Fishing Report #2
February 04 – 11, 2024
We’ve enjoyed our second week of the season here at ESB. Joined by a fun group of “Michiganders” who made their annual trip to escape those wonderful Midwest winters. As placeholders for the week, they invited a couple friends that are avid trout fishermen but new to the game of salt. ESB often gets dubbed as a hardcore permit fishing destination (which it is). In my opinion there really isn’t another place with so many options for the budding saltwater angler. From cutting your teeth with bonefish, learning the hardships of throwing darts in the mangroves for Tarpon, and grasping the struggling highs and lows of chasing permit. We have it all here and it’s a wonderful place for experts and novices alike.
The group did well, enjoyed each other’s company and played a classic card game at night that resonated with my youth in Northern Michigan.
More water stacked in the bay brought by stronger tides. Compared to the previous week areas southwest around the river 4 and 5 system started cleaning up and getting better/more water. Flamingo on the south side and working west had more water pushing in that held. It was a merry go round with weather conditions which translates to quick thinking by our guides, and you see experience in the bay really shine. Last Monday we had some impressive winds clocking an easy 30 mph from the northwest. This direction is very unusual and in the past 7 years I have yet to experience such a strong wind from that direction. It seemed that the calmest place around was in front of the lodge. I had to leave early one morning to run to town and spent the better half of an hour clearing trees that had fallen on the road out. It made for a sporty ride across and down the northside with boats working hard to get in the lee. Crossing the bay and riding mechanical bulls didn’t seem much different. Our focus was protection first, and then whatever we can find for fish we take. David and Dodd rolled and bucked their way north and fished outside along the northern shoreline up well past the Maria Alena fishing village. A couple smaller schools of permit were around and a couple that were sizable enough to bring you to your knees let alone get a cast off. We fished permit hard along the entire north coast, northside of Ensenada, river one through three, and tucked in the boca of river four. Alex found an impressive school inside river three and was able to get guests a few fish. Boca permit are usually mixed with a smorgasbord of other less desirable fish you want on the end of your line. Jacks, Blue runners, snappers, needlefish all are mixed together. It’s a maddening situation where you manage a good cast (or three) to permit and the other fish are quicker to grab your fly. We had a couple times a smaller permit was finally hooked, big sigh of relief by the half crazed angler, and then a cuda promptly bites your fish in half. Once the cudas come around there’s really no choice but to leave and come back another day.
Wind direction changed midweek and we sought the lee working the southside closer to Punta Herrero. Little easier on everyone and no heroic crossing. We worked hard from casitas, red buoy, los pinos, into the channels that feed the beginning of Tabascanoes. Permit that were fresh showed up in big schools and it seemed like they were pouring into the system. Fresh fish eat, are very forgiving with fly patterns and you can wrack up impressive numbers quickly. Nando and Dodd got 5 in a day. Ron Dozeman and Jon Hop had one of those permit days we all dream about and along with Alex they boated a total of 11. I talked with Alex later and I thought he had found one school of smaller fish. He informed me they were fresh, mixed sizes, and he saw fish pretty much all day. We stayed southside for the remainder of the week and Charly and Dodd grabbed another couple fish. Guide David was able to work with budding saltwater guest Joel Bouwens and help with a first permit landed. Max Lockers also got his first permit the last day with Nando. Steve Urbin went out the last day with Alex and discovered he had forgotten his hat halfway to the boat launch in the morning. After the normal teasing I sacrificed my hat, and he was off to the races with the proper head protection. I picked up the group later in the afternoon and Steve was beyond ecstatic having enjoyed his new hat and landing 2 nice permit with Alex. He also had another that was never seen (by Steve) but had ripped a quick 250 yards out and disappeared into the blue. These broken off mystery fish reside deep in the footlockers of our imagination and keeps us wondering and speculating. I love it and I’m not sure if the other two permit landed by Steve had anything to do with a change of headgear. I’m of course not superstitious when it comes to fishing……… Are you?
Stacked water and higher tides made our tarpon and snook fishing a little tougher. They fall back deeper in the mangroves and become very hard to pull out. Short windows of lower water granted us a few beautiful snook and a handful of tarpon. If the tide wasn’t right, you really didn’t have any shots. A couple anglers trying to round out slams and super slams spent hours ripping all over hoping to have shots. It’s more of an eco-tour at this point and I always suggest keep chasing whatever was initially working in your favor.
Everyone got to experience some pleasant days chasing bones in shallow water. When we moved south our gorgeous sandy flats filled with fish riding incoming and outgoing tides. Mark Fender had a nice morning working droves of bonefish on foot while his boatmate stayed in the skiff and worked another section. You must dedicate time to these fish, they’re well worth it and just a blast to catch. Jon Hop was dubbed Cuda King for the week landing a few toothy monsters. He ties a wonderful needlefish variation that works really well. Jon left me his last personal tie and it has retreated to the safety of my personal boxes. Rig for Cuda while you’re here with some 40 lb. wire and you’ll see a whole new light with these apex predators. Lighting strikes, explosive runs are just a start of what you’re in for.
Mixed sun and clouds for most of the week and stronger winds from every direction except true south. Tides were incoming in the am and outgoing for the pm. Wind direction changed this slightly, but I confidently call that an average.
Permit were landed on the following: Spawning Shrimp, EP Spawning Shrimp, Strong Arms, ESB crabs, yellow eyed Casa Blancas, and one was picked up on a tan contraband. Most sizes were on #2 – #4 hooks.
Tarpon and snook were landed on Eps and toad variations.
Bonefish flies ranged from EP tarpon flies to small #8 shrimp.
Cuda flies: Ask Jon Hop…
House staff and kitchen staff were led by Chef Luis and sous chef Angel. Tasty dishes, nice lunch wraps, and exquisite desserts were enjoyed by all. I’m tired of sampling new dishes (I can’t afford to go up another waist size) and we have settled into a wonderful menu that I’m sure everyone will enjoy. Emmanual kept the lodge in working order and made sure guests were comfortable.
We’ve got a fun week ahead of us as we slip into the middle of February. There’s some serious wind whipping us oceanside, but it looks like things should calm down later in the week. Greeted again by some familiar faces I’m sure it’ll be all good things moving forward and plenty of fish tales to share with you next week.
Keep up with what Chiara and I have going in Chile for the 2025 season, and we’ve been locking up guests on the calendar. A short 12-week season that emphasizes dry fly fishing is guaranteed to book up and we really hope our ESB family that enjoys trout fishing join us for a memorable 6 days of fishing Patagonia. Per usual, drop a line with our friends at The Fly Shop and they’ll keep you up to speed with all the details.
Enjoy your week, get outside, and we’ll connect next week for another report.
Saludos desde el Caribe Mexicano,
Dane, Chiara, Negri, Canela, Lucia