A conversation with Martin Arostegui is extremely interesting. When he talks about fishing, he does it with an infectious passion. A doctor by profession and a fisherman by hobby, he has been around fish and the sea almost from the cradle. At the tender age of 3, he made his first catch, a tiny grunt, which of course immediately leapt out of his hands and back into the blue waters off the Havana seawall, the Malecón.
“My childhood was full of hooks and fish,” he says. “In fact, I used to sneak out of the house and go down to the Malecón, where I would spend the afternoon with the fishermen, who taught me all of their tricks.
“In 1960, I moved to the United States, where I earned my medical degree, but during those years, I hardly had any time for fishing. After my graduation, though, it was easier for me to practice my number one passion: sport fishing.”
In the United States, Arostegui joined a fishing club similar to Cuba’s Sport Fishing Federation (in Spanish: Federación de Pesca Deportiva de Cuba), which is how he became very familiar with the fly fishing method.
“I hold 420 world records for fishing different species, some of them sharks,” he says. “The biggest shark ever caught in the world, and which moreover is the biggest in history, was caught by me in 2006. It weighed 385 pounds, and I caught it on a 15-pound fly line.”
“It was very exciting,” Arostegui says, his face shining with the memory. “We took it live on the boat to Key West, where it was duly certified and then freed, so that it could keep living in its natural habitat.”
Another of this seasoned angler’s passions is freshwater fishing.
“I set a record in the Amazon by catching a 15-pound peacock bass—which only lives in South America—with a four-pound fly line,” he explains.
For Arostegui, who has retired from the medical profession and now devotes himself full-time to sport fishing, the conservation of the species is extremely important. In fact, as a member of the International Game Fish Association (IGFA), he gives presentations on the most appropriate methods of fishing and returning a catch to its natural habitat (a method known as catch and release).
This enthusiast has participated several times in the Ernest Hemingway Billfish Fishing Tournament, which he describes as very important. This year, he came to give talks on how to use circle hooks, which are safer for the fish because they tend to lip hook them, keeping them alive, instead of the fish swallowing the hook, which can be deadly.
“I think it is essential to pass on my passion for fishing to children and young people, because it is a very wholesome recreational activity. But it should always include saving the lives of the fish, because the most important aspect of fishing today is contributing to conservation of these species, as a legacy to the future generations,” Arostegui said.