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Fishing On The Pacific Coast of Colombia 🇨🇴
Adventure at its finest...
Wonderful guest post by fellow LatAm enthusiast: Scotian
I’ve been fishing all over the world in places like Canada, Thailand, Mexico, and the US — for a variety of species including salmon, walleye, king mackeral, catfish and tuna.
This is a post about one of my most memorable fishing trips that I took last March on the Pacific coast of Colombia — in the El Choco department near the town of Bahia Solano. A place that is both off-the-beaten-path and very undeveloped, but a great spot to relax and unwind for a few days.
You don’t have to be an expert fisherman or have a lot of money to have a good time fishing with some friendly locals and catch nice sized tunas that you can cook on the beach and unwind in a very remote, relaxed part of Colombia.
I’ve been fishing in Bahia Solano a few times before, mostly with locals in small boats using hand line and live fish as bait, but also once with a “professional” charter that had a big fancy boat, expensive gear and social media pages which unfortunately ended up being one of the worst fishing experiences of my life.
I much prefer the former option of going out with a local for a few hours to catch fish by hand.
It’s fairly cheap — I paid about $75 to go out all morning, which covered the gasoline cost and our deal was that he kept most of the fish, but I got to keep a couple of the “small ones” which still weighed 15 pounds each and fed about ten people at the beach hostel I stayed at.
My most recent trip was great because we caught a lot of tuna that morning, including one that the captain caught by hand that weighed over 100 pounds.
We cruised around the open water a few miles off shore and caught about a dozen nice sized tunas, mostly weighing between ten and fifteen pounds, I’ve caught dorados before, but on this trip it was only tuna that were biting.
The region is also good for large snapper and sail fish, depending on the season. It’s a very basic style of fishing when you go with a local-their boats are small with fifteen horsepower motors, they don’t use life jackets or any other type of safety equipment so it’s not exactly the safest activity but if you’re comfortable on the water like me it’s fine but certainly not for everyone.
Here’s is a breakdown of how you can have a great fishing trip, for cheap, on the Pacific coast of Colombia…
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You have to fly there, there’s literally no road access, arriving by boat is also an option — but only from other remote areas so will focus on the former option.
There’s daily flights on small prop planes from the Medellin city airport Olaya Herrera, which is located in the heart of the city and is easily accessible by taxi.
I’ve flown with Easy Air and Satena, one way tickets are usually around $75 each way and the flight to Bahia Solano takes about an hour.
It’s an impressive flight from the mountains of the Aburra Valley (where Medellin is located) the wild jungles of the Pacific where it meets the ocean, the Bahia Solano airport is very small, upon landing your bags will be manually searched by security and you’ll likely see armed soldiers at the airport. There is a military base nearby as the region is still a hot spot for guerilla, but tourists shouldn’t worry, the area is much more secure these days
Where to Stay
I don’t recommend staying in Bahia Solano, as the name suggests, it’s a bay that is mostly used as an industrial port.
I’ve spent a few nights there over the years and much prefer the beach town of El Valle and Playa El Almejal, which is located about a half an hour from the airport and easily accessible by taxi or Tuk Tuk — which you’ll see immediately upon exiting the airport.
Most of the hotels and hostels are located on the beach, a couple of miles from the pueblo of El Valle, which takes about twenty minutes to reach by foot.
I’ve only stayed at one hostel during my trips to the region, it’s called The Humpback Turtle and is a very nice, rustic beach hostel with a surf school called Bamba Surf Club and a kitchen where staff cook meals for guests.
There’s other options located nearby which you can find online, most are fairly basic so don’t expect luxury-air conditioning and WIFI aren’t always available, but the heat isn’t as intense as in the Caribbean although it can be quite humid.
How to Find a Boat And Guide
I have a couple of contacts of locals with boats who are available to take people out for a few hours of fishing, prices are reasonable-about 300.000 (about $75 last March) for the morning, this could fluctuate depending on fuel prices, your negotiating skills and level of Spanish.
I found my last guide by simply walking into town and sitting down at the park by the beach where the locals dock their boats. A guy came up to me and asked me what I was looking for, I told him I was looking to go fishing and he told me that he had a boat and would be happy to take me out the next day.
He offered to show me some fish he had in his freezer that he had caught the day before, so we walked to his house a few blocks away and sure enough, his freezer was full of fat tunas, we then agreed to meet at the park the next morning at 6am.
As I mentioned before, it’s a simple form of fishing, or pesca artesenal that the locals practice so no fish finder, fancy rods, reels or lures- just hand line wrapped around a piece of Styrofoam, with a hook and live bait that they catch with a net.
The boat leaves the beach at the pueblo and you cruise out into the open ocean, usually for 45 minutes to an hour but on previous trips I’ve gone out for a couple of hours, the land is still in sight at all times, but it’s at least a couple of miles off shore.
Basically the guide cruises around looking for action on the water:
Jumping schools of fish
Dolphins or whales
As my last guide explained to me “where there’s dolphins, there’s fish!”
There were lots of dolphins that day, we also saw a couple of whales although they are more commonly seen during the whale season months from June until September, the tuna were very active and it didn’t take long for us to find a bunch of them jumping out of the water.
Within an hour from leaving the beach, we hooked onto our first tuna and the action didn’t stop all morning until around noon when I told the guide that I was happy with our catch of about a dozen tunas and ready to go back to the hostel.
Fortunately he said “one last fish gringo” and sure enough, he hooked a nice big tuna that must’ve weighed over a hundred pounds, I couldn’t believe how big it was as he hauled it into the boat, it was one of the most impressive fish I’ve ever seen in my life!
After getting it in the boat and wrapping up the gear, the guide was ready to go, both of us were very happy — he had more tuna to sell and I kept two to eat with friends back at the hostel.
The guide took me back in his boat and we washed up on the shore right outside of the hostel, there were a few European girls hanging out who were wide eyed as I walked to the hostel carrying the two tunas, they had bought fish to cook on the BBQ the previous evening and asked if I’d be cooking my catch, to which I replied of course and welcomed them to join me.
There was also a local family having a beach day nearby and once the kids saw me with the fish, they ran over to admire the catch and told me that they loved eating tuna — so I made a deal with them — if they collected some driftwood for me to start a fire for the BBQ, they could eat as much as they wanted.
Their dad also came over to say hello and asked me if I needed help preparing the tuna, he had a machete (very common in the region), so I bought us a bunch of beers while he cleaned and prepared the fish into fillets.
The kids quickly had the fire wood ready and we began grilling the fillets, they were experts and monitored the BBQ while I chatted with the dad and his wife, who were nice enough to share aguardiente (a popular Colombian liquor) filled coconuts with me.
I literally had more fish than I could eat and was happy to share with the guests and a couple of staff members who couldn’t resist, fresh caught tuna cooked on an open fire is hard to turn down.
Other Activities in The Region
There’s more than just fishing in this off-the-beaten-path spot…
As mentioned above, the Humpback Turtle hostel has a surf club which local kids participate in, a couple of them have even gone abroad to participate in surfing competitions.
Surfing in relatively new to the area, it was introduced by the owner of the hostel who brought a few boards with him over the years- the school rents out boards and has instructors who teach lessons for a reasonable price.
I’m not much of a surfer myself but have gone out a couple of times, it isn’t Hawaii or Australia level for waves but it’s practically empty so you’ll have the beach mostly to yourself.
This can be organized by the hostel, I did a fun hike with a local named Kike from the “El Nativo” restaurant which is a about half way between the hostel and the pueblo on a dirt road.
We hiked along the coast during low tide over big rocks, through a bit of jungle and along a river to a nice waterfall where we swam and chilled. After three hours we ended up at their little beach shack where Kike’s father showed up to cook us lunch then brought us back in a boat.
Kike is very knowledgeable about local plants, animals, fish and the history of the region, his dad is very friendly and can chop up a coconut faster than anyone I’ve ever seen.
There’s a hotel near the hostel which has a conservation group that releases baby turtles into the fresh water streams that go out into the ocean, I had no idea about this until I was walking down the beach from the pueblo and saw a group of people on the beach releasing the baby turtles.
It was amazing to watch these little guys crawl from the sand to the stream then float into the ocean.
I haven’t gone diving in Bahia Solano yet, but have been at Gorgona Island — which is further down the coast towards Ecuador.
There is a dive shop called Ankla Azul in Bahia Solano, I plan on going out with them during my next trip to the region.
🇨🇴 Conclusion 🇨🇴
That’s basically all you need to know to organize a cheap fishing trip to the Pacific coast of Colombia, one of my favorite places in the world.
A great place to hang out and chill by an uncrowded beach for a few days while eating delicious, fresh fish.