Fishing in Guyana is a must. It is a great way to appreciate the nature and wildlife of this incredible country, not to mention it is a lot of fun. Arapaima fishing is one of the most popular activities for people who visit Guyana. It is a catch and release kind of fishing, as this – the largest scaled freshwater fish in the world – is a highly protected fish.
To discover more about all there is to do in Guyana, read my post “13 Amazing Things To Do In Guyana.”
The Relationship Between Indigenous Communities And Fishing In Guyana
The indigenous communities pay close attention to make sure that poachers stay away from arapaimas – of which a new species was identified in 2016. In fact, they keep an eye on the local environment to make sure that arapaimas don’t suffer due to shortage of water in the dry season, and go through lengthy and laborious ordeals to save them if they notice that they are in danger (such thing happened in 2016 in Rewa, when the locals noticed that the level of water in a pond inhabited by arapaimas got dangerously low).
To discover more unique animals in Guyana, read my post “The Most Amazing Wildlife In Guyana.”
Fish in Guyana is a big part of the daily diet of locals, not only on the coast and in Georgetown, but even in the Amazon basin. Here, the indigenous populations often eat meals made of grilled or fried fish and farine (a cous cous looking meal that is made of cassava). Chicken is another common food, as it is easy to farm and get hold of. Beef, on the other hand, doesn’t have a strong presence in Guyanese cuisine, at least not in the Rupununi region: due to the lack of electricity (those who have it rely on solar panels or generators) there are no fridges to store it.
My Experience Fishing In Guyana
I didn’t go arapaima fishing. I guess I am honestly too small to catch the largest fish in Guyana. Or perhaps when I visited it was not the right time to do it. However, I went piranha fishing and though I was initially reluctant to do it (the only other time I went fishing was in Bolivia, where I unsuccessfully tried to catch a piranha), I must say it was one of the highlights of my trip.
My fishing expedition was highly successful, probably because I was very lucky rather than because of my incredible skills. Anyways, I caught some 15 fish among piranhas and other crazy looking fish of Guyana I didn’t even know existed. Some of it was released immediately back after I caught it. Some other was subsequently barbecued and eaten.
Without wanting to be an expert on fishing in Guyana, based on what I learned in my time in the country, in this post I will share some tips for those who plan to travel to this incredible country and want to give it a try.
10 Tips For Fishing In Guyana
Go out bright and early
The climate in Guyana is unforgiving. It is unmistakably hot and humid, with the sun bright in the sky as early as 6:00 am (Guyana is pretty much on the Equator). The best way to enjoy fishing in Guyana is by going out nice and early, right after the sun is out. Though it is not nearly as hot on the water as it is on land, the sun is fierce and it is better to stay away from it in the peak hours.
Much like in the rest of the country, dressing appropriately is important when fishing in Guyana. If the jungle is home to all sorts of bugs, rest assured that they will be flying all over even on water. The only way to protect against them is wearing long pants, a long sleeves shirt or top, and applying mosquito repellent with deet. Don’t forget to wear sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen too.
Ask the locals to show you how it is done
Unless you travel with your own fishing equipment, the best way to go about fishing in Guyana is by asking the locals to help and show how it is done in the traditional way. Rewa Ecolodge, in North Rupununi, organizes fishing expeditions for its guests. Part of the local culture is to fish, so it’s a nice way to get to know more about it.
The first stop actually is in the jungle, to go in search of a good stick or branch that can be used as a fishing rod. With a few touches, the guides apply a fishing line and a hook. They make it look gracefully easy. If you want to give it a try, make sure you carry your own knife or scissors.
The next step to go fishing in Guyana is getting the bait. The local Amerindian communities generally use some very small bait (typically a larva that nestles in the nut of fruits fallen from trees), which is used to catch small fish, which is then itself used to catch larger fish. The larger fish is then cut in chunks and used as bait for more fish.
Beat the water with the rod
Whenever fishing in Guyana, make sure to beat the water hard with your rod. I can’t quite explain why it is done – something to do with attracting the fish, who gets confused with the movement thinking that there is some good, easy bait there. I saw the locals do it and I can say it actually works. Make some good noise on the water, make it turn around.
Be a little bit patient
I am the least patient person in the world, but fishing in Guyana requires a tiny bit of patience. The good news is that there’s so much fish in the Amazon basin (I went fishing in the Rupununi River, near Rewa Ecolodge), that it doesn’t take long for it to bait.
The even better news is that the “be silent, don’t make a sound” recommendations that typically accompany fishing in most places (this is definitely the case in Sardinia) are not a thing in this country. I spent my time fishing in Guyana cheerfully chatting with my friends on the boat, encouraging each other to catch more fish.
When you feel a nudge, it’s time to pull
The key to successful fishing in Guyana is to pull without hesitation the minute you feel something nudging on your hook, and a slight yet persistent pull on your rod. Stand up and don’t be afraid to pull. Once you finally have the fish out of the water, pull it all the way to the boat. You may want to pose for a photo – I did: after all, it is not like I go fishing every day!
Check the size of the fish
Fishing in Guyana is done in a sustainable way, so only the biggest fish is caught and kept. Once you pull the fish out of the water, assess the size. If you determine the fish is quite big, pull it on the boat. On the other hand, make sure to release the small fish. Piranhas are full of bones and their meat is actually very dry, so there won’t be much to feed on if the fish is too small. The same goes for other kinds of fish like the scary looking vampire fish.
Release the fish on the boat
Once you assess that the fish is big enough to keep it, pull it on the boat and and release it from the hook. Be extra careful as both piranhas and vampire fish have very large and sharp teeth! (I admit I had the local guide do this for me, as I wasn’t too keen on touching a piranha with my bare hands!).
Keep using fresh bait
Piranhas are voracious eaters. More often than not, they manage eating the bait off the hook without getting caught. The key to being successful when fishing in Guyana is to continuously use fresh bait, as this gets either eaten or consumed by the water. Piranhas can smell blood and thus having fresh bait is the key to continue catching them.
Eat what you fish
As I have already said, fishing in Guyana is done in a sustainable way. Most of the time it is catch and release, and if this is not the case, the fish is eaten. I would have never accepted to do it had I not known that I would at least be eating what I caught.
At the end of my fishing expedition, we found a really good spot and Rewa Ecolodges guides prepared a very traditional barbecue, using wood they found in the forest to create a grid and to then light a fire to cook the fish, which was seasoned with local spices. It was a superb, tasty, light and healthy lunch at the end of a fun morning. The best way to celebrate fishing in Guyana.
Have you ever been to Guyana? Do you think you’d enjoy fishing in Guyana too?
Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Tourism Board of Guyana during my visit, and wish to thank them for the wonderful welcome and the incredible experiences. The views expressed in this post remain my own.