Fishing Report #5
February 25 – March 03, 2024

Pili with ESB Permit

We’ve enjoyed another incredible week here at ESB Lodge. It’s a special week for Chiara and I that is shared with a group of friends that have been coming to ESB since we opened our doors in 2017. Through thick and thin and plenty of stories, the crew has watched the operation evolve into what it is today. These friendships have extended beyond a weekly saltwater trip and I have been lucky enough to sit on river banks in Montana, worldly travel, and weekly chats with the gang. Frontman Justin Miller is responsible for the friendly hooligans representing The Fly Shop® as host for this annual trip. I was lucky enough to grab 4 days on the boat and strangely enough it was the first time Justin and I shared the bow together. I sincerely hope more time will be shared together where each one of us finds a fly rod in our hands.

Dane Emerson & Guide with ESB Tarpon

The group had permit on the brain, me included. The bay has continued to produce fish consistently and plenty of opportunities were had by everyone. Weather was fantastic the first 3 days with light winds that picked up later Wednesday and carried through the remainder of the week. With March upon us we can expect some wind, typical late winter tug-a-war as prevailing winds start to blow hard from the east. Monday and Tuesday found boats both north and south- southwest with calmer conditions. Ensenada had 4-5 schools of permit Brian and Ken chased the first day with Fernando. Plenty of shots, plenty of fish, no takers. 10 fly changes, promising follows, and nothing. That’s permit fishing in a nutshell. Steve Ghio popped a beautiful fish, probably a personal best right off the bat on the southside closer to Tabascanoes. This was redemption from last year… He carried himself well the rest of the week and totaled out another nice size fish and grabbed a couple smaller fish. Personal best in size and numbers. Justin and I started out with Luis and after a 10 minute ride to red buoy we whipped around on a flushed school and spent the next 2 hours taking turns embarrassing ourselves. It was all in good fun and some of our shots were solid just no takers. We cruised further southwest worked two schools that were extremely spooky and less than enthusiastic with our presence. I had a nice single outside river 4 that tipped up and ate my crab. Justin rode out the rest of his week adding 6 more fish to his personal count. Bryan Wise shared the boat with new manager Pili Alzamora on Wednesday. Pili had yet to land a permit and was ecstatic to have her first day in the salt. She hails from Sante Fe, Argentina and is well versed guiding her home water for golden Dorado. Bryan promptly showed her how it was done landing one from a school and graciously allowed Pili bow time. Guide David kept them in another school and Pili hooked up and succeeded landing her first permit on her first day flats fishing. I think the folks off the southside of Cuba could hear her screaming in excitement. Later that day Karl and I worked closer to Casitas and Luis did an incredible job finding a very willing school of smaller permit. After a tough morning both Karl and I were relieved and waylaid into the school with no mercy landing a few. “Big Fish” Karl per usual had one of the higher permit counts for the week with 7 to the hand. Ken Morando joined Luis later in the week and fished schools of smaller fish in the same area and boated an impressive 9 fish. He tallied out the group with the highest permit count of 11 fish.

Justin Miller with ESB ESB Permit

Permit are everyone in the system and seem to be coming in fresh on a regular basis. The only difference between last week and the prior week was no fishing outside along the north shore. Schools are found east side of Ensenada towards the boca. River one boca has the house schoolies, bigger singles inside on an incoming tide. River two had some fish outside the boca in rougher water. Working down towards river 3 held bigger fish that came through as singles. This water was a little churned up with wind direction and I expect with wind forecasts we should see this become a tough place to fish. Outside Rio Locos maybe 200 yards in the direction of river 4 held some of the biggest fish. Brian MacDonald and I posted up with Nando and saw some monster fish that were very tough to cast to coming off an off shoulder wind. For whatever reason almost everyone that fished there throughout the week barely got a follow. One of the guides mentioned a possible spawning cycle? I truly have no idea other than it was exasperating. River 4 is holding a handful of fish but not that consistent. The entrance of river 5 we saw the same situation and just a few passing through. Back to the southside starting at Casitas through red buoy, los pinos, and inside Tabascanoes held plenty of fish. Outside Tabascanoes meaning bayside had schools patrolling transition zones that changed in depth. Even Red lagoon at the boca held a few fish. Our favorite little hideout in Flamingo had some fish zipping around when the tide was higher. I think the transition water between Flamingo and Tabascanoes inside was the hottest zone and will get better as we swing into spring conditions.

Higher tides didn’t have us chasing tarpon and snook as much as would have liked to see. Sharing the bow with Brain MacDonald on Tuesday had us finishing a long drift to the boca of Ensenada. A couple bigger Tarpon rolled off 100 yards at 1 O’clock. Rod change in preparation found me staring at small school of permit coming in. Another frantic rod change enunciated with cussing got me a follow with no eat and a different tarpon rolling closer. Permit rod with 80 feet of line out got tossed in the back of the boat for another rod change. Two tarpon approaching fast with a hipshot 30 feet at 9 and I was solid to a long skinny 40 pounder. The acrobatic jumps and bulldogs runs gave out and we concluded the chaos with the tarpon in hand. A couple guests chased some snook and we have begun to see what appears to be fresh push inside red lagoon. Inside river 1 and 2 is our stronghold for small tarpon and fairly consistent snook fishing.

ESB Angler with Permit

Bonefish were landed and entertained anyone that gave them the chance. I picked up a nice one that I thought was a small snook with Nando inside Flamingo.

Weather for the week was very pleasant our first two – three days with good sun and lighter winds. Second half of the week was heavier clouds, sporadic sun with winds whipping up a good chop from the east. Mostly incoming tide that stalled hard for the outgoing with a midweek 180 that gave us a couple head scratchers and not much of fall or high. It can be a little confusing for guests and one needs to understand different parts of the bay see incoming or outgoing at different times. There’s no way a fallout at the mouth will happen at the same time for example river 5.

Once again, we don’t have one “go to” permit fly. Our entire menu of shrimps and crabs are working now and you MUST be well stocked with a healthy variety of the following:

Tan and White Casa Blanca ragheads #2
Tan and White Casa Blanca ragheads with yellow eyes (or red!) #2
ESB spawning shrimp with yellow eyes Tan and White #2
EP spawning shrimp preferably white #2 and #4
Mantis shrimp variations #2-#4 white and tan
Tarpon and Snook are the usual Toads and EP Baitfish. My go to tarpon/Snook fly as of late is the EP Boca Grande Dorado in Day Glo
Bonefish will munch any shrimp sizes #2 – #8

Our Kitchen staff knocked out the usual array of killer dishes and lunches. We have an exceptional Chicken Mole mixed with a spicy Poblano sauce that is to die for! Emmanuel and house staff kept us all in working order with functioning facilities and a comfortable lodge environment.

Brian Wise & Pili with ESB Permit

Our winds are staying strong, and it is looking like a windy 6 days for the incoming crew that arrived yesterday. Once again ESB is met with another crew of familiar faces making their late winter trip. We’re busy as heck right now at the lodge and beginning to make our managerial transitions before Chiara and I head to Chile to work on a new EL Saltamontes program. A couple of friends reached out to me the other day and asked about the new Chile operation and how ESB will be impacted. Truthfully nothing stands in the way of our beloved ESB and we under no circumstance will slow the momentum this operation has snowballed into. Chiara and I are very lucky to enjoy the luxury of capable managers who will aid us with ESB when we are set to open El Saltamontes next December. She and I usually jet out of ESB early spring and will flip our seasonality with kicking off in Chile and then headed to Mexico for the remainder of spring into summer.

ESB Angler with Permit

If you have any questions about either of these special lodges, please don’t hesitate to call our friends over at The Fly Shop® where they’ll keep you up to date on the latest happenings. I hope everyone enjoys their upcoming week, manages to get outside, and never forget to practice stewardship towards the great outdoors. Hang tight and we’ll meet again soon enough for next week’s report!

Saludos desde el Caribe Mexicano,
Dane, Chiara, Negri, Canela, Lucia

800-669-3474530-222-3555 | | ESB Lodge



ESB Angler with Permit


ESB Group Image FEB 25 - MAR 03, 2024