Fishing on Bonaire.
Most of the fishes you hear about on Bonaire are reef fish that snorkelers and scuba divers see regularly. But, in the deeper water lurk the big game fish–Marlin, Sailfish, Yellowfin Tuna, and more.
Fishermen: welcome to the waters of Bonaire and Klein Bonaire!
Local fishermen catch the “Fresh Fish of the Day” that you find in almost every restaurant. Usually, it is Dorado or Wahoo. Dorado is also known as Mahi Mahi or dolphinfish (no relation at all to the porpoise family). You can try your skill and luck on one of the several sportfishing boats available for charter trips on Bonaire. A trip price may seem quite high because the price is usually for the whole boat, not per person. If you have several interested friends, trips can be quite reasonable.
Fishing starts in the wee hours before dawn. Fishermen start their day by catching fresh baitfish first thing in the morning. The live bait is then used to try for the big game fish. A large range of tackle and lures are available, so if the fish aren’t biting, you can try something new. The boats may go out several miles in search of the game fish. Although a catch is never guaranteed, a pleasant day out to sea will be part of your fishing experience.
Most fishing by visitors is sport fishing, with a catch-and-release policy. The fish that you release today will continue to reproduce in the future. Although you may keep your catch on most boats, confirm this with the boat captain before making your reservation. Also, fresh fish, like most meats, cannot be imported into many countries, including Holland and the USA. It is also against Bonaire law for any non-resident to profit from fishing, so you are not allowed to “sell” your catch either. Fishing licenses are not required for non-commercial fishing.
Charter boats for deep-sea fishing
There are a number of charter boats that will take anglers sports fishing in the waters off the coast of Bonaire. Sailfish, marlin, and tuna are the most likely to be caught. However, it is not uncommon to catch wahoo, dorado, and other edible species.
|Recommended Fishing or Boat Charters|
|Fish Like a Local with Mako Tours
|Flying Fish Charters
|Piscatur - Bonefishing
+599-717-8774, +599-780-8774, or +599 780-0833
Snorkel fishing is only allowed in two areas on Bonaire, as noted by the areas marked in green on the maps below.
One of the biggest thrills a person who enjoys fishing can experience is to match wits with an elusive, feisty bonefish. There are a number of “secret” spots the local guides have staked out on the island and are willing to share with visiting fishermen.
Names of local fish
All fish names are supplied by local fishermen. Special thanks to Ellen Muller and Papi Anton for collecting and sorting the local fishes’ names in Papiamentu. Note that some Bonaire fishermen may call these fish by other names, and many fish have other local names even on our sister islands.
|Names of Fish||Local Name|
|Dolphinfish (Mahi Mahi)||Dradu|
|Blue Marlin||Balau Blanku|
|White Marlin||Balau Baster|
|Red Snapper||Piská Kòrá|
|Yellowtail Snapper||Gristelchi piedra|
|Flounder||Sobrá di Dios|
|Green Moray||Kolebra Bèrdè|
|Sharptail Eel||Kolebra Rosario|
|Tiger Grouper & Yellowfin Grouper||Gramèl|
|Rainbow Parrotfish, terminal phase||Gutu Kedébe|
|Stoplight Parrotfish, terminal phase||Gutu Rab'i Guy|
|Stoplight Parrotfish, initial phase||Gutu Domenika|
|Princess Parrotfish, terminal phase||Gutu Raton|
|Princess Parrotfish, initial phase||Gutu Promènte|
|Queen Parrotfish, terminal phase||Gutu Bok'i Lora|
|Redband Parrotfish, initial phase||Gutu Martin|
|Back-fin Tuna||Buní Pretu|
|Yelllow-fin Tuna||Buní Rabu Hél|
|Black Jack||Korkobá Pretu|
|Rainbow Runner||Gristelchi Laman A'fó|
|Striped and Smallmouth Grunts||Traki Traki|
|Bluestriped Grunts and some of the other larger grunts||Gròns|
|Lizardfish/Sand Diver||Yuan'i Awa|
|African Pampano||Kar'i Kabai|
|Flat Needlefish||Guepi Machéte|
|Almaco Jack & Greater Amberjack||Kabriou (Kabiyou)|
And finally, it must be mentioned that the island is trying to control the invasive Pacific Lionfish, a predatory fish expanding territories within the Caribbean. Check with your dive operator to see if they offer a lionfish hunting course.
Bonaire also hosts a number of local and international fishing tournaments during the year, with catches recorded, tagged, and then released back into the sea for future tournaments. The edible species are generally donated to various charitable organizations.
The Bonaire Marine Park
The fringing reef surrounding Bonaire is a National Marine Park from the high water mark down to a depth of 200 feet/60m. Every diver who has not dived on Bonaire within the last calendar year must attend a diver orientation for the Bonaire Marine Park regulations and information. Additionally, you are required to pay a nature fee, which is necessary to enter Bonaire's waters legally. The nature fee cost is US$40.00 for all water activities, and proceeds help support park management and services. The nature fee can be purchased online.
For information on dialing a Bonaire phone number from off-island, see the Phone page.