Cubera Snappers On Artificials
The Cubera snapper is a fish very rarely associated with artificial presentations. Here in Florida, we definitely have a small, but healthy population of these giant snapper. Full grown specimens are found very deep, anywhere from 50 ft all the way to several hundred feet down. With that in mind, catching them by casting with lures makes for a tricky subject.
Sure, you can catch juveniles in the mangrove systems and fish up to 10 or 15 pounds under inland bridge pilings. That’s not the classification of Cubera I am talking about. We are discussing the “Coobies”, the full grown, king of the reef version that is anywhere from 40-100+ pounds. These naturally shy fish have hiding spots deep in the reefs and are very selective in coming out of their lair when choosing to eat.
These unique characteristics are what makes the pacific coast of Central/South America so special. Much of this coast used to be loaded with Cubera, but overfishing has decimated a lot of the populations, especially in popular fishing regions such as Panama and Costa Rica. There are only a few places left in the world where you can actually target full-grown Cubera Snappers with artificial lures and expect a shot at a monster bite, and of all that’s left, Colombia is king.
The northwest corner of Colombia is a location mostly untouched by commercial fishing. Colombia’s largest town, Bahia Solano, actually hosts just 7,000 people, and all the other coastal populations are extremely small villages with minimal presence of overfishing. Here, the Cubera still act how they used to many years ago.
Colombia is a perfect storm of conditions that allows us to target these amazing fish. The drop-off on the coast is extremely sharp in many places as it is situated right on the edge of a mountainous jungle, and in many places the ocean drops straight to 50 feet right from the trees. These cubera are actually situating on the bottom right along the shorelines, something you would never find in the US.
Onto the crazy part - targeting these fish. I personally used a Shimano Stella 20000 with 100 Lb braid, and my buddy brought a Daiwa Saltiga Beastmaster. Both reels are two of the very best big game fish stoppers you can buy and both did not give you an upper hand on these Cubera when hooked.
Any glide bait or popper is going to be ideal when targeting these fish. I have seen Cubera caught on giant GT style poppers, pencil poppers, and a wide variety of glide baits. My personal favorite is throwing glide baits but most people prefer the visual eat that results from throwing that big popper. Whatever floats your boat, just be ready to cast a lot.
Regarding the casting, I have spent two weeks fishing for Cubera now and I have landed 2 and had shots at another 2 or 3 more. These fish come out of nowhere and the big red shadow behind your lure has to be one of the most amazing images I have seen fishing. These are a definite “fish of a thousand casts”, if not more than that. Definitely consider yourself lucky if you catch one on your first day trying! Despite all that, everyone I have brought to Colombia has left having caught at least one of these amazing fish.
The story behind my big cubera was an amazing one. I actually was in Peru on an exploratory trip chasing arapaima before my most recent trip to Colombia. There was a specific lure I wanted to throw at the Cubera and my buddy was throwing it in hopes of a last minute arapaima bite. Right as we were leaving the lake, his bait caster backlashed on the final cast and he broke the lure off due to the force.
We went over to the area but it was long gone. Right as I was about to give up, my guide saw the green Bullbuster braid slipping off the surface and sliding down into the deep.
We quickly rowed to it and I grabbed the line, and with that, the lure!
This lure wound up being the one that got me a shot at my giant cubera. The morning of the third day of our trip, I hooked up to dead weight off the surface on just my 10th cast of the day. This fish took no time in getting all the way down to the bottom despite nearly 40 pounds of drag (locked down on the Stella in addition to cupping the spool) and the fish start taking more line down in the rocks. I thought I was done for.
After keeping the pressure on him, I started to ease him out , and the battle started to swing back my way, the fish was rising, I had him! I was going to defeat this epic bucket list fish.
The rod gets slammed back down towards the water and the cubera got all the way back down into the rocks and the fights goes right back in his court again. I desperately wanted to see this fish. I have fought many large Goliath grouper here in Florida and these fish have way more stamina and determination. The fight is something like that of an amberjack with the tail power of a Goliath grouper.
After one of the most intense battles of my life, the giant fish breached the surface. His jaw structure was so big that it was nearly impossible to grab him with a 60 pound boga grip. After a few tense moments, the fish was secured and we got him in the boat.
This fish was 48 pounds and definitely the one I was looking for. A couple very quick photos and the amazing fish was back in the water, swimming off and returning to his hole in the reef.
This trip wound up being an epic one. In 4 days of fishing we landed 6 cubera and had a shot at another 10 more. These numbers are good but some trips you can actually get a couple dozen bites! All three of us caught and released a cubera over 40 pounds this trip with one exceptional fish even hitting 55 pounds.
I can’t wait for my next trip down to the jungle coast to chase these elusive coobies while they are still naive and willing to take a lure. If you would like to come along on the expedition with me, just send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will make it happen!
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