Posted on Sunday, 09.08.13
Angling for a better relationship with Cuba
BY SUSAN COCKING
Retired Coral Gables physician Marty Arostegui fled his native Cuba in
1960 when he was 14. Busy with career, family and fishing — setting 420
International Game Fish Association world records on various types of
tackle) — he never returned to the Communist-ruled island until 2010. Of
course, it was his passion for fishing that drew him back.
Now the 66-year-old IGFA trustee is working to promote recreational
angling in Cuba, and maybe along the way encourage a less-hostile
relationship between his former home and his adopted land.
“Time has passed and we’re getting older,” Arostegui said. “Maybe there
are other ways to bring about change that don’t involve a constant state
Arostegui said he has no wish to debate the politics of U.S.-Cuba
relations. Instead, he focuses on person-to-person interactions with
regular citizens, visiting international anglers and fisheries officials
During a couple of recent trips to the island, Arostegui and IGFA
president Rob Kramer and conservation director Jason Schratweiser have
managed to interest anglers who compete in the annual Hemingway Marlin
Tournament in using circle hooks to catch and release the spindle-beaked
giants. The IGFA delegation showed tournament competitors from Cuba and
around the world how to rig baits using circle hooks and how to drop
back and hook fish. Circle hooks have been mandatory for years in U.S.
billfish tournaments when using live or natural baits, but the Cubans
and others weren’t familiar.
This year, the Americans got the tournament to set aside a special prize
category for using circle hooks and presented the winning crew with a
David Wirth sculpture. Next year, Arostegui said, tournament officials
have pledged to make circle hooks mandatory, and to implant satellite
tags in some fish to help advance scientific studies on their growth and
But, he said, “remember that everything over there is subject to change
Offshore fishing is not the only pastime Arostegui is helping to nurture.
A keen interest in exotic fish lured him to the Hatiguanico River about
1?1/2 hours south of Havana, where African sharp-toothed catfish, known
locally as claria, abound. The toothy non-natives were brought there
years ago to launch an aquaculture program, but they spread out of
control after a hurricane blew out dikes that enclosed them.
Last spring, Arostegui and local fisherman Jose Ramon Cuza, president of
the Cuban Federation of Sportfishing, decided to try for a world-record
claria on fly rod using an ultra-fine two-pound tippet and a fly made
out of marabou feathers.
It would be quite an angling coup if they succeeded. At the time, only
four IGFA world records had come out of Cuba — and none were caught by
Arostegui caught a fish that weighed a little more than a pound. A few
minutes later, Cuza topped it with a three-pounder. The two were jubilant.
“That day, two Cubans from both sides of the Gulf Stream caught two
world records on the same day in Cuba,” Arostegui said, smiling.
Cuza has since been named an IGFA representative.
Arostegui said he also is interested in helping promote the island’s
bountiful Cayo Largo flats fishery for bonefish, tarpon and permit, and
a fledgling school that trains Cubans to become flats guides.
Source: “Angling for a better relationship with Cuba – Outdoors –