Fishing in Argentina

By Aleksei Morozov

Tango, wine, beef, and soccer? Those are most peoples’ associations with Argentina. But one of the two most developed countries in South America is also a land that attracts fishing enthusiasts with the same power that rumors of immense riches attracted the Conquistadores half a millennium ago – a fishing Eldorado in every sense. 

Silver? No, gold! 

The first question that the early European explorers asked on arrival to America was “Where is gold?” And they didn’t take no for an answer, often resorting to torture when they suspected the locals were withholding this valuable information. The indigenous peoples quickly learned that the best way to get rid of the newcomers was to tell them what they wanted to hear: there is, in fact, a place fabulously rich in everything – gold, silver, diamonds, you name it. Way over there. Up the river, then through the jungle, then over the mountains. Far, far away from here. 

One such tip – that somewhere in the Rio de la Plata basin there is a mountain of silver – made Venetian cartographers of the XVI century mark the area respectively: “of silver”, or, in Italian, “argentina”, and that’s how the country got its name. Ironically, there is no silver where the rumors had it, but from an angler’s perspective there’s something better out there: pure gold, or, in Spanish, “dorado”. 

Golden Dorado
The Golden Dorado is famous for its mighty leaps into the air. Image credit: Frontera Wingshooting

Dorado is an indigenous South American predator fish, which lives up to its name in more ways than one. First, because of its bright golden scales. Then, because it’s an apex predator that can be quite ferocious – not surprising, given that it’s a close relative of the piranha. While the dorado can’t boast of such powerful jaws, it has pretty much the same fighting spirit, and will unreservedly defend its freedom, often leaping through the air as it struggles against your line. Dorado is not a small fish, the bigger ones can weigh up to 60 lb (27 kg), and landing such a piece of gold is not an easy challenge. Getting one to take your bait can be even harder: while dorados are famous for their feeding frenzies, those bouts of unreservedly attacking anything that bears a passing resemblance to the prey are few and far between.  

Dorado fishing trips are available just a short ride from Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires, as well as everywhere in the drainage of the Uruguay and the Parana, especially the part between those rivers appropriately known as Entre Rios, as well as Santa Fe and Corrientes. Two areas in the North of the country deserve a special mention. First, the delta of the rivers, that is located near the capital and represents a maze of uncharted and unchartable channels, lakes, and islands. Then, the Ibera Wetlands, a region that resembles Florida Everglades but is said to dwarf it in scale. Excellent lodges offer the ultimate of comfort and outstanding Argentinian cuisine with a focus on meat and wine. Other fishes that you can catch in the area include pacu, tararira, river salmon, surubi, catfish, dogfish, and palometa.

Trout and Salmon in Patagonia 

Patagonia lies in the southern part of North America, and is shared between Chile and Argentina. It is mostly endless flat steppe, with an occasional river that runs through it. At the western part of the region, however, the Andes stream their snow-covered peaks into the sky, leaving nothing to any other mountain range of the world in rugged beauty. This part of Patagonia attracts millions of tourists each year. Some come in winter for mountain skiing, others – in the summer, for fishing. 

The fish here is the rainbow, lake, brook trout and landlocked salmon that were introduced into those waters in the early 1900s, and have been striving here ever since. Patagonia also features a number of comfortable fishing lodges. There are also options for backcountry fishing trips, with travel opportunities ranging from helicopter drop-off to hardcore backpacking to horseback excursions to whitewater rafting. You can drift up and down the river in a drift boat (check out the story of this wonderful vessel in our blog), or fish from the shore by wading. Spinning is not banned or even frowned upon, but of course the way to go fishing technique for trout and salmon in Patagonia – why, in Argentina in general – is fly fishing.

A boat on a snow covered trees bank of river in Patagonia
Fishing in Patagonia is about great scenery and challenging weather. Image credit: Southern Rivers Patagonia Fly Fishing Trips

The season for fishing trips in Patagonia runs from October to April, and is dictated by the weather rather than the laws. Here is the case when “south” doesn’t mean “warm” – just the contrary, in fact. In Patagonia, the temperatures range from 30 to 70 F (0 -20 C), typically closer to the lower part of the range, with an occasional rain and even snowstorm here and there, especially in the autumn – that is, March to April, which the experts recommend as the best time for fishing in Patagonia. 

The best place is harder to pinpoint. Perhaps the most famous destination in Patagonia is San Carlos de Bariloche, in the Rio Negro province. It lies in a strikingly beautiful mountainous area that reminds many visitors of Montana, only without so many traces of human action. However, Patagonia is a very large region with varied geography, with a different set of pros and contras for each location. 

While most of Patagonia has been far less affected by the march of civilization, the north of the region is somewhat more developed and easier to access, with many excellent lodges in the Neuquen province. The closer you go to the south, the wilder the area becomes. But the wilder the area, the better the fishing! Corvocado in the Chibut province is known as “salmonid angler’s Mecca” The Strobel Lake has enormous rainbow trout, and rivers such as Santa Cruz and Caterina present a unique opportunity to catch steelhead and Atlantic salmon. 

To the End of the World 

Few places deserve the moniker “The End of the World” more than Tierra del Fuego, an archipelago that sits at the top of the South American continent. Antarctica is just a few nautical miles to the south. To the people who wish to see the world as it was before humans invented civilization, this is a must go destination. Poorly suited for either industry or agriculture, the region largely remains the same as it was when the first people cautiously stepped on its banks, clenching their flint-tipped spears. With one important difference: trout

The prime target species for fishing in Tierra del Fuego is the anadromous brown trout. The salmonids weren’t introduced to local rivers and streams until the early XX century, but found the archipelago a perfect environment and grow to epic proportions. What would you say about brown trout that weighs up to 20 lb (9 kg)? This is because that the local rivers have an unrestricted access to the ocean. Having spent its first couple of years in the river, the brown trout moves over to the salt water, and returns to the rivers only to spawn.

A huge brown trout
Enormous trout and salmon are what attracts people to Argentina. Image credit: Traveller Outdoors

The Rio Grande is the best location for brown trout, although a poor destination for a do-it-yourselfer: most banks of the river are private property, and the owners prohibit fishing there to anyone who hasn’t booked a trip to their lodge or paid a fee. Most fishing trips in Patagonia take place in the warmer part of the year, roughly from October to April. However, the peak of the South Hemisphere summer, i.e. around Christmas to February, is not believed to be the totally best time for fishing. The reason is that this is the time when the winds, that are quite strong here at any time of the year, reach their maximum ferocity. 

Go Fishing in Argentina

Argentina is one of the prime fishing destinations in the world. If it may appear to have not so much variety in fishing species and techniques as some other world’s fishing hotspots, the Silvery Land more than makes up for that in quality. An angler’s Eldorado, a magical land way over there, behind the mountains, down the river, through the jungle, and with many a legend told about it – only the stories told about it are perfectly true: the waters of Argentina contain a fabulous amount of silver- and golden-scaled treasure. 

The downside of fishing in Argentina is that it’s not precisely cheap. Affordable fishing trips are to be found only around Buenos Aires, when it’s mostly about boating off to the Rio de Plata delta for a day. Offers elsewhere in the country typically include a few days lodging and catering in a lodge that could rival a Michelin-star restaurant and a five-star hotel, services of a professional guide, transport by car, boat, and sometimes even helicopter – which is to say, you get a lot of value for your money. And a chance to cast a line into a crystal-clear stream, surrounded by breathtaking scenery, that looks as if civilization never existed, and hooking up a prehistoric-size trout, is simply priceless. 

Main image credit: Thomas Erich Tscherne / Traveller Outdoors

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