At Angling Destinations, we love our job! Sure there are many details to manage and we do our share of tedious office work, but often enough, we get to travel around the world exploring virgin fisheries. If we were to design the perfect job, this would be it! OK, maybe we would add more fishing and a little bit less office work, but all in all, this is a darn good way to make a living.
Sometimes we visit a destination that is a disappointment, but this is rarely the case. We try to avoid spending our precious fishing time on wild goose chases, so our trips are usually very productive.
Every now and then we visit a destination that is way beyond what we have come to expect in today's "wide, wide world of angling". It is always a great joy to find such a pristine and untouched fishery. It is the best part of our job and we love it!
In November 2003, we were lucky enough to find one of these truly incredible spots. A spot for backcountry tarpon and snook that exceeds the standards by which most destinations for these species are measured.
Located on the Yucatan Peninsula's northern coast, hundreds of miles away from the well known resorts at Ascension Bay, stretches an unfished and untapped coastline that very few anglers have seen. The habitat is perfect for tarpon and snook and in the areas we have so far explored, they show up in very good numbers. Located near the Rio Lagartos National Preserve, this area is home to a stunning array of birds and is widely visited by in-the-know ornithologists. They come from all over the world to see birds such as roseate spoonbills, flamingos and ibis. Reminiscent of the Florida Everglades, this area teems with life and as we discovered, the fishing is simply outstanding.
The fishing day usually begins very early with a predawn breakfast around 6:00 am. The comfortable lodge sits within a few feet of the ocean and offers charming views of the surrounding village. Here local fishermen busily come and go, harvesting the sea as they have for generations. The town is colorful with the homes reflecting the traditional bright Mexican hues. Fishmongers offer up the daily catch of tuna, dorado, snapper or octopus. Using this daily bounty, the lodge features some of the best fresh seafood around. In this small village, tradition dictates that guests be attended to completely and we can guarantee that you will not go home any thinner than when you arrived!
Fishing in the biosphere can be close by and at times, no lengthy boat rides are necessary. You probably will not see another boat unless it's in your party. Small creeks and inside bays are usually your angling targets. Poling quietly among the mangroves, it is not uncommon to round a corner and see a gang of silver backs aggressively rolling as they chase bait. This can be sight fishing at its best, but please remember, as with all saltwater fishing, the longer and more accurate the cast, the greater the odds are of success. It should also be remembered that these powerful "babies" are just as feisty as their bigger brothers and nearly as hard to hook, so don't leave your strip-strike at home! Our advice is to bring sharp hooks and an aggressive attitude if you want to boat one of these "infants". The tarpon's instincts demand it to jump and while this reaction is merely a survival adaptation for the fish, it offers a phenomenal show for the angler. In the tarpon game, it's common to land only about twenty percent of fish hooked. But when 20 lbs. of silver dances upside down five feet in the air with gill plates rattling before throwing your fly, it's hard to be too disappointed that the little beast came unbuttoned... and there's always that next fish!
While the tarpon grow to be about 35 pounds before they depart to join their ancient migration route, the snook contently prowl the shoreline and feel no reason to leave this estuary. There is a lot of bait here and the snook grow to be fat and happy. Ambush feeders, they are best found on lower tides, sitting in hidden holes and fishy pockets. Quiet approaches and long casts are the best way to hook this legendary species.
If you are looking to do battle with the big tarpon, this is not your destination (the fish leave once they pass about 35 lbs.). But if classic tarpon takes, amazing acrobatics and a down 'n dirty 8 wt. "street fight" sound appealing, this is for you. With excellent guides and a dedicated "catch and release" philosophy, this operation has the right attitude to keep a confirmed tarpon junky coming back year after year.