February 05 – 12, 2023
We’ve wrapped up another great week here at ESB, thus concluding our second week of the 2023 season. Joining us for the week were 7 guests who all hail from Michigan. This is the first week at the lodge where we had all “Michiganders” amongst us, and I especially love the hometown connections with friends Dodd Russell and Matt Fender. Interestingly enough the rest of the crew resides in Holland Michigan which is where the majority of my family is from/grew up. Small town happenings and catching up, while reminiscing about the “Mitt” hits home for me and it was personally a memorable week.
Mother nature threw some varied conditions at us but also gifted some beautiful days. As with every fishing week the highs and lows are punctuated by the possibilities this great fishery can produce. It felt more spring like with strong winds rather than a winter season winding down. Guides and guests collaborated and successfully chased all our focal species.
With varied conditions brings varied results each day. Days that were nicer with solid light gave way to better permit fishing. Clouds and wind sent us deep into the river systems chasing tarpon, snook and bonefish. Permit fishing is mediocre right now in terms of seen fish. An honest grading of the permit fishing right now would be a C in my opinion. I’m looking at this over a nine-month season, please keep that in mind and I still confidently will vouch for ESB as one of the top producing permit fisheries in the world. It’s a mental game right now. Only a handful of shots daily with more bow time waiting for a forked tail to materialize on the horizon. The schools in great numbers are absent for the time being and with a little warmer weather and some higher tides we should see them appear. Smaller schools were found inside river 3 and there’s scattered schools halfway between Tabascanoes and river 3. Sporadic shots from red buoy working west along the southern shoreline produced a couple fish. Matt Fender grabbed a grand slam first day out with Alex and Dodd Russell completed a first super slam with Victor. I would say Dodd had one of those weeks that would make any saltwater enthusiast weak with envy. A super slam (or grand slam) is a milestone we all wish to hit at some point in our fishing careers. There’s a soft spoken wish and quiet murmuring to not awaken negative superstitions. We loudly think/dream of these moments but never verbally claim the fantasy. Dodd jumped on Alex’s boat and completed another super slam with his biggest permit to date. Time to purchase some lotto tickets as far as I’m concerned. Friday which did not seem to be a great weather day found Dodd and Victor having one shot on a small school of permit and success was found with a smaller permit. The rest was history, another super slam was completed. I really do not think we’ve had another angler hit 3 super slams in a week here. How’s that for mediocre permit fishing? Whatever rituals, sacrifices, mojo, soul-selling antics Dodd performed should be immediately noted. I probably would frame my underwear I wore those three days and carry on with sustaining the full glass of juju. Lotto tickets purchased from all 50 states should be in order. Longtime ESB friends and father-son duo Ron and Ben Dozeman had a great day with each other last Saturday. It was Ron’s birthday to top things off and he watched his son Ben complete his first grand slam and added his own permit in the mix as well. What a great moment, special day, and unforgettable experience for the two of them. It’s days like that I become emotionally proud of the memories this place creates.
When you have multiple super slams and grand slams during the week that directly reflects on the tarpon and snook fishing. We’re having lower tides right now which is providing excellent opportunities for either species. All the guests had great shots at snook/tarpon in river systems 1-4, and sunken boat lagoon along the north shore. Southside laguna rojo has some tight creeks that lead to little openings with fish milling outside their mangrove lairs. If you want to chase snook you need to be with Fernando right now. He’s our snook “whisperer” per say and has thirst to chase these fish all over the bay in every little nook and cranny. Mind you we’re also referring to a guide that holds 19 years of guiding the Bahia under his belt. Frankly I would push away the temptation to chase permit when you have so many other opportunities with other fish. When the tides start to change in the coming weeks, I suspect tarpon and snook will slip back into the backcountry out of reach of any well placed cast and will become a little more difficult.
Bonefishing is outstanding right now. Some of the river systems are holding schools of decent size fish that number to 1000 fish easily. Larger bonefish are cruising solitary in the backcountry in all river systems tucked inside Flamingo down to Tabascanoes. If one had the desire you could pole back in forth across openings or depth transitions right now and catch bonefish all day. This is still sight fishing by the way and not parking on muds where you have a national geographic tour on the end of your line with mixed species mixed amongst schools. We landed a couple fish that went 5 pounds, multiple double hook ups, and plenty of shots for the entire group. Mark and Matt Fender took their last day and devoted it to anything but permit and had a wonderful session chasing bones in the backcountry. I’ll never tire myself of talking bonefish. They are the true heroes of the bay, demand respect, and we have at our fingertips the best bonefish flats in the Yucatan.
Permit were landed on personal ties of ragheads and spawning shrimp. ESB spawning shrimp and white casa blanca ragheads also pulled a couple fish.
Tarpon and snook were landed on Fernando’s El Secreto and other mixed bag of EP baitfish, toads, and sardine patterns. When you load up on flies for here make sure you have a healthy number of different colors.
Bonefish happily chomped all types of shrimp imitations size range of #2 – #8
Partly sunny skies with strong NE winds that switched to SE by the end of the week. Monday and Saturday had best visibility and lighter winds. Tides were low in the am and incoming. The boca saw a fall starting roughly 1 PM and continued the rest of the fishing day.
Chef Luis and sous chef Angel are cranking away as usual with deliciously consistent cuisine. They do a bang-up job here and myself along with guests appreciate the gusto in which these guys display in our kitchens. Fresh breads, hearty breakfasts, and perfectly executed dinners is a norm here at ESB. I suspect we’re still averaging a 7-pound weight gain per guest, per week. It’s not a challenge, just a simple reality mentioned between mouthfuls. Back of the house staff worked on small projects and kept the lodge and property organized and tidy for everyone’s comfort and enjoyment.
It’s beautiful right now, sunny skies, light wind out of the north and not quite 75 degrees. This morning it was below 70! The fish may not like the “cooler” weather but I sure love it and it lends a rest to my ac unit which I personally don’t care to use unless it’s truly needed. Winds look like they’ll pick up in the next few days and I see we’ll get a wind change later as well. It almost seems to be duplicating last week’s weather pattern. We got the band back together and are enjoying having Harry Herdman join us again with his crew of wonderful friends. Longtime friends Bill Stroh and Rob Thompson are with us and it’s always a treat having these seasoned traveling fanatics join us for six days of fishing.
Make sure you take the time to drop our friends over at The Fly Shop a call to check in on the latest. They’ll point you in the right direction and are standing by to fulfill any requests or answer any questions you may have. Please enjoy your mid-February week and make sure to check back for the next report!
Saludos desde el Caribe Mexicano,
Dane & Chiara, Lucia, Negri, Canela
And the entire ESB crew!