Reaching 2,500 feet deep just a quarter mile offshore and the Cayman Trench extending down to over 25,000 feet, it’s no surprise Cayman is a hotspot for year-round deep-sea fishing.
What may surprise anglers is not only what they can catch out at sea and along the reefs but also what they can reel in near the shore. You may hear more buzz about the catch-and-release inshore fishing industry in the Bahamas, but all three of the Cayman Islands offer great guided and DIY inshore sportfishing. In this light-tackle sportfishing paradise, you can catch bonefish, tarpon and permit just 15 minutes away from your hotel. It’s fitting that the largest of the three islands — Grand Cayman — is home to the largest bonefish, averaging three to five pounds. “Bonefish are by far the most popular of the inshore game fish, and they are all around the Island. However, where you target them depends on your preferred method of fishing,” explains Davin Ebanks, owner and bonefish guide at Fish Bones Guided Fly Fishing, which specialises in fly-fishing wade trips.
If you plan on fly-fishing, some of the most popular areas include Barker’s National Park, Prospect Point and Rum Point, all offering easy accessibility to wadeable flats. Prospect Point and Rum Point are both good spots for first-time saltwater fly-fishers, since they’re protected from the wind, making casting easier. Barker’s National Park, set on the northernmost tip of the West Bay peninsula, is a more challenging spot; but since it’s a larger area, you’ll have a greater chance of making a catch.
Whilst you can also go spin fishing here, Ebanks recommends heading to the deeper edges of the flats, where heavier bait and lures won’t scare bonefish away as easily. Spin fishers may also have better luck along some of the northern stretches of Seven Mile Beach and the western end of South Sound, with deeper water that’s home to sport fish like bonefish and tarpon.
Want to see what Caymanians are catching? Make your way to any of the local public docks. Since locals often clean their catches around here, it attracts smaller fish and larger predators like tarpon, jack and barracuda, making it the perfect place for both spin and fly-fishers.
As far as catching your lunch for the day, even Ebanks says he struggles to catch decent fish from the shore. Since they get much less requests for catch-and-keep fishing, this is one of the main reasons why Fish Bones made the switch to guided fly-fishing excursions.
“Most of time when potential guests ask about places to catch snapper for dinner, they’re looking to save a buck. After all, we don’t have a fishing licence law in Cayman, so the Island gets nothing in the way of funds for conservation or enforcement when visitors catch fish,” Ebanks says. “At least when people buy from local vendors or restaurants, the money goes back into our economy, which is a benefit.”
Where to Get Your Fish Fix
After a day on the water, kick back at one of these casual seafood spots where locally caught fish shine as the star of the show.
Beach House: Take in views over Seven Mile Beach whilst dining on coastal cuisine at the award-wining Beach House, located at The Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa. “Our seafood dishes at Beach House are globally inspired and market driven,” says Executive Chef Sandy Tuason. “We utilise local fish and island ingredients as much as possible, and we have numerous fishermen that call us on a weekly basis when they have their fresh catch.” Five different farmers deliver fresh produce like kale, peppers, tomatoes and pumpkin, which are incorporated into dishes like jerk-marinated island wahoo with sweet potato gnocchi and Cayman sea salt-crusted whole snapper or lionfish, topped with chimichurri and island pumpkin purée.
Grape Tree Café: The seaside spot in Bodden Town is no frills (think picnic tables in the sand and a menu of mostly fried fare), but locals deem it the best spot for fried fish on the Island — as well as an incredible place to catch the sunset. You can’t go wrong with the fried mahi-mahi or roast snapper, made even better with a drizzle of pepper sauce.
Sunshine Grill: Take a seat poolside at the tropical-inspired eatery, where many of the chefs hail from some of Havana’s best kitchens. Start with the signature “Painkiller” cocktail — a Cayman version of the BVI classic from Soggy Dollar Bar — and dig into the catch of the day, such as almond snapper or wahoo and mushroom bites. The real winner here, however, is the “world famous” island fish tacos, stuffed with grilled mahi-mahi, havarti cheese, wontons and a sweet Thai chili sauce.
Cayman Cabana: Located along the historic George Town waterfront, this oceanside eatery serves up freshly grilled fish sourced from the market right next door. The “restobar” is also one of the few on the Island that has a “you hook it, we cook it” philosophy, with chefs prepping your hard-earned catches just the way you like.
Heritage Kitchen: With a sign declaring “All Local Seafood” hanging above the tiny street-side shack in West Bay, you know you’ve come to the right place. First, make your way to the window and order from the handwritten chalkboard sign, then head over to the sea wall with your freshly fried fish and conch soup, taking a seat with prime views of the waves rolling in nearby.
Calico Jack’s Bar & Grill: This bustling beach bar sits smack dab in the centre of Seven Mile Beach, and whilst the highlight may be the cocktails and cold beer, the menu features one hidden gem: Cayman-style, pan-fried grouper, served with rice and beans.
Hit the High Seas
For anglers after deep-sea fishing, there’s plenty of pros who can guide you to Cayman’s hotspots, where you’ll find marlin, tuna, wahoo, mahi-mahi and swordfish. Set off on the 40-foot Hit n Run fishing vessel with family-run Captain Asley’s Watersports, pairing a deep-sea fishing excursion with a trip to Stingray City. Captain Asley Ebanks started the company back in the 1950s, and now the second generation is on board. The crew grew up working as deck hands for their father, spending “more time on the water than on land,” so whether you’re a first-time angler or a long-time pro, you’re in good hands. Case in point: Captain Dwight Ebanks released his first blue marlin when he was only 9 years old, and at 17 he won the Million Dollar Month tournament. Top this experience with insider knowledge of the best spots to cast your line around the Island and you’re in for a good day on the water.
Know Before You Go
Fishing equipment counts as one piece of free checked luggage on board Cayman Airways, so go ahead and load up your rods, reel, tackle box, landing net and boots. Please visit caymanairways.com for details and conditions.
Author: Lane Nieset