|This picture has been taken on the western side (beach side) of the Varadero.|
Two days later our second week of the vacation was starting at the touristic hell of Varadero. It’s a nice place but have absolutely nothing to do with the real Cuba. There’s only hotels after hotels with some souvenir booths between them. The bright side of the Varadero is that basically whole east side of the 20 kilometer long peninsula is unbuilt and has some decent spots to fish at.
|My playground on the first morning.|
On the first morning I left the hotel when it was still dark outside. I tried to find some life between the shore rocks again but failed miserably. I think I had one bite but didn't see one single fish. After the dawn I changed my gear and soon caught my first fish with my whip rod. Well, the first or second fish gave me nothing new as they were Dusky damsel and French grunt. Then I put a small piece of damselfish on my hook and soon caught couple of more grunts. This time they were Bluestriped grunt and I had caught my first new species at Varadero.
|Bluestriped grunt (Haemulon sciurus).|
Soon after it was time to head back to hotel. On the way back I was fishing with a small silvery spoon in the hope of some predatory species. It started quite well when I had an angry bite right on my second cast. It was a small barracuda but sadly it got off just when I was grabbing it with my lip grip. I had few more hits and follows by what I think were houndfish until I had to go for lunch.
|This is the place I saw the Cowfishes at.|
Next day came and this time I was on the move after the lunch. I was starting from the place I left yesterday. I spotted couple of Scrawled cowfish right away near the shore line and started to lurk them. Well, my bad luck continued when I had two bites by them. The first one got off and the another one broke my tiny little hook on the furious run it took. I wouldn't ever believe cowfish can swim that fast. That was it. I saw some cowfish afterwards but never got a bite again. A bit later I had some bites by the needlefish or houndfish also but failed to catch them too.
I had seen some sergeant fish day before and now I took a new attempt after them. They did not like dried worms nor piece of fish but this time I had some bread with me. It was still not easy. They did eat the freebies and even my hook bait but I could not hook them. In some point there was a school of sergeants busying around my bait when a small fish ambushed from the side and and gulped my hook. A Schoolmaster snapper (Lutjanus apodus) was a refreshing surprise after a lousy afternoon. Quite soon I finally managed to hook and land one sergeant fish as well. Two fish on a six hours session is not much but at least they were both new species for me.
|Very hungry bread eating snapper.|
|Sergeant major (Abudefduf saxatilis).|
On Friday we had been booked an offshore trolling day with a few Finnish guys. We decided that the first fight (if we ever have one) would go to the guy who booked our trip. After one hour we had a bite and Jukka reeled in a nice Dorado (or Mahi mahi) of about seven kilos. Then it was my turn to be...
|Jukka is fighting with a Dorado.|
About half an hour later we had another screaming bite and we saw a marlin splashing behind the boat. But of course it got off after few seconds and I didn't even make it to the fighting chair. Soon after our captain headed to the shallows and tried to find some barracudas for us but there was nothing showing anymore.
Next morning I was on the shore in the dark again. I did not find any fish this time either. I wonder if there's any gobies or blennies at all at the waters of Varadero. Rest of the time I was fishing with my spinning rod and tried to find barracudas and needlefishes. I was casting a silvery spoon again and I did have a hit soon after I started. This time I managed to land the fish and my first ever barracuda was finally there. It was only a small Greater barracuda but I was soooo happy with it.
|My first ever Barracuda.|
There was couple of local fishermen casting with their hand lines nearby so I gave the Barracuda for them. They thanked me nicely and told me they gonna barbecue it in the evening.
I had some more bites by the houndfish again but the barracuda was going to be the only fish of the day.
|I'm not a car person but at Cuba you just can't look away when seeing beauties like these.|
15th of February was gonna be our last whole day of the vacation. This time I decided to go a bit further to find some new fishing grounds. I took a hop-on hop-off bus (by far the best and the cheapest way to travel at Varadero) and headed to the canal on the eastern side of the peninsula. I started with a sabiki rig and caught my first fish of the day almost immediately. It was a Silver mojarra (Eucinostomus argenteus). After that I set up my other rod and made cut baits from the mojarra and casted a running ledger rig out.
Cause nothing happened I was going to check my bait and was slowly dragging my bait on the bottom. When it was only about ten meters from the shore I had a bite and hooked a fish. It was not a big fish but still a nice little Mutton snapper and the second new species of the day.
|Mutton snapper (Lutjanus analis).|
Later on I caught couple of more mojarras and happily one of them was another new species. I also caught a cute little striped fish with micro fishing gears. I was sure I had caught a new species for me but found out later that it was only a juvenile French grunt
|Yellowfin mojarra (Gerres cinereus).|
|French grunt juvenile.|
The last day of the trip was much worse I expected but at least I caught three new species. After all I had thirteen new species from Cuba and it was the 20th country I have been fishing (and caught fish from) at. And if you haven’t noticed yet: every fish bigger than my palm is a huge monster in my standards…
|Having a daiquiri with the Papa Hemingway himself.|