March 05 – 12, 2023
We’ve enjoyed another great week here on the Riviera. We’re slowly wrapping up our winter season as spring rapidly approaches and officially makes its debut on the calendar next week. It was a special week for me as well, having celebrated my 35th birthday last Monday. I was able to ease away from lodge duties with Chiara and we knocked out errands in Chetumal and spent the night in Bacalar. We enjoyed a quiet hotel with a pleasant dinner. 35 is by no means old, but with a lodge filled with more “seasoned” guests I have been hearing and placing telltale signs on a personal front of the undeniable signs of aging. Completely in good spirits I can’t think of a better place to be than right where I’m at. An incredible operation shared with great friends, and a wonderful wife keeps me humble and from time to time pinching myself with how lucky I am.
It was a fun mix of guests for the week, northwest meets Cincinnati. Skip Slavin is the driving force for his group of four with returning wingman Tom Corbett. I had a chance to meet up with Tom last summer in Montana and fish a bit and we have plans of getting together again hopefully in 3-4 months’ time. Bob (Roberto) Francis graced us again for his annual trip that started in 2018. David Ellis and Jeremy Moore brought their Midwest charm for another year. I will be patiently waiting for a couple jars of homemade ketchup David and his family knock out every year honoring a family tradition. Leagues above Heinz I can only salivate while I dream of an awesome meatloaf and spiced up Bloody Mary’s.
Our weather turned a bit, broke a little of what our normal trend has been lately and gave us more sunshine with lighter winds. Everyone took advantage of decent conditions and I felt like we had a fantastic week in the bay.
Permit fishing picked up significantly last week and the group started out with a bang last Monday. A monster (personal best) permit was landed by Bob and Baylor landed his first. Throughout the week we had more personal best milestones, back-to-back slams, and a super slam thrown into the mix. That’s a healthy balance and shows us the strength and diversity ESB has to offer. Southeast winds kept us patrolling Casitas to red buoy, and the entire Tabascanoes region. Early morning with a calmer wind we picked out singles tighter to the shore and gradually slid into deeper water as the tide dropped later in the day. The Boca and main river channel of river three seems to be a national geographic tour with the number of fish concentrated in a span of 400 yards. Cuda’s, Sharks, Snappers, Jacks, Runners, 1,000 plus bonefish and perhaps another 500 or so smaller permit are all grouped together and provide for serious excitement. The north point of Isla Cha which we dub as our Tarpon cut is holding a couple very impressive schools of permit that are fairly cooperative and impressive in size. End of the day shots closer to home base got us a permit or two around the mouth of Red Lagoon, and outside laguna Roja. There’s a big school we found off the south point of Isla Cha working 200 yards south. The last day Ensenada came alive with a lot of singles, doubles moving around on tidal changes. Reading this you could summarize the bay is loaded with all the normal permit haunts alive with fish. Numbers ebb and flow and not everyplace is filled to the gills with fish but it’s consistent enough to keep us busy on the bow. I have been very fortunate so far this year with opportunities to join guests on the boat. Tom and I fished last Saturday and the morning greeted us with sunny skies, light winds, and we headed out with high expectations given the conditions. Cruising down the middle of the bay has not been a luxury here in ESB for the last couple weeks due to high winds and boat throttling waves. Guia Jesus had his new 50 Yamaha wide open and we cruised down the gut and made our way to deeper water closer to river three. Drifting downwind, wind at your back and Jesus promptly calling out 2 big schools of permit while the waves from the outboard still drifting away was our start. Confidently ripping an 80 foot shot that dropped perfectly ahead of the school pulled a fish immediately into that hair raising follow we love so much. What I thought was a guaranteed eat translated to a refusal. No big deal, another easy cast and more refusals. Change rods with a new fly gave us the same results. Digging through flies and reloading put us out of the window for the schools and we had a couple more shots at singles with more refusals. Slightly agitated and our confidence waning we scooted into river three to ease battered egos and happily harassed schooled permit that were flighty, flashing, and ripping. More fly changes brought out a personal tie, a smaller raghead with red eyes which gifted us each a permit and put us on board for the day. Jesus politely asked if wanted to chase tarpon and I promptly said no, with the light let’s continue to chase permit. So much for listening to your guide… Outside river three again now working against the wind to utilize the light gave Tom some great shots, even better follows on singles that snubbed the fly offerings. We then buzzed into Ensenada to take a peek and had plenty of shots where we didn’t go more than 10 minutes without seeing a fish. Everyone seemed interested, great follows, but refusal after refusal. At least we were in the action as they say but after a total of 13 fly changes we were struggling. We finally left and arrived at the north Isla Cha flat with 30 minutes left in the day. Tom graciously gave me the bow and 5 minutes in we had the school in sight. Perfect cast led to another refusal with another rod change. I lost my patience and stopped changing flies and just kept pounding the school with my personal spawning shrimp variation. Jesus was getting a little worked up trying to hold the boat in place with a strong wind and permit that were not cooperating. We finally got one to seriously follow and it was purely a showdown with Jesus and the permit. I was fishing, but Jesus was working the shrimp in crazy stripping sequences through me. Strip, strip, strip, faster, faster, STOP! Long strip, STOP. Strip, strip as fast as you can STOP! The permit committed, couldn’t ignore the cadence and we were finally tight. 15 minutes later we held a pretty 12-15 pound fish for a last light photo and arrived to the boat launch 5 minutes late. I 100% give credit to Jesus who seemed to have psychologically manipulated the permit and “made” it eat the fly. It’s another realm these guys live in and their understanding of permit behavior easily rivals anyone else out there.
Tarpon are around with lower tides in the afternoon. Rivers one and two are holding plenty of fish with sunken boat lagoon on the northside a great option with plenty of fish around. Jeremy and David had a fun day chasing a bunch of resident fish in a little creek system that is one of the many hotspots in Victor’s bag of tricks. We have also begun to see the big tarpon in our north cut where they swim below the schools of permit. 50 to 100 plus pounds is the size range of these awesome fish and it’s encouraging to see them trickling into the system. It’s not a bad idea to start bringing a heavier stick with an intermediate sink ready to chase bigger fish if conditions allow. It would be high priority for me if the bay greets you with calm glassy conditions to head over and check for rollers.
Bonefish are in fine form per usual and whoever took the chance to chase them were rewarded with healthy scrappers that sat in the 3 pound mark. I never tire of these or pushing guests to enjoy one of the most consistent bonefish destinations in the caribe.
Weather for the week was pleasant, medium to light winds from the southeast with an average of 80% light. We had incoming tides in the AM which gave us midday slack and a hard fall starting around 1 PM around the mouth of the bay.
White ragheads with and without yellow eyes, spawning shrimp with yellow eyes, EP spawning on #4 hook also tagged permit. A personal tie of a white raghead with red eyes grabbed a couple smaller fish.
Tarpon/snook ate purple toads and EP variations in a broad spectrum of color schemes.
Bonefish munched shrimp imitations that were appropriately weighted depending on the depth.
Our culinary team toiled away in the kitchens and drummed up another impressive week with a ridiculous amount of good food. House and ground crew kept the property clean and our accommodations comfortable and clean for everyone to enjoy and relax.
We’ve got a great week lined up for us with host Ben Paschal bringing his usual suspects for another ESB hosted year. These guys/gals have become close with us the last few years and it’s always a fun week upon arrival Sunday morning. I have nonchalantly joked about someone bringing red meat down here to break up the number of fresh fish, chicken, and pork we have available. Quality red meat seems to be the only downfall in this part of the world for table fare. Tim Kelly made it happen and announced we have ribeye, tenderloins, and burger joining the group with an extra weight of almost 40 pounds! Hungry for a steak to say the least and I will be happily picking up a new grill tomorrow to sizzle/burn some meat. Our weather looks a little more windy than last week but still holds a nice pattern of visibility. I suspect we’ll round out another solid week with friends and will have plenty of wine consumed with even more fish stories.
Enjoy your last week of winter and if it comes to mind make sure you touch base with our friends over at The Fly Shop. They’ll bring you up to speed and are ready to help out any way they can. Get outside, embrace seasonal changes, practice conservation, and of course check back with us for next week’s report!
Saludos desde el Caribe Mexicano,
Dane & Chiara, Lucia, Negri, Canela
And the entire ESB crew!
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