Fishing in Punta Cana is the ultimate exotic adventure if there ever was one. Wetting a line in the azure waters surrounding the Dominican Republic’s fishing capital is an experience you’ll never forget. The town’s name refers to the beautiful local cane palms that grace the landscape and make you feel like you’re in paradise.
The tropical climate of Punta Cana is pretty consistent year-round (60–90ºF), and several IGFA records have been set and broken here. These are all the makings of a dream-come-true fishery. When you go fishing around the “Jewel of the Caribbean,” record catches could always be just one cast away!
Top Catches in Punta Cana
From lagoon fishing and reef exploration to battling blue-water bruisers, Punta Cana has it all. The deep sea bite is off the hook here, which is what attracts passionate fishermen all over the world. Whether you’re after Billfish or big pelagics, you can have it all here.
That’s not to say that the inshore opportunities should be neglected. Hugged by a coral reef, where marine life thrives, Punta Cana won’t disappoint inshore fishers. A slew of Snapper, Barracuda, Parrotfish, Triggerfish, and even Snook and Tarpon are in the cards. Let’s check out the top catches that make fishing here so special!
Marlin & Sailfish – The Sportfisher’s Holy Grail
If there’s one thing Punta Cana is famous for, it’s outstanding Billfishing. Marlin, Sailfish, and even Swordfish make the province an epicenter of deep sea action. What is it that makes fishing here so good? The fact that you don’t have to travel far to get to trophy-sized catches. Blue and White Marlin, as well as Sailfish, can be found in great numbers several miles from the shore.
Sailfish are the prelude to the Billfish summertime extravaganza. The best time to target them is in the winter months, from November-February. Everybody loves going after them because they’re abundant, lightning-fast, and excellent fighters. They can be 10 feet long and weigh well over 100 pounds, especially in these warm waters where they thrive.
Next on the list are White Marlin, who show up in late spring and stick around until late August. If you’ve got your eye on a White variety, the optimal time to chase one is in June. They’re smaller than their Blue cousins, usually weighing anywhere from 50–150 pounds.
The arrival of Blue Marlin ushers in the peak of the deep sea fishing season. These monsters appear in June and stay until late September, with August being the best month. Some Blues stay longer, but the bite is sporadic. To get your Blue Marlin, you’ll need a lot of patience, but the waiting is well worth it.
Trolling is the technique of choice for tempting the giants of the deep. Billfish are predators and can’t resist fast-moving lures and bait. Bear in mind that Marlin and Sailfish are strictly catch and release. Whichever species you choose, you’re in for a world of angling fun!
Never Enough Mahi Mahi
While Billfish are the “final frontier” when it comes to sport fishing, Mahi Mahi is also always on the menu. They’re present all year but are most numerous from October through April. These colorful species are a local favorite, and visiting anglers can look forward to finding a Bull on their line, too.
Mahi Mahi (or Dorado or Dolphin) are among the most acrobatic pelagics out there. Not only are they strong, but their headshakes and power will test even the most skilled fishermen. They’re also one of the most common catches around Punta Cana. So after a fantastic battle, you’ll get to enjoy delicious Mahi fillets.
These fish can grow to be more than 3 feet long and weigh anywhere from 10–90 pounds, depending on the time of year and luck. The best way to find them is to look for the birds feeding on the water’s surface. Where baitfish and birds are, Mahi usually follow.
Just like with most pelagics, the safest way to target Mahi Mahi is trolling. Often, they’re a welcome by-catch while going after Billfish. When you get one on the line, your time on the water will become a lot more interesting. Just be ready for a workout!
How about Yellowfin Tuna?
As if the promise of impressive Billfish and Mahi isn’t enough, Tuna join the fray to seal the deal. You’ll find them off Punta Cana in the winter months, and they’re most active in January and February. But don’t worry if you can’t make it then, they’ll be around until early spring and then again in fall.
Yellowfins resemble missiles in their shape, and it’ll definitely feel like an explosion when you get one on the line. Their sheer power will have you holding onto the rod with everything you’ve got. That’s what makes Tuna fishing so exhilarating!
These fish can weigh anywhere from 20–50 pounds on average, but there are bigger specimens in the bluewater. And when we say bigger, we mean over 100 pounds. They respond well to a number of lures, including squid lures, plugs, and spoons. If you prefer live bait, then your best bet is ballyhoo and squid. When you come across a school of Yellowfin Tuna, troll your bait at different depths around the edges – that’s where the big ones hang out.
Around Punta Cana, Yellowfins are pursued for their delicious meat and game qualities. If you’ve never caught a Tuna before, then reeling in and battling a Yellowfin will be a life-altering experience.
Everybody Wants a Wahoo or Two
If there ever was a fish built for speed, it’s the mighty Wahoo. And when you go fishing in Punta Cana, you’ll find a good number of these toothy bad boys out there. Just like most pelagics, Wahoo bites year-round. But to land a trophy, you should come down from October-December.
What puts Wahoo on everyone’s to-catch list is both their speed and fighting abilities, not to mention delicious meat. Along with Mahi Mahi, they’re a “bread and butter” fish that both locals and tourists like to target. The best part? These torpedo-shaped fellas can weigh anywhere from 10–120 pounds, sometimes even more.
During the colder months, you can stumble upon Wahoo at different depths, close to reefs or in waters hundreds of feet deep. Trolling is the name of the game, especially if you troll at a greater speed with fast-moving lures. When you do get your Wahoo on the boat, be mindful of their razor-sharp teeth while enjoying the post-battle high!
A Great Variety of Inshore Species
Yes, premier deep sea fishing is the first thing associated with Punta Cana, but that’s not to say that things are boring inshore. On the contrary, there’s a lot for you to catch around the local reefs. If you’re going out with your family, there’s plenty for you to look forward to.
Tarpon, Snook, and Permit love the crystal clear inshore waters, especially during the winter months. Avid fishers like to target them on the fly or light tackle, and sometimes you can even snatch one while fishing from land. Another way to get your hands on one of these fish is to cast your line in one of Punta Cana’s many lagoons.
In the mood for more diversity? Some parts of the reefs are full of big Barracuda, smaller Snapper, Jacks, Grouper, and Needlefish. Most of these are fun for all levels to target and they make for delicious table fare. Beyond the reef, you could also come face-to-gills with Shark species, including Blue, Tiger, Lemon, Bull, and Nurse Sharks.
Types of Fishing in Punta Cana
As you might imagine, there are many ways you can fish the crystal clear waters of Punta Cana. The only thing that determines the fishing type and technique is what you’d like to catch. Here are some of the best types of fishing to try.
Fishing with a Charter
Punta Cana’s angling action is some of the best available in the Caribbean. There’s no better way to explore these fisheries than to hit the water with a professional guide.
If you’ve set your sights on a deep sea monster like Marlin, Tuna, Bull Mahi Mahi, or Wahoo, local insight is invaluable in finding the top spots. Most charters have flexible and affordable rates and they’re accommodating if you want to try any special technique, as long as they get enough notice. There are a lot of experienced crews in Punta Cana, so you can be a novice, a pro, or somewhere in between, and they’ll be able to help you.
We’d recommend that you book your charter several months in advance. Punta Cana boasts some of the best summer fishing in this part of the world, so charters fill up fast. If possible, book your charter in the winter months. That way, you’ll find the option that ticks all the boxes.
Shore Fishing in Punta Cana
You already know that boat fishing is much more popular in Punta Cana than shore fishing, but there’s still plenty to do on land. Both Surf fishing and going to the lagoons have a lot of potential.
From some of the beaches, the reef is close enough to cast out from shore. In other spots, fishing is not allowed, either for safety reasons or because it’s on private property. You don’t have to worry, because there are tidal ponds and flats at your disposal. 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 that are loaded with Permit, Snook, and Tarpon. But that’s not all – Barracuda, Palometa, Mackerel, and many more are also out there.
Lagoons are one of the many reasons Punta Cana is a gorgeous destination, and guess what? Fishing here is good as well. You’ll stop by to admire the beauty of these sequestered parts, but you’ll stay for the bite.
Lagoon fishing in Punta Cana offers a different pace to the fast and furious action of the open sea… At least until you hook into a big Tarpon, then all bets are off. These turquoise waters hide good Snook, Tilapia, and impressive Tarpon. Some of these spots may be harder to reach, but that just means that fewer people fish there, so there’ll be more catch for you. And who doesn’t want that?
Top Fishing Spots in Punta Cana
It’s hard to pick a certain number of top spots in a fishery as good as Punta Cana’s. But we’ll try. All you have to do is decide what you’d like to catch, pick a location, and get started. Here are some spots you shouldn’t miss out on.
- Cabo Engaño: This is one of the best shore fishing destinations in Punta Cana, along with Grand Canal in Cap Cana. Here, you can look forward to Permit, Tarpon, and Snook.
- Laguna de Nisibon: While remote (40 minutes from Punta Cana by car), this lagoon is both absolutely beautiful and brimming with fish. The effort to get there will be well worth it when you get a big Tarpon on your line.
- Mona Passage: Some would argue that there’s no better place for your deep sea fishing escapades, but it’s up to you to decide. The home of Bull Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, and Billfish, Mona Passage is a piscatorial paradise.
- The Three Rocks: If you’re a passionate Marlin chaser, chances are that the Three Rocks will be one of your stopping points. Both White and Blue Marlin like to feed here, and Sailfish are common as well.
- The Pink House: Another famous Marlin spot, the Pink House is one of those hotspots where you’ll find not only Billfish, but also different pelagic species at all times of the year.
Punta Cana Fishing Regulations
While fishing in Punta Cana is nothing short of spectacular, fishing regulations aren’t as tight as they are in the US. If you’re out there on your own, you should have a valid fishing license, but it might be a bit difficult to find a vendor.
Things are much easier when you go out with a charter – your guide will cover all the necessary permits. The most important rule to keep in mind is that all Billfish are strictly catch and release. If you’re staying in a hotel or a resort and want to cast a line from a private beach, check with the staff what the policies are on the premises.
Fishing Tournaments in Punta Cana
It’s no surprise that competitive fishing is big in Punta Cana, and how can it not be? Spring and summer are the busiest times of the year, both in and on the water, and there are seven tournaments of note you can participate in.
Come here anytime from March through August, and there’ll be some kind of competition taking place. The White Marlin Classic, The Big 5, and Punta Cana Blue Marlin are just a few of the most popular tournaments. Cabeza de Toro Billfish, Casa de Campo Blue Marlin, and the Billfish Shoot Out are also great options if you’re set on grappling with a Marlin that weighs hundreds of pounds.
Fishing in Punta Cana – Everything You Could Ever Imagine and More
Now that you know more about the fishing diversity Punta Cana offers, it’s easy to understand why everyone wants in. This amazing Caribbean destination has everything you need – pristine sand beaches, rich waters, and local hospitality all in one. Punta Cana is everything you could ever need and want from a perfect vacation, but just to be sure, you should try it yourself!
Have you been fishing in Punta Cana? What was your experience? Do you have any tips or tricks for your fellow anglers? Share your stories in the comments.