May 26, 2024

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Montego Bay Fishery: The Complete Guide

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Fishing in Montego Bay is unlike any other kind of activity. Affectionately known as “MoBay,” this isn’t just Jamaica’s tourism capital. The town stands as a sentinel to the Cayman Trench, granting anglers access to some of the Caribbean’s most profound depths. That’s right. You can cast a line in 1,000 feet of water while remaining astonishingly close to the shore!

Dubbed the “Fairweather Gulf” by Christopher Columbus, Montego Bay remains sheltered from the strong southeasterly trade winds that impact much of Jamaica’s southern coastline. However, it’s essential to approach Montego Bay with both anticipation and mindfulness. While the region once boasted abundant catches, overfishing has left its mark. But if you time your expedition correctly, a diverse range of pelagic and reef species still awaits, testifying to the resilience of the bay’s waters.

This guide serves as your compass to navigate the storied waters of Montego Bay. From the famed Doctors Cave Beach – a haven for deep-sea enthusiasts – to the annual Montego Bay International Marlin Tournament, we’ll delve deep into Jamaica‘s fishing heart. Let’s get started!

Top Montego Bay Catches

Montego Bay’s marine treasures are a dream come true. First of all, there are various types of Marlin, Tuna, Mahi Mahi, and who knows what else. Dive deeper, and the seabed reveals a whole other cast of characters, from various Grouper and Snapper to Amberjack and Barracuda. Let’s talk about some of the local superstars:


A group of anglers on the deck of a fishing boat back at the dock, presenting their large Marlin on the edge of the boat for all to see
Photo courtesy of Parker Fishing

Diving into the deep waters of Montego Bay, the bluewater is occupied by majestic Blue and White Marlin. These gorgeous predators present themselves in solid sizes, with most catches weighing between 100 and 150 pounds. Of course, the exhilarating fight is unparalleled, as Marlins charge and dart with incredible power, testing even the most seasoned angler.

However, these aren’t the sole Billfish stars of Montego Bay. Much less common, but equally captivating, Sailfish and Swordfish also frequent these depths. These bluewater giants also hang out near Port Antonio, in case you can’t find luck in the bay. 

Mahi Mahi

Three men standing in front of the deck of an offshore sportfishing boat in Montego Bay holding a large Mahi Mahi at the end of a successful fishing trip
Photo courtesy of Luminous Lagoon Tours LTD

Mahi Mahi are a quintessential catch in Jamaica’s waters, and Montego Bay is no exception. Their dazzling hues are only outshined by their playful demeanor and spirited fight. One of the charming aspects of fishing for Mahi Mahi in Montego Bay is their proximity to shore. There’s no need for long trips, making them a top choice for family outings. 

Often referred to as “Dolphin,” Mahi Mahi have a unique swimming pattern similar to their mammal counterparts. Their elusive nature and unique beauty add to the thrill of the chase. With the right approach and timing – probably during the early morning or late evening – you can successfully land that dream catch and head back to shore with a tasty treat.


Two men – one in a fluorescent shirt and the other one shirtless – standing on a dock in Montego Bay holding a large Wahoo on a sunny day
Photo courtesy of Reel Magic Sports Fishing

Wahoo, with their almost unmatched speed and agility, have earned a special place in the hearts of Jamaican anglers. Making their prime appearances between March and May and from September to November, these deep-sea dwellers are renowned for their fights. If you’re after one of these speedsters, set your alarms early. Wahoo are known to bite at the cusp of dawn.

The peak months promise more frequent catches but the quiet period in January and February is perfect for a more relaxed fishing ambiance. So, if you happen to plan your Montego Bay Wahoo expedition during the low season, feel free to bring the whole family along!


A man and a woman standing on a boat dock in Montego Bay with an offshore sportfishing vessel behind them and holding a couple of small Tunas with a few laid out in front of them too on a clear day
Photo courtesy of Dream Reel Fishing Charter

Tuna, in their various forms and sizes, provide a constant allure for those fishing in Montego Bay. Yellowfin stand out here, not just for their striking appearance but also for the challenge they present. Anglers are drawn by tales of 400 lb catches, but 10–100 lb Tuna provide more consistent action.

But Yellowfins aren’t the only stars in these waters. Blackfin Tuna emerge predominantly during the summer months, offering a challenge when Yellowfin recede into the shadows. And then there are always reliable Skipjack and Albacore Tuna, making sure there’s always some Tuna on the menu.


A man in a baseball cap standing on a boat dock in Montego Bay and struggling to hold a large Barracuda on a cloudy day
Photo courtesy of Luminous Lagoon Tours LTD

With their sleek silver bodies and a formidable set of teeth, Barracuda stand as a prized catch for many anglers fishing in Montego Bay. These swift predators are often found patrolling the reefs, and range between 20 and 50 pounds. Of course, you can always land a larger one, but that will be no mean feat.

As well as the reefs, the bay’s drop-offs are ideal locations to target Barracuda throughout the year. Primarily an ambush predator, Barracuda are most active during the early morning and late evening hours. You can start or wrap up your day by looking for these toothy fish – we suggest trying both!


Three anglers standing on a dock in Montego Bay with the one in the middle holding an Amberjack with the water, a boat, and some land visible in the distance behind them
Photo courtesy of Lock ‘N’ Load Sport Fishing Charters

Amberjack have long carved a niche for themselves among the Jamaican angling community. Known for their strength and stamina, these “Reef Donkeys” inhabit Montego Bay’s deeper waters. Locals and visitors look for them around underwater structures, ledges, and wrecks. 

With the right technique, tackle, and tenacity, the reward of landing an Amberjack is unparalleled. On average, anglers land fish between 20–70 pounds, with larger Donkeys offering a more robust fight. Be prepared, though, as they’re known to dive deep when hooked!

Types of Fishing in Montego Bay

Now that you know what’s swimming out there, it’s time to get a bit more technical. There are standard tips and tricks, mixed with traditional methods that you can try your hand at. Depending on where you’re fishing and what you’re after, some options may work better for you than others. Let’s take a look at the most popular types of fishing in Montego Bay:

Montego Bay Surf Fishing

A view from behind of a lone angler fishing from a jetty on a clear day in Montego Bay

When it comes to surf fishing, Jamaica is full of beaches where you can cast a line and see what’s out there. A long surf rod – around 10–12 feet – with a good-quality spinning reel loaded with a 20–25 lb test line is a common setup in Montego Bay. Add pyramid sinkers help to anchor your bait against the strong surf currents, and away you go. 

The thing to keep in mind with surf fishing in Montego Bay is that it’s not as easy as it once was. Overfishing has resulted in a lot of inshore areas experiencing a noticeable drop in fish numbers. The fish are still there, but you’ll need to look a bit harder to catch some.

If you’re less familiar with the local species, using a combination of both live bait and artificial lures like spoons or soft plastics can offer versatility. Hiring a local guide to show you around and teach you some local tips could be invaluable even without a boat involved. 

Montego Bay Deep Sea Fishing

A woman sitting and struggling with a fishing line while sitting in a fighting char, as a man helps her on a cloudy day
Photo courtesy of Ezee Sport Fishing

If you’re planning on deep sea fishing in Montego Bay then you’ll almost exclusively be trolling. For trolling, heavy-duty rods and reels with 50–80 lb test lines are a must. Outriggers can be beneficial to cover more water and target multiple species.

Deep dropping is also a big deal in Montego Bay, considering how quickly the ocean floor drops. This technique involves deploying multi-hooked rigs combined with heavy weights, along with electric reels. Head out to Doctor’s Cave Beach, where you can sprawl out and relax, as well as try your hand at deep sea fishing. There really is something for everyone!

Montego Bay Charter Fishing

A group of anglers on a fishing charter out of Montego Bay on a sunny day, with a few of them holding up bottles of Red Stripe beer as they look towards the camera, with the wake of the boat visible in the water behind them
Photo courtesy of Reel Magic Sports Fishing

A day’s worth of fishing from a boat is really what you want to do in Montego Bay. Jamaican captains have an “irie” attitude to every charter they run. Pair that with a wealth of local knowledge, all the necessary equipment, and a lot of fun, and you’re onto a sure winner. 

There are two main ways to go charter fishing in Montego Bay. The first is a shorter reef fishing trip that’s perfect for a family adventure. Using lighter tackle with spinning rods in the 7–9 feet range and 15–20 lb test lines is standard. The shallower reefs hold Yellowtail Snapper, Rainbow Runner, and Barracuda.

But if you’ve come here with a more ambitious mindset, you’ll definitely want to sign up for a deep sea trip. This is where you’ll put your skills to the test against Blue and White Marlin which hunt offshore, along with the other Billfish we talked about before. 

Where to Go Fishing in Montego Bay

A view from a beach out towards a fishing pier or boat dock in Montego Bay on a clear day, with turquoise waters dominating the image

Nestled between the shimmering Caribbean Sea and the verdant Jamaican hills, Montego Bay offers a myriad of fishing spots. Let’s take a look at some prime locations in the area for you to drop a line, whatever you’re after:

  • Doctor’s Cave Beach. This iconic starting point for many fishing charters is positioned on Gloucester Avenue – colloquially known as the “Hip Strip.” Right next to it, sun-seekers and tourists often frequent the Margaretta Vill bar & restaurant.
  • Buckner Bank. Just a stone’s throw away from Montego Bay’s coast, Buckner Bank teems with marine life. From majestic Blue Marlin and Grouper to Amberjacks and a plethora of Snappers, this spot offers a diverse catch. Don’t be surprised if you snag a Jack or a Barracuda here, too.
  • Cayman Trench. Also known as Bartlett Deep or Trough, this submarine marvel extends from Jamaica to Cuba’s southeastern tip. Not far from Montego Bay’s coast, the trench commences from a depth of 400 feet and plummets to a staggering 3,000 feet deep.
  • Cornwall Beach. This is another gem located close to Doctor’s Cave Beach. Cornwall Beach offers clear waters, sandy shores, and a healthy dose of Snapper and Grouper. It’s a quieter location suitable for those looking to get away from the more popular tourist spots.
  • Dump-Up Beach. Situated near the heart of Montego Bay, this beach is not just a good destination for swimming but also for shoreline fishing. The waters are home to a variety of reef fish, making it a great spot for beginners.

When to Go Fishing in Montego Bay

A view from a beach out to the waters of Montego Bay at sunset, with a blue-red hue in the sky

If you’ve got fishing fever and Montego Bay is your destination, you’re in for a treat. While you can reel in some beauties all year long, the magic really happens between June and November. Anglers dreaming of that trophy catch – that’s your window.

January sees Montego Bay in full swing with bustling beaches and eager anglers. It’s Jamaica’s high time, and the fish know it! For those looking to dodge the crowd and fish on a dime, there are a lot of affordable charters during the low season. You might be surprised by the treasures you find lurking in the depths of the Cayman Trench.

Blue Marlin are found in their biggest numbers in the fall. And from August to October you can often get multiple hits even on a half day. White Marlin are at their best in February and March and, as soon as they move on, Mahi Mahi move in to take their place. So, swing by anytime from spring through fall. The waters are brimming with surprises and the thrill is in not knowing what’s on the other end of your line.

Montego Bay Fishing Tournaments

Blue Marlin tournaments occur up and down Jamaica’s North Coast in the fall, and Montego Bay gets its turn in September. Meanwhile, the Montego Bay Marine Park is trying to promote catch-and-release fishing among the captains in the area, so tag recovery is practiced through the Montego Bay Yacht Club and Park. 

It’s traditional in Jamaica for the crew to keep all fish caught as a portion of their salary, though some operators will have your catch prepared at a local restaurant if you wish. Make sure to confirm this in advance of your trip to avoid any unpleasant surprises. 

Montego Bay Fishing Rules and Regulations

An infographic featuring the flag of Jamaica along with text that says "Montego Bay Fishing Regulations What You Need to Know" against a dark blue background with a vector of a boat and the FishingBooker logo

Jamaica’s sportfishing scene has its own unique flavor, and understanding its rules is key. The good news is that fishing in Jamaica doesn’t require a license. If you’re aboard one of Montego Bay’s reputable fishing charters, their license will have you covered. 

Although regulations on sportfishing in Jamaica are on the lax side, there are some rules, especially when it concerns harvesting. Interestingly, Marlin are fair game here – they can be both kept and sold.

Additionally, don’t forget about sanctuaries, such as the Montego Bay Marine Park, where fishing is off-limits. Dreaming of spearfishing? Scratch that off in this marine park! However, if you’re drawn to spot fishing with a classic hook and line, you need to get written permission.

One more thing. Most charters might not hand you live bait upfront. Either you hunt for it during your trip, get creative with lures, or pack some trusty fly tackle based on your target species.

Fishing in Montego Bay: Reeling It In Irie-style

A view from a hill towards Montego Bay, with some houses visible beyond some trees in the foreground and the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea visible in the distance on a bright day

In the end, Montego Bay isn’t just a pristine paradise of sun, sand, and sea. It’s an angler’s dream – a place where every cast can tell a story. Fishing in Montego Bay is equally amazing for an experienced fisherman or a newbie testing the waters. So, as you pack your bags and ready your rods, remember that the stories of Montego Bay’s waters aren’t just about the fish you catch but the experiences you reel in. Tight lines and happy fishing in the heart of Jamaica!

Have you ever been fishing in Montego Bay? What was your favorite catch? Let us know in the comments below!

The post Montego Bay Fishing: The Complete Guide appeared first on FishingBooker Blog.

By: Lisa
Title: Montego Bay Fishing: The Complete Guide
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Published Date: Tue, 17 Oct 2023 10:30:12 +0000

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