(We’ve asked one of the local legends of Punta Cana charter fishing, Captain Anthony Perez, to share his wealth of knowledge about the incredible world of Punta Cana fishing with our readers. His generous insights are scattered and italicized all throughout this article. Atlántida Punta Cana SRL is a charter company with over 10 years experience in conducting water excursions in the area of Punta Cana.)
Wetting a line in the hauntingly beautiful azure waters surrounding Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, can be an experience you will remember for the rest of your life. Blue-water fishing can be had as close as 4 miles from your hotel room door. Punta Cana fishing is some of the best available anywhere in the Caribbean. It is the absolute #1 place for Wahoo and Mahi-Mahi, and trophy-sized billfish are not uncommon. Several IGFA records have been set, and broken in Punta Cana. From lagoon fishing, reef ranging, and fly fishing, to battling blue-water bruisers – Punta Cana has it all. For the ultimate in salt-water fishing adventures, there is nowhere better than Punta Cana.
The Jewel of the Caribbean
Punta Cana, meaning Tip of the White Cane, is in the easternmost province of the Dominican Republic. The name obviously refers to the beautiful local cane palms that grace the landscape. Punta Cana has a full-time population of around 125,000, with over 81% being of Haitian descent. The province has 62 miles of coastline, with numerous tidal pools and sandy windswept expanses, with a barrier reef that averages from a few hundred yards off the beach, to 1/4 of a mile out. All but 2 of over 50 exquisite resort hotels are owned by Europeans, mostly Spanish hotel chains. They offer shuttles to and from the Punta Cana International Airport, one of the busiest and best-connected airports in the Caribbean, serving over 3 million passengers annually.
The wonderful tropical climate of Punta Cana is pretty consistent year-round, with day temperatures in the low 90s, and evenings in the upper 60s, with a constant humidity near 80%. Annual rainfall is around 40 inches, mostly in August, October and November.
Punta Cana has all kinds of activities available, especially for water-sports, like running speedboats, discovery cruises, sailing, diving with dolphins, sharks and rays, reef diving, whale-watching, and more. There is also a tournament-quality golf course, the Corales, which offers 18 holes of some of the finest golfing in the world. Above all, though, Punta Cana fishing is king of all the activities.
Punta Cana – Home of the Smarter Charter
Punta Cana fishing is rated as some of the best on the planet, and anglers flock here from all over the world. From near shore tight-lining to trolling for deep-sea monsters, Punta Cana has a charter that is just right for you. There are literally dozens and dozens of available charters, specializing in Wahoo, Mahi Mahi, White Marlin, Blue Marlin, Sailfish, Barracuda, Cobia, Yellowfin Tuna, Bonito and more.
Q: How long does it usually take from the moment you step on board to the moment that you can start deep sea fishing?
Captain Tony: One of the great things about the Punta Cana area is that it takes just 3 miles from the marina to start deep sea fishing. You can be on fish in as little as 20 minutes!
For those of the fly-fishing persuasion, most charters are happy to take you out as well, although many may require you to supply your own fly gear. Most fly fishermen (this author included) prefer to fish with their own gear, anyway. Most Captains have an acute knowledge of the waters you will be fishing, and will do their utmost to see that you have a fun, safe fishing experience you will remember for years to come. In January through May, you may be startled to be sharing your fishing water with the local humpback whales, who come here to mate and birth their young. Seeing pods of these majestic giants in their own wild habitat is an awe-inspiring experience.
Q: Fly fishing – do anglers have to bring their own fly fishing gear if they go fishing with you? What’s the best time of year for taking your fly rod to the Dominican Republic?
Captain Tony: This type of fishing is very peculiar and personalized: usually, our costumers bring their gear, rods, sticks, rapalas and flies, Nevertheless, we do have rods and Abud Garcias reels for casting and spinning, as well as rappalas and flies. Conditions for Fly fishing are good all year in Punta Cana.
All Types of Saltwater Fishing, for All Types of People
One of the attractions of Punta Cana is that sport-fishing here is very lightly regulated. Technically, you are supposed to have a fishing license, but this regulation is never enforced. It’s been that way for so long, you’d be hard-pressed to find a place that had a license to sell you. The only real regulation is that billfish must be released. All other fish are fair game, for the most part.
Many say that there is no beach or shore fishing available at Punta Cana, but I have to disagree with them. I have fished in Punta Cana dozens of time, from the beach, and the shore. It is true that many ponds are posted “No Fishing”, mostly due to safety concerns, but there are plenty of tidal ponds and flats, and a few beaches where the reef is close enough to cast out to from the shore. In the wash between the reef and the beach, huge Permit cruise the shallows and are accessible with fly gear. Most of the resorts have private beaches as well, that are loaded with Permit, Snook and Tarpon.
Q: Where is the best place to go shore fishing in Punta Cana? What species can be caught fishing this way?
Captain Tony: Cap Cana channel, Cabo Engano. A variety of species can be caught, including, but not limited to: barracudas, snooks, palometas, jureles, lisas, grunts, poofers etc.
If you plan on fishing any of the private beaches at night, be aware that some of them are patrolled by security after dark, and they don’t like people on the beach after-hours. Usually it is only necessary to show them you are a guest at the hotel, but don’t violate the hotel policies. My favorite beach to fish from is Bravero Beach, right in front of the Hotel Catalonia. It has great shallows, but if you wade, be careful and wear boots. The bottom is strewn with live coral, and it isn’t really possible to bottom-fish here. But with jigs, the action is usually fast and furious.
Some of the best tactics for surf fishing is to use an 8′ rod and casting spoons or jigs. Cast out to any ‘hump’ you see (the water is very clear and shallow), and likely as not, there will be fish there. For bait-fishing, squid is the #1 bait, followed closely by shrimp and bait-fish.
For fly fishing, Lefty’s deceivers, Gotchas and Crazy Charlies are hard to beat. For Tarpon and Snook, Polar Fiber Minnows, and the classic Red and White Tarpon Fly are proven patterns. For Bonefish, Pompano, Jacks and Permit, Crazy Charlies and Chernobyl Crabs have always worked the best for me. You can increase your distance by using a shooting taper. I’d recommend at least a 10′ 9/10 weight rod, and a reel with a good disc drag. Punta Cana fishing with a fly rod is some of the best fishing in the world.
Don’t neglect the lagoons either. Many of them contain tons of fish. My favorites are Lagoon de Limon, in the Eco Park. It is very large and has thousand of Tilapia, Snook, and some really respectable-sized Tarpon. Lagoon de Nissibon, another great choice, is a little difficult to get into. Access is mainly by walking or horseback, but it is worth the trouble. I caught the biggest Tarpon I have ever caught there, 162 pounds, 3 oz., on a Red and White Tarpon fly. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to having a heart-attack, so far.
If you want to fish the reef, and you promise to bring them back some supper, the hotel beach staff may even let you take one of their kayaks out to the reef for some world-class reef fishing for Snapper, Grouper, Wrasse, and other reef species. In my humble opinion, fishing doesn’t get any better than a fly rod and a kayak.
Captain Tony: Laguna de Nisibon and Laguna Cabeza de Toro – Cabeza de Toro is in the Punta Cana area and Laguna de Nisibon is about 40 minutes by car. Not only is Nisibon a better fishing spot, it’s also surrounded by traditional dominican villages and farms.
There are plenty of charters that specialize in inshore fishing as well. From the sea-side of the reef, you can catch mangrove Snappers, some species of Grouper, Tarpon, Barracuda, Yellowtails, Parrotfish, and the delicious and beautiful Queen Triggerfish. The reef abounds with sea-life. While most hotels will not cook your fish for you, if you rent a cabana, they have kitchens, or private chefs, and many restaurants will be happy to prepare and serve your fish to you, for a reasonable fee.
Captain Tony: Customers have a blast fishing inshore either way, but they particularly like catching Snook and Tarpon. We also catch a lot of yellow tails, grouper cabrilla, jureles, agujones and barracudas.
The Briny Deep
Deep Sea fishing is what Punta Cana is famous for. Punta Cana is located at the junction of the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, also known as the Mona Passage, a natural super-highway for pelagic fish.
Punta Cana has been responsible for some phenomenally large game fish being landed, and every year, thousands of hopeful anglers come here to try their luck in catching that “fish of a lifetime”. Pelagic species include White Marlin, Blue Marlin, Sailfish, Swordfish, Wahoo, Tuna, Dorado, and large, fast sharks such as the oceanic whitetip, blue and mako. Little can compare with the excitement and adrenalin-rush that comes with hooking one of these behemoths.
Q: When’s the tournament season in Punta Cana? What’s the record deep sea catch on your charters?
Captain Tony: Punta cana has 7 fishing tournaments, spanning from March to August – White Marlin classic, Billfish shoot out, The Big 5, Puerto Rico light tackle, The Cap Cana Blue Marlin and Cabeza de Toro Billfish, Punta Cana Blue Marlin and Casa de Campo Blue Marlin. We’ve caught Marlins of up to 730 pounds on our charters.
Deep Sea trolling starts just minutes within leaving the docks. There is no need for a several-hours boat ride to the fishing grounds, as is true in many other places. Many times, billfish are caught in less than a half hour from the docks.
Although Punta Cana fishing in-general is outstanding year-round, certain species are more prevalent at certain times of the year. Here is a breakdown of the best times for different species:
- Mahi Mahi (Dorado): Nov., Dec., Jan., Feb., and Mar.
- Sailfish: Oct., Nov., Dec., Jan., and Feb.
- Wahoo: Oct., Nov., and Dec.
- Blue Marlin: Jul., Aug., and Sept.
- Tuna: Jan., and Feb.
- White Marlin: June
- Shark, Snapper, Mackerel, Grouper, Cobia, Kingfish, Swordfish, Tarpon, Jack, Permit/Pompano, Bonefish: all year
Q: What kind of gear do you use on your charters?
Captain Tony: For saltwater fishing, we go out with Shimano Tiagra TLD 150A, Penn international 30vsw, Line 20 momois hi catch, custom rods, teasers and we use fresh balajus for bait.
Although no All-Tackle IGFA records have been set here as of yet, Punta Cana fishing has resulted in several Line-Class records, as well as being the host of the International Blue Marlin Tournament, the Club Nautico White Marlin Tournament, the Cap Cana White Marlin Open, and many more. Punta Cana fishing may not get you into the record books, but on average, more really large fish are caught here than anywhere else in the world.
Q: Any tips for catching a Blue Marlin in Punta Cana? Any local big game hotspots that you wouldn’t mind sharing?
Captain Tony: First thing you’re going to need is calmness and some ‘pasiencia’. A good captain will troll the fishing spots for a longer period of time. We usually arrive at the spot and stay there for 6 hours straight, working the area. In Punta Cana, we have 3 good, world wide known spots. They are The 3 rocks, The Pink House and Macao Beach, all of them close by.
Q: When your customers catch a Dorado or something else that they can eat, where can they take the catch to be prepared? Who does the cleaning and filleting?
How To Barter Your Charter
Most of the charters in Punta Cana have flexible and affordable rates, especially when you consider that due to the short transit times, most of your time will be spent fishing. Also, most charters are very accommodating if you want to do any special types of fishing, such as fly fishing or shark fishing, as long as they get enough notice. Punta Cana fishing charters can be 8 hours or more, or for a half day.
It is always best to set up your charter before you leave for your vacations, sometimes as early as 6-months in advance. Thousands of anglers come to Punta Cana each year to fish, and all the good charters stay pretty busy. Booking well in advance will ensure that you get the boat and crew you want.
If you didn’t book your charter ahead of time…well, you just have to make the best of a less than ideal situation. There will be people in the hotels that will try to get you to book with them. Avoid them if possible. As a rule, they are not professional guides, just local people with a boat trying to earn some extra money. Their boats may be too small, unsafe, or they may just take your money and disappear. They care less about you catching fish than they do about them catching your cash. Always check them out with the hotel staff before agreeing to anything or giving them any money. And never book with anyone that has been banned from the hotel. There is a reason for this.
There are more things to consider than just the crew. The waters around Punta Cana can be a little rough at times, with seas running as high as 6 to 8 feet. Don’t even think about going out on any boat below the 35-45 ft range, or longer. If you are prone to sea-sickness, be sure to take medication before you go out. Getting sea-sick can not only ruin the trip for you, but for everyone else as well. On most charters, if they have to come back in because you are sea-sick, there are no refunds.
Q: Waters of Punta Cana have a reputation of being a bit turbulent. Any tips to reduce risk of seasickness? What would be your recommended boat size?
Q:Apart from Billfish being released, are there any other fishing regulations you think our readers should know?
Captain Tony: The only rule is that one:catch and release all billfish.
A Few More Safety Tips
Punta Cana is a beautiful place, but like any other place that attracts large numbers of tourists with money to spend, there is somewhat of a dark side as well. The area has it’s share of crime, and there are other hazards that outsiders may not even be aware of:
Don’t go swimming at night– it’s prohibited in most places. Not only is there a very real danger from the sharks in the water, but sometimes human sharks also prowl the beaches looking for suitable victims. Most private beaches are patrolled by Security personnel with shotguns, and in a swimsuit (or whatever your wearing), they cannot tell if you are a guest or not. Save the romantic moonlight swims for the pool.
Don’t walk around alone at night, especially if you are a woman. Again, human predators stalk the streets after dark, so it’s best to stay in your hotel at night, or travel in groups. Never go off with someone you don’t know.
Consider any water away from your hotel as potentially contaminated. Local water may not be as processed as water in the hotels, which will usually be filtered. Use bottled water as much as possible.
Use caution at the beaches and lagoons. Most beaches and lagoons are unsupervised (i.e. no lifeguard on duty), so use extra caution when swimming and wading, and try to avoid going alone.
Keep your personal belongings, passports and other travel papers secure at all times.Most hotel rooms have a safe, or one is available at the front desk. Make sure all your important documents, and anything else of value other than walking around cash and credit cards, go into the safe. If anything comes up missing, especially tickets or passports, notify the Police immediately.
Stars On The Water
Punta Cana fishing attracts anglers from all walks of life: from laborers who save up, sometimes for years, for that one chance at a monster billfish, to school teachers, professional people, and even the rich and famous. You never know who you might run into. Some notable people who have visited Punta Cana are Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Denzel Washington, Vin Diesel, Tom Cruise, Jennifer Lopez, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, Pedro Martinez and more.
Make Punta Cana Your Next Destination For That Dream Fishing Trip
Punta Cana fishing is some of the best available anywhere in the world. When you get ready to book that fishing trip of a lifetime, give Punta Cana a try.
Q: Tony, tell us a bit more about your company, Atlantida Punta Cana?
Captain Tony: Atlantida Punta Cana has more than 6 years of charter experience in the Punta Cana area. We specialize in VIP fishing charters, and have 5 yachts from 38 ft to 53ft. Our vessels operate from the two most important Punta Cana marinas – marina Cap Cana and marina Cabeza de Toro.
Q: You’ve just recently added another boat to your fleet, the ‘Rich & Famous’?
Captain Tony: We are very pleased with our new boat, which is a mixture of fishing and family fun. It is a modern 38 ft catamaran funcat for up to 15 people, equipped with everything needed for an enjoyable experience on the water. The Rich and Famous is designed for the whole family. Leaving the exclusive marina Cap Cana, we take our clients inshore fishing in calm waters, then snorkel the reef. We also incorporate a visit to the natural pool or juanillos sand bar in our fishing packages, where everyone can just relax on the beach as we have a bbq lunch.
Got any more questions for us or Captain Anthony Perez? Let us know in the comment section below!