Fish Story

The opportunity to interact with colorful tropical fish and resplendent reef creatures draws many marine life lovers here each year. So, let’s discover the Fish Story, where to go and what’s waiting below all around One Happy Island.

Aruba’s waters host hundreds of species of fish. Fortunately, most of the marine life worth seeking out is close to shore. You need not take lengthy boat trips to see tropical fish here as you must in many other islands. But before we tell you where to go, let’s get to know some of our fishy friends a little better.

Name That Fish …

It’s good to know the names of what you’ve encountered under the waves to tell good “fish stories” once you surface. Some are obvious like ‘hogfish’ who has a pig-like snout, or ‘needlefish’ with its long, thin silver body, while others might be more puzzling like ‘grunts.’ (They make grunting sounds). Then there’s the trunk fish named for its square-shaped body, and the queen angelfish is identifiable by a crown marking on its head. “Tangs” get their name from the sword blade curve of their tail, while sergeant majors are defined by their military “stripes”. But the most popular star of the underwater world must be the parrotfish, and it’s named for its bird-like beak.


A Fascinating Fish Fact…

Parrotfish are common here, and they are loved for their stunning neon colors. They are great reef cleaners, too! But did you know that much of the white sand of our beaches is parrotfish poop? Parrotfish are equipped with an extra set of teeth in their throat that grinds hard coral into fine particles of sand. It’s estimated that one average- sized parrotfish can produce 1,000 lbs. of sand per year. And better yet, they always seem to be smiling!

Where to Find Our Underwater Treasures…

You won’t find many fish in the sandy bottoms of our most popular beaches. Marine life seeks out structures with nooks and crannies to hide in and to make their homes. Generally, where there are rocks and reefs there are fish, and they also like to inhabit the roots of mangrove forests. But they also love wrecks!

Aruba has over a dozen wreck sites ideal for certified divers, but some are accessible for snorkelers, too. The most famous one is the S.S. Antilla just offshore in shallow water. Most of the snorkel/party boats go there, and they also stop at Boca Catalina and Malmok just north of Palm Beach as both coves are chock full of marine life. (Including sea turtles!) Furthermore, both these spots are also accessible from land, as is Tres Tapi nearby. This tiny cove is famous for its abundance of starfish lining the bottom. And further north is Arashi Beach that has a small reef that offers good snorkeling, too.

Mangel Halto’s beach is also an awesome fish- spotting area, and there’s a small sunken wreck there also accessible for snorkelers. This is also a favored entrance for shore diving. And Baby Beach near San Nicolas is the perfect place for small children to don a snorkel mask for the first time as the waves are calm. (You often spot sea turtles there, too).

The Lamentable Plight of the Lionfish

You’ll encounter scads of fascinating sea creatures here including rays, eels, crabs, and even those funny flying fish that glide over the waves. But one fish you don’t want to meet up with is a lionfish! This invasive species is a danger to the reefs, and to humans, too. They have 18 toxic stingers, so keep your distance! However, there are projects on the island designed to eradicate them including the “Eat ‘em to beat em” drive that encourages local chefs to put them on their menus. Their meat is white and flaky, and they can be delicious. Also look for beautiful jewelry made from lionfish skin at the arts and crafts markets. They make ideal authentic locally made souvenirs and some proceeds go to reef care, too.

Visit Aruba Lionfish Initiative Foundation for more:

Catch Me If You Can!

Aruba’s waters just a few miles off the coast are a great big playground for sport fishers. Big game fish such as Albacore Tuna, Atlantic Sailfish, Blue Marlin, Bull Shark, Great Barracuda, King Mackerel, Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, White Marlin, Yellowfin Tuna, and every kind of grouper including Goliaths, are all out there waiting for you to try your skills. And there are many excellent outfits eager to take you out to try and catch them with full and half-day outings on professionally equipped boats. And some will even cook your catch for dinner that night!

by Susan Campbell