too much on bonefish since we could fish for them on our own. We wanted tarpon, jacks, snook, cuda’s and everything else that would put a nice bent in our rods.
Early mornings we went to some lagoons and fished for tarpons, funny enough the most caught by-catch would be bonefish. It is strange seeing small groups of bones not spooky at all swim along the boat and feeding on minnows. Toss in a chartreuse toad or anything else than a traditional bonefish fly and they would hit it all together. And mind you, these fish still put up a fight on a 10 or 11#.
Fishing with Hawer brought us into many great situations that we would have been unable to do on our own. When we travelled between spots Hawer spotted some big tarpon feeding in the surface. He immediately turned the boat towards the reef and summoned us to prepare our rods. We didn’t spot the tarpons any more but the commotion caused other predators to arrive on the seen. Big rainbow runners where swimming underneath the boat and I switched from a tarpon fly to a big streamer which I brought along for some offshore fishing. I tried casting at the rainbow runners but none would follow. All of the sudden big dark shadows emerged from the depth and hit the surface now and again. I cast along side the reef and on the first strip a couple of shadows followed the streamer. I cast again and again 3-4 fish came up behind. In a split second the streamer was inhaled and the fish turned 180 and swam away. My 10# pointed towards the horizon and started thumping, the line was ripped through my hands and soon I was fighting the fish over some deep water. The headshakes were heavy and the drill consisted of short burst and going deep., typical jack fight. The fish took us on tow for quite the distance before we could board it. Mission accomplished, my very first ever big horse eye jack lay in my hands.
Henk Jan had also a truly memorable hook up of a huge horse eye jack. He was fishing current on an incoming tide. He cast ”upstream” and let it drift over a ledge. He started popping and a beast of a jack came up behind and inhaled the popper. The fight was heavy and the fish used the current to stay away from the boat. Unfortunately it came off. But what a take it was and what a surrounding
Other hotspots for jacks were the huge number of muds created by bones feeding in shoals. Drifting along and over these muds gave us a 360 degree vision to spot cruising jacks and barracuda’s. A jack that emerged out of the mud annihilated my double barrel popper.
Having problems finding some fishable and wade able flats Hawer helped us out greatly. He brought us to a pristine flat where we could roam for hours and hours on end. It was maybe the best bonefishing we had in a long time. The first time he brought us there Hawer guided us on the flats. But after the second time we asked him to lay back in the boat, have a beer from our cooler and pick us up a couple of hours later. What a morning we had, I am still smiling from that session. It was bonefishing straight from the textbooks, walking in ankle deep water and spotting incoming big singles or groups of smaller ones. Placing the fly just ahead of them and seeing them react to the fly like they’ve never seen one before. You could hardly call them spooky only to justify our theory that fishing pressure was low right now. We both ended up with double figures of bones that morning, spotted several small black tip sharks, eagle rays and a fish eagle fly over top.
Hawer put me on my trophy tarpon as well. We were fishing a crystal clear drop off near a fishing community. The tarpons were residential fish and a bit finicky taking lures and flies. After several tries a huge poon came along and inhaled my fly. By sheer luck I managed to hook the beast and off she went. Thankfully I was fishing my #11 weight at that moment and I although I am no stranger to putting on some pressure I felt like I didn’t budge the fish in any way. Hawer tossed the anker and let me fight the girl without giving chase to the fish. After some 20 minutes the tarpon came closer and we did a first attempt to land it. It didn’t work as well as we had hoped and I had to fight the fish for another 5 minutes before we could land her. I jumped from the boat into the water to have some pictures taken. I was fortunate enough to walk her up and down to revive her and spend some time with such a great catch. When she had her energy back she easily slid back into the depths. I can’t remember fishing anymore that day; everything was kind of a blur.
At the end of the fishing day we would head back to our posada to find our room meticulously cleaned, we had a shower and headed to the bar. Internet was down in our posada (during our stay…or indefinitely who knows….who cares) so we went to a small cocktail bar next to the church to have a few drinks and to use the free wifi. Sitting there sipping a mojito and seeing the sun set in the ocean whilst pelicans crash right in front of you and tarpons rolling every where is worth a sit and not grab your rod for a moment, take in these pleasures for colder days.
Every night our lovely landlady created the best meals we could think of. We had snapper, barracuda, octopus, lobster, lionfish all accompanied by salads, sweet potato, cassava fries and or arrepas.
The evenings we spend tying flies getting re-stocked with fresh new flies or new designs. Fishing for tarpon in the harbour was something for the experts, with so much baitfish around we needed to make exact imitations. Luckily I brought a stash of Dyckers fibers and some ample amount of SL 12 2/0 and 1/0 hooks to play around.
Bonefish flies were simple as always, tan and size 4 and 6.
Almost every night Guillermo, Hawer and his brother came by to drink some beers and chat about island life, the current situation in Venezuela and off course fishing.
We didn’t spend much time going out but if you want there are several places for late night cocktails and beautiful women…….why didn’t we go out Henk Jan??
Looking back LR was difficult due to tide circumstances but it was very worthwhile going there and fish that famous place. I certainly cannot complain about the fish I caught. Maybe my hopes/standard were set a bit too high but all in all I look back on a successful trip with a buddy who made the adventure complete.
It was lovely staying at the Posada Sueno del Mar. We had great help from Oceanica and foremost from Guillermo who was always there to help us when needed. Hawer and his brother were awesome, we enjoyed their company very much onshore and offshore, his Sunday bbq and his diving skills, contact him If you would ever want to fish Los Roques.
In the end we can surely say that Los Roques is a destination that has ample fishing possibilities for the wandering fisherman but we do advise to hire a guide now and again to visit the non-recreational zones. Prices are very reasonable and daily life isn’t expensive. Just make sure you take a huge stack of dollar bills for your cocktails and tips. Cheers Brian Elward.