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Fishing

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.

 

Game fishing.

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
+599-785-4223
+599-785-1088
Piscatur - Bonefishing
+599-717-8774, +599-780-8774, or +599 780-0833

Snorkel fishing.

Snorkel fishing is only allowed in two areas on Bonaire, as noted by the areas marked in green on the maps below.

snorkel fishing allowed areas

Bonefishing

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 FishLocal Name
Dolphinfish (Mahi Mahi)Dradu
MarlinBalau
Blue MarlinBalau Blanku
White MarlinBalau Baster
BonefishWarashi
BarracudaPiku
baitfishaas
WahooMulatu, Mulá
Red SnapperPiská Kòrá
Yellowtail SnapperGristelchi piedra
FlounderSobrá di Dios
PermitPampel
TarponSábalo
Trumpetfish Tròmpet
Moray EelKolebra
Green MorayKolebra Bèrdè
Sharptail EelKolebra Rosario
Mullet Haldu
ChubKatiaka
Tiger Grouper & Yellowfin GrouperGramèl
Yellowmouth GrouperPatachi
Black Durgon Doro
Parrotfish (generic) Gutu
Midnight ParrotfishBushuti
Rainbow Parrotfish, terminal phaseGutu Kedébe
Stoplight Parrotfish, terminal phase Gutu Rab'i Guy
Stoplight Parrotfish, initial phase Gutu Domenika
Princess Parrotfish, terminal phaseGutu Raton
Princess Parrotfish, initial phase Gutu Promènte
Queen Parrotfish, terminal phaseGutu Bok'i Lora
Redband Parrotfish, initial phase Gutu Martin
Puddingwife Gutu Peuchi
TunaBuní
Back-fin TunaBuní Pretu
Yelllow-fin TunaBuní Rabu Hél
Bar JackYag
Horse-eye JackKorkobá
Black Jack Korkobá Pretu
Rainbow Runner Gristelchi Laman A'fó
Creole Fish Mahawa
French Grunt Robeki
Striped and Smallmouth GruntsTraki Traki
Bluestriped Grunts and some of the other larger grunts
Gròns
Lizardfish/Sand Diver
Yuan'i Awa
Graysby Purunchi
Coney Purunchi
Rock Hind Dawari
Red Hind Gatu
SharkTribon
African PampanoKar'i Kabai
TriggerfishPishi Porko
SnookSapat'i Sòldá
ChumGarná
Houndfish Guepi
Flat Needlefish Guepi Machéte
Cubera Snapper Karaña
Mutton SnapperKarpitan
SchoolmasterBèrs
Almaco Jack & Greater AmberjackKabriou (Kabiyou)
King Mackeral
Konovis

Pacific Lionfish

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.

Fishing tournaments

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.

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