Jamaica is an island country that is situated in the Caribbean Sea and spans 4,240 square miles in area. In the Jamaican waters, there are many varieties of saltwater and freshwater fish. Some of the saltwater fish include mackerel, tuna, kingfish, whiting, bonito, and jack. The freshwater fish can include mangrove snapper, jewfish, mullets, and snook. Fishing is a very popular, yet celebrated sport, from the private yachts from the US to the charter boats. Jamaica also hosts and participates in major fishing tournaments and contests. These take place usually between September and October each year.
Where to Fish in Jamaica
This is one of the reasons that fishing in Jamaica is first class. This area extends from the southeastern tip of Cuba toward Guatemala to the Windward Passage. The drop off begins about a half-mile of the coast of Montego Bay starting at 400 feet until it gradually slopes down to 3,000 feet offshore. It is a narrow trough that goes west-southwest to east-northeast and has a maximum depth of 25,216 feet. In the Caribbean Sea this is where you will find the deepest part. Here you will find many game fish such as white and blue marlin, mahi-mahi, Yellowfin tuna, snapper, barracuda, and more.
The banks and cays on the south coast of Jamaica are where you can find several bottom fish, such as grouper and snapper. Pedro Bank is the largest bank along the south coast and is home to a variety of fish like mutton, red tail snapper, grouper, and yellowtail. You can also find kingfish and wahoo along these banks. On the north coast, there are three main banks located on the Port Antonio coast; Grappler, Henry Holms, and Shipwreck. Buckner bank is located about 15 miles off the coast of Montego Bay.
Species and Season
There are certain times of the year in which you can find certain species of fish so if there is a certain species, check to see if they are in season. Even if you are not there when they are in season, it is common to still find them but during these times is when they are more plentiful.
- Dolphin (dorado) — January-April
- Tuna (yellow or blackfin) — April-August
- Core marlin — August-December
Fishing Regulations in Jamaica
When you take a charter fishing trip, all the licenses will be covered by the boat.
- Spearfishing — there is no license required but you cannot spearfish in the boundaries of the Montego Bay Marine Park.
- Stop fishing (hook and line) — the proper procedure is to get a permission letter before you fish from the Montego Bay Marine Park. You generally do not need a license to fish from shore
- Sports fishing — this means tuna or marlin type fishing in which you use a boat there is no legislation. A personal license for the boat is needed if it is owned but you will need a fishing license for commercial purposes.
Fishing in Montego Bay, Jamaica
Montego Bay, Jamaica is the second-largest city in Jamaica and is located between the Cayman Trench and the Jamaica Channel, which are the main sea lanes to the Panama Canal. All of these are great places to go fishing. Here is a guide to the various fish you may catch each month.
- January — in this month, the big game bite may not be the best but you can still catch some of the best bottom fish like amberjack and grouper
- February — this is the peak month for the white marlin. This fish can be as long as nine feet and weigh over 150 pounds. One of the most unique features of this deep-sea fish is its dorsal fin, which typically consists of 28 to 46 rays. There is also a secondary dorsal fin that has five to six rays. You can also fish for mahi-mahi.
- March — during this month you will still find white marlin, mahi-mahi, yellowfin tuna, and wahoo.
- April — this is a great time to go fishing for mahi-mahi
- May — during this month, the tourist high season is over so you will not have to worry about finding space to fish for yellowfin tuna, wahoo, and mahi-mahi, snapper, grouper, and various sharks. The toughest part about fishing this month is deciding which one to eat.
- June — this is the month in which you will start seeing blue marlin starting to bite. Some of these giant fish can weigh as much as 300 pounds.
- July — this is still blue marlin season along with mahi-mahi
- August — the blue marlin is still biting making it a great season to go fishing offshore. At this time, the blue marlin may not be as large but they still will give you a fight to haul them on board.
- September — in Jamaica during September competitive anglers head to Montego Bay to take part in the Jamaica International Blue Marlin Team Tournament. Book your reservation early as this tournament always draws a large crowd.
- October — although the blue marlin tournament is held in September, this is the month when the blue marlin is more productive. Also this month you will have the Port Antonio International Fishing Tournament, which is the longest-running event in fishing in Jamaica. It is also one of the most important fishing events. Anglers are fishing for the largest blue marlin.
- November — at this time of the year, the big fish season is starting to wind down and the tournaments are over but you can still catch blue marlins. This is also the time for other tasty bottom fish.
- December — this is the month for reef fish such as clownfish, grouper, and snapper.
Types of Fishing in Jamaica
When you go fishing in Jamaica, most of it will occur in the deep waters of the Cayman Trench. Just a mile from shore you can drop your line into 3,000 feet of water because of the drop-off there. Although the busiest season for fishing is during the winter, it can even be better during the low seasons. Take advantage of one of the two tournaments that are held there each fall.
Although many of the reefs in Jamaica have suffered from overfishing, they can still offer great fishing. In the shallower reefs, you can find snapper, barracuda, yellowtail, and rainbow runners. If you go farther out and drop your line in some deeper remote spots, you can fish for deep water groupers and amberjack. The largest bottom fishing can be found in Pedro Bank. It runs along the entire coast of Port Royal and Jamaica Kingston. A little farther north there is Buckner Bank which also has a great variety of fish to catch.
There are many big game fish that you can try to catch just a few miles from shore. There is something for every angler. For ones just starting out with deep-sea fishing, try your hand with the hard fighting mahi-mahi or tuna. The more experienced anglers can put their skills to the test against white and blue marlin.
Hiring a Fishing Charter
It is important that when you book a charter it is with a reputable company. Do not book with some stranger on the beach that says they own a charting company and offer a low price. Check with your travel agency or if you want to go out for a day on a charter boat, ask at the front desk of the hotel or resort where you are staying. Many times, they have a list of reputable charters that they do business with all the time. Before hiring, make sure that they have all the proper licenses, that there are life jackets for everyone on board, the crew are well trained, and what the package includes.
When planning a trip to Jamaica for vacation, fishing, or both, the unique thing about fishing here is that it is done in rivers and sea. The fish there range from small to large 400 pounds or more fish. When you come to Jamaica, there are many of the resorts that offer fishing facilities but there are also charter boats that you can hire if you are coming down for a weekend or week but they can be very expensive. Check out the different reputable charter companies and the packages they offer.
If you decide that you want to go deep-sea fishing, besides going to Montego Bay, visit Negril because they also have some of the best deep-sea fishing on the island. Most of the fishing there consists of offshore trolling in the western part of Jamaica. For all anglers, the ultimate big fish catch in Jamaica would be the blue marlin, which can take several hours to catch and release but it is an experience you will not soon forget. Book your reservation early so you can take part in one of the two tournaments that are held there each year in the fall.
You may also want to read our Ultimate Guide to Fishing in Mexico.