So after a month of traveling the internal highlands of Colombia I was well over due a trip to the ocean for some fishing. Opportunities inland were thin on the ground. There does not seem to be much of a culture for recreation fishing in Colombia unlike other South American counties I have been to. I was put onto a few trout lakes near Bogata but logistics and bad weather put me off this. So I took a flight to Cartegenia where I boarded a boat to Isla Grande about two hours up the coast via speed boat.
The island was lovely, a combination of coral atolls and mangroves and the hostels on the island are beautiful old converted villas. I was optimistic of tarpon but neither saw or hooked anything apart from a very small and angry reef fish about the size of my fly.
I would recommend a trip out there, the diving was good without being spectacular and the coral was in reasonable condition. There was however a distinct lack of pelagic species. Something that can not be said of Santa Marta.
Santa Marta used to be Narco central. The hills were used for growing it, the port was used for shipping it and the streets were a war zone. This has changed massively over the past few years but don’t be fooled this is still a dangerous place. I met a guy who was robbed at knife point two blocks from the city centre and it’s still illegal to ride two men on a bike due to a spate of drive by shootings a few years ago that took the life of many including a police officer.
That said if you are careful the place has a lot of charm and a massive amount of things to do. I dumped myself in the North Bay hostel, it had a pool was very well located near the port and centre and served a purpose. There are better hostels out of town such as the Drop Bear but you then have to rely on taxis.
So I decided to do a bit of exploring and took an Uber to Taganga 20 minutes north (about 4 pounds ) this pleasant little port village offers diving on a grand scales as well as boats to the Tyrona national park further up the coast and has a number of bars and restaurants. There are also plenty of hostels if you are looking to escape the city and want something a bit more laid back. I stopped for a few beers and some lunch at the north end of the village and got chatting to some locals who offered me a boat and gear for 60,000 pesos an hours about 18 pounds, a very fair price. Probably the cheapest I have found in some years. So having not planned to fish that day and already half cut I charted the boat for a couple of hours. This is more than enough time to get out by the island and back, but I would recommend longer if your are properly prepared, they didn’t provide food or beers for that price and didn’t have an ice box.
So with a few cold beers and a bottle of water we set off from the beach. Before we had even left the bay I spotted a school of bait fish being harassed by something big… it bodes well, once out in the open water it got fairly choppy, I would probably recommend an early start if possible to reduce this, not the hottest part of the day as I had chosen in my addled state.
Even in the choppy water it was easy to spot loads of flying fish and schools of bait fish. This felt completely different to Santa Marta, this smelt fishy. We set two lines out, one rod and one hand line, both had fairly small plastic squid on them trawling just below the surface, I would have liked to have had a combination of a lure and a squid but the captain assumed me the squid was best. More bait fish burst the surface as we rounded the first headland. This is one of the furthers city’s north in Colombia and I would say it’s not suffering from over fishing, the Venazwalian boarder isn’t far away, and I’m sure they haven’t overfished their coast as they can’t organise basic food and toilet paper for their population let alone manage a large scale fishing fleet.
We were chartering a course about 100m from the coast when the rod went off in my hand. I struck hard into what felt like a good fish especially on the light tackle we were using. I hadn’t until that point realised what antiquated gear I had in my hand. The rod was missing an eye and the reel barely reeled it was so rusted up.
I managed to adjust the drag and the fight was on. It’s hard enough fighing a fish with good gear on choppy seas, try doing it with a knackered real and rod which looks like it may get snapped at any moment is even harder. Anyway after about 10 minutes of fighting the reel as much as the fish, I brought the tuna along side the boat and the skipper pulled it on board. My first proper tuna. I had caught skip jack before in Spain but never proper good quality tasty tuna..
We carried on trawling for another hour but didn’t hook into anything else. There were no shortage of fish around though. When I got back to the port we saw some other fishermen coming in who had caught small Dorado, as species that still alludes me and more tuna. I was also told Marlin are common further out although not in April.
The following day I went back out to the island for a couple of dives, the area is clearly super healthy with a cold, deep water trench bringing in a lot of nutrients for all species to dine on. I’m heading further up the coast shortly and will look for another charter hopefully out deeper if I can get one. On my return from the dive to Santa Marta the boat docked in the port in the centre of town. It’s a private port so you can only access with a boat or permission. The marina was full of bait fish and small Baraccuda everywhere, then just as the sun was setting a school of tarpon all about 20 pound plus is sizes swam around the marina without a care in the world. They were bigger than anything we had seen on the dive and looked incredible as they broke the water less than a meter away from me.. the things you see when you haven’t got a rod in your hand…
Other than fishing and diving the lost city trek up into the jungle was excellent and the beach around Tyrona are beautiful you can also surf and the party scene in Santa Marta is good most nights of the week, you can get a good selection of foods in the centre along with other local delicacies, I would highly recommend a trip up to this end of the country. Minca i also worth a day or two if the heat is getting to you.